Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I've caught very few carp in my life (although here's photographic evidence to prove it's happened at least once):

There was a point, though, where I was obsessed with trying. On my home river, the fish would gather annually for unknown reasons in massive schools. They rarely contained the largest carp I'd ever seen, but the sheer numbers made me think I could catch one. I tried all kinds of bait, even cooking up doughballs from a special recipe, but with no luck. I even had a friend claim at a local lake that one bit him on the finger, but we still couldn't get them to hit worms, corn, or anything else.

Still, I managed to go from no luck to bad luck. I hooked a nice one out on the lake with my dad. As I fought it, Dad frantically hoisted anchor. The carp, of course, still managed to wrap itself around the anchor line and come off.

On another occasion, one took my bait in a different stretch of the river. At the last minute, he wrapped himself around a submerged tree and snapped the line.

I felt cursed. What I didn't feel -- and should have -- was that I simply didn't know how to catch carp. [I still don't, and one of my plans for the winter is frantic reading and video-watching on this subject.] I plugged away, sitting motionless on the bank watching fish motionless below me.

Eventually I had my moment. We were smallmouth fishing, having a decent day, when I caught sight of a monstrous carp in the shallows. Unlike most of the ones I fished for by sight, this one was actively feeding, and I knew I had a chance. I crept as close as I dared, and cast my nightcrawler just upstream of him. I couldn't see the bait, but I focused on where I knew it must be. I never felt the take, but when the carp opened and closed his mouth in just the right spot, I set the hook.

Never before nor since had I felt such power at the end of my line. I had 6-lb test on my Ugly Stik lite, and I had never been happier to have a properly set drag. The fish took off across the river, angling downstream. While the drag gave it line, I ran down the bank, trying not to lose the fish. He took me up and down the river a few times and I was wearing out.

Then we spot the main hazard. A large tree limb complete with a full set of branches and twigs, was in the river, and the carp was angling past it. Dad rushed out into the river and moved it, dodging my line. I finally turned the fatigued fish to shore and brought him in.

I couldn't even guess his weight, but he went about 33 inches, as measured to a mark on my rod. I put my gear down and revived him, and he swam off. I was thrilled, tired, and shaking.

Oddly, that afternoon, the situation almost replayed itself a few miles away, as I just missed another (not quite as big) feeding carp. Not too long later, I'd repay the carp world when I found one that had wedged itself into some vegetation. I'm not sure how or why it had happened, but I actually had to help the struggling carp back out of crevice between two rocks in the weeds. I hesitated to intervene, in case there was a reason it was behaving that way, but it seemed concerned, so I did.

I haven't caught a carp in a number of years, although I tried just last weekend (and every time bass or bluegill took the lure, I tensed, hoping to set the hook on a carp, or even one of the big cats I saw every few minutes). Hopefully the next one will be as exciting -- although not as long in coming -- as the first one.



You are like 13 in that photo. C'mon.

Justin Cober-Lake said...

Late high-school/early college actually. Probably college