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Saturday, July 22, 2017

From Bluegill and Bass, to Common Carp

When I was a young boy we had a farm pond on my family's property and I spent many afternoons there catching bluegill, bass and occasionally a catfish.

Fishing is inexpensive entertainment for people who had very little money to spent on traditional entertainment like movies, restaurants and traveling for family vacations. People now think nothing of $12 (per person) for stadium seats at the movie theatre, $25 for dinner (per person), $10 for a 6-pack of locally brewed craft beer, but for someone growing up in a farm family in the mid-1970's spending money on those things was unheard of...so we fished. We fished a lot.

The only direct cost to the 6 year old me involved the time spent getting a shovel from the shed, finding an old coffee can and asking my grandpa to join me in our favorite worm-digging bed behind the chicken house where the rain ran off the roof and the red wigglers were always plentiful. (A single hook would last all summer long.)

As a kid who counted everything from the number of fence posts in a particular field as we drove by, the number of tractors I saw between our house and grandma's on the way to Sunday dinner, to the number of airplanes I saw on a Saturday afternoon and yes the total number of worms dug with grandpa on Sunday after church; I was serious about worm hunting. Our record worm find was 105 in about 15 minutes. My grandpa made worm digging much easier. There is something to be said for his bigger boots, bigger biceps and stronger back compared to my smaller size and strength that made the search so much better.

I didn't worry so much about the size of the fish we caught, but of course I always wanted to catch the biggest possible. We ate the fish we caught. Mom had a rule, "You catch it, you clean it." The bigger fish were much easier for me to clean. By big, I'm talking adult palm-sized bluegill and 2 pound catfish. Big from a farm pond, but not big by a river size at all.

My bus driver liked to talk about fishing. Catherine, and her husband, Clyde, spent most Sunday afternoons creek fishing in various local spots. She talked about perch, catfish and carp. Hearing her stories were the first time I knew there was fish called carp.

She caught carp with hominy, corn, grubs and even worms. And from the sounds of it, carp were pretty big fish. I remember asking my mom and dad once if we could try creek fishing for carp, but they were not supportive. To them, the farm pond was fine.

It was almost 40 years later before I actually saw my first carp. I was fishing alone when another local fisherman had a fish on and asked if I wanted to reel it in.

I ended up landing a 16 pound mirror carp. The biggest fish I'd every caught by at least 13 pounds!

I took the information I learned that day and headed back out on my own 2 days later. Within a few minutes of arriving to the spot and casting out, I had another carp on the line. That fish weighed in at about 14 pounds.

My first carp
 And from that day forward I have been a carp fishing fool! I have always had a love for fishing, but catching carp is much more exciting.

Carp are pretty smart. They don't fall for plastic lures, or for worms on a hook and bobber float set-up very often. They are leery fish and seem to spook easily so the tactics required offer a challenge that goes farther than the "flip and rip" style of fishing used to catch bass.

Landing a carp on rod and reel takes some finesse. A double digit pound fish doesn't give in easily. They will go left, go right and every other way looking for an escape. Snags are popular destinations and if one is close by they will find it, resulting in a break off or "hook pull" that is a common frustration for carp fishermen.

I used to watch a lot of fishing shows on ESPN. They would be fishing for tarpon near Fort Myers, peacock bass in Costa Rica, bonefish in the Florida Keys, or redfish in the flats of Tampa Bay; and I was so, so jealous. "Some day" I'd say, "I'm going to do that." With carp, someday came a lot sooner.

I've heard some people refer to carp as "fresh water bonefish" and since fresh water is everywhere, that means I don't have to drive to Florida or fly to Costa Rica to catch exciting sport fish. You can catch carp in a large variety of states, rivers, creeks, lakes, reservoirs and even ponds.

Here are some more pictures of my "red neck bonefish" catches.

20 pounds

12 pounds

24 pounds

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Carp Fishing Near Lake Erie

After the fiasco in Davison MI on Friday, I headed back out on Saturday to drown my sorrows with some carp fishing at a local spot I know very well.

Here are some pictures:

My spot on Saturday taken about 8 a.m.

The first cap I landed at about 2:30 p.m.

I really liked the scales on this fish. The picture definitely do them justice.

An perfectly scale pattern on this fish

Two heads close-up (better than one)

The first fish on Saturday was a small catfish

The second fish on Sunday was another slightly bigger catfish
I hadn't been "finned" by a catfish in more than 20 years, but this one got me when I tried to hold him for a picture. I guess I got a little too familiar with holding him for the shot with one hand and snapping the picture with the other. Needless to say, I didn't end up getting a picture after all.

I did clean the puncture with some anti-bacterial wipes I keep on hand while fishing and my hand was fine in about 90 minutes. I didn't get any swelling or numbness at all. Cleaning the wound was a great idea, because the last time I got finned I remember my entire hand swelling up and it being sore for several days.

Trip to Genesee County, Car Trouble and the Case of the Missing Fishing Spot

I took a vacation day on Friday to meet a carp fishing friend at a new spot in Genesee County that we wanted to try. I scouted the spot via YouTube and a tip from this blog about the potential to catch some quality carp.

I left the house at 4:15 a.m., drove 95 miles to Davison MI and just as I was pulling off the exit on I-69 I heard a noise emanating from underneath the rear of the 13-year old Explorer that did not sound normal, so I pulled into a shopping center.

It was still dark and all 4 tires were up, so I ventured on. My reasoning was that at least I'd be with someone I knew and who had transportation just in case it was something serious.

I continued on following the GPS directions and ended up in a sub-division. What !@#$?

To make a long story short, I ended up calling for a tow truck. After 2 hours at the Ford dealer in Lapeer for $275 worth of new lug nuts and wheel studs I was back on the road.

Again I went to Google and used the GPS on my phone, but it took me back to the sub-division.

Ticked off and tired of driving in circles I decided to head back home - 95 miles from Davison to Belleville. Halfway home it occurred to me - Google had the wrong address.

I called the Genesee County Parks Office. I'll be honest and say that I was expecting a little sympathy from the parks department and even an apology for the mix up with the address.

The gentleman on the phone didn't have any sympathy whatsoever and responded to my suggestion to update the address on Google with the correct address with - "Well, we have no control over that. The locals would just know." He did, however; give me the correct street address, which was on a totally different street about 3/4 a mile from the point where I had my vehicle towed.

I forgot to mention that the county employee at the boat ramp I talked to gave me incorrect information as well. The man on the phone didn't even respond to that point at all.

Next time I'm scouting a new spot 95 miles from home, I'll drive a different vehicle and call ahead to confirm the address. (I can almost laugh about it now, but believe me when I tell you I was not laughing on Friday.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Independence Day Carp Fishing

I am always torn about fishing on July Fourth. The parks are usually very crowded and people who fish only occasionally usually decide to sit up right next to me on the bank, even though there may be plenty of space a little further down. But this year I couldn't resist the chance to go fishing and my wife tagged along to help with netting and photos.

Here are a few pictures from the day's activities.

The small mouth buffalo show a redness this time of year  for some reason.
I don't know if it is due to spawning activity or something else. But it seems
to show up in warm weather. This redness is not present in the cool weather months.

A second small mouth buffalo I caught

I'm not sure why I wasn't smiling. Catching this fish made me pretty happy.

What's up with the smiles? I need to work on my fishing facial expressions I think.

And here's the same fish after running the picture through a few minutes of lighting adjustments in a free photo filter software.

The picture is still backlit and not great, but the filter helps a lot. I used Repix for this one.

My rig and bait that produced very well

Saturday, July 1, 2017

$50 Finder's Fee Available

I am going to try something new this year and offer a "finder's fee" for a specific type of fishing tip.

There's $50 in it for you if you can help me out.

What I'm looking for...
  • New places to fish for carp
  • A place I haven't fished before
  • A place where I can access shore fishing within a couple hours or less from Ann Arbor
  • A place where I can fish from shore and catch a carp of more than 30 pounds
How to earn $50:

If I catch a carp of more than 30 pounds in 2017, at a location you recommend, I will pay you a $50 finder's fee.

Here's an example of the type of fish I'm looking for:


Early Summer Carp Fishing

We're beginning the summer slow down for carp fishing. In the spring time, carp begin to recover from the winter period when their metabolism slows down dramatically, so they come to life with the warmer water temperatures in spring (late April in Michigan this year).

When the spawn starts (mid to later in May in Michigan), fishing slows down for a couple of weeks (depending on the venue) and then picks back up slowly.

With the summer heat carp seem to move from the shallow water spots into deeper water. That leaves the carp fisherman with a few options:
  • Fish venues with deeper water (near dams, in mill ponds, specific spots in rivers, deeper lakes)
  • Cast further from show into deeper water (7 or 8 feet seems to be my sweet spot )
  • Fish early mornings and later into the evenings (depends a little on the specific venue)
I typically try to do some of all three, but do seem to have more success fishing the spring venues and casting further from shore out into the deeper parts of the lake. I seems to catch most of my fish around 10 a.m. to noon and then from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or so at my favorite venue.

Here are a few pictures from last weekend's efforts:

Morning carp

Small mouth buffalo

Biggest common carp of the day in the mid teens

Early afternoon common carp

Small mouth buffalo weighing 17 pounds

Carp fishing action shot and the last fish of the day

Occasionally I catch carp like this one with the crooked tail, which seems to be a birth defect
In these pictures I wasn't wearing a hat. I took it off in an attempt at better photos and fewer shadows. I always wear a hat while outside in summer and apply sunscreen regularly. I urge you to do that same. Skin cancer is bad. It affects people of all ages and it does not discriminate (fair skin like mine or a full fledged sun tan, skin cancer doesn't seem to care one way or the other).

I wear SPF100 from Neutrogena in the "dry" formulation.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Scouting a New Spot

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to a new spot with high hopes. It was a river location that feeds into Lake Erie near the park where I decided to fish.

With the warmer weather and relatively shallow waters, the moss and weeds were very heavy. Although much heavier than I like, recent reports regarding state record fish being captured in this location convinced me that it was probably worth overlooking the weeds and giving a shot.

I started the day with rods casted near, far and medium distance. After an hour of no bites, I tried 3 in close. Then I followed that with two at far distance and one medium. Although I could see fish, the bites were non-existent. As luck would have it, I was seeing spawning fish just a few feet from the bank. They apparently had other things on their mind than eating my panko, field corn and butternut offerings.

Just I had almost packed up everything to leave, I had a nice run on my right rod. It also happened to be the rod farthest out in the river just past what I believe was the edge of a big bed of weeds.

I was rewarded with a fish weighing just under 20 pounds.

Caught on three pieces of flavored corn and a piece of fake orange maize.

I cropped this one a little tighter to show the size of the mouth a little better
I was casted out at least 70 - 80 yards in the river and although there was no current to speak of it still took quite a while to land this fish. An audience developed on shore consisting of several others who always hoped to catch a carp there, but never had the luck or skill. At least now they know there are some higher quality fish to be had from that river spot.

There was zero boat traffic while I was there. It probably had something to do with the 3 feet depths, which is pretty shallow for any motorized boats of size. I do think this spot is pretty popular with kayakers at various times of the year.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pleasure Boating and Shoreline Fishing

Shoreline fisherman (me)
I had an experience yesterday while fishing in Washtenaw County that made me very angry.

I arrived at 7 a.m. to fish a new-to-me-spot on a popular lake. The lake is apparently very popular with pleasure boaters. After 4 hours of fishing with no real issues to speak of, boating traffic near my fishing location from the shoreline increased dramatically.

I have found that some boaters apparently have very little awareness and understanding that people do enjoy stationary shoreline fishing in a lake and they just as they have a right to launch their boat in it, the shoreline fisherman has a right to fish as long as it's not marked as a "no fishing" area.

An example from yesterday:

My friend and I were fishing in a stationary location with 6 fishing rods between us perched on bank rests to hold our rods while we wait for a bite. This location was not at a boat ramp. The boat ramp was at least a quarter mile (maybe more) from my fishing spot.

A woman and children walked up to the shoreline between the two of us with a bag of ice, a couple of bags and a cooler. At this point, I was actually pretty laid back with the idea that she planned to board a boat in that location even though we were obviously fishing there; and despite the fact that there was an area to our left and right where no one was fishing at all which could have allowed her to board the boat that was on it's way.

Understanding that shoreline fishermen and boaters have equal rights to the water I didn't say anything.

Her boating friend arrived and they boarded the boat. At this point I was still fine and not the least bit upset.

The boat then backed up, veered to the left, and proceeded to back directly over all 3 of my lines in the water. (I use 50 pound braid on my rods, which is not a cheap line at all.)

The boat throttled up and began streaming line from my left rod at a very high rate.

I yelled at about the same time a passenger on the boat realized that they snagged my line with the propeller. The boat captain throttled down the motor at that point.

I retrieved some scissors and cut the line to avoid the boat dragging my entire $100 reel and $100 rod into the lake. At that point he then moved forward and snagged my other 2 lines. Luckily those were not wrapped in the propeller as well.

Some words were exchanged between the boat captain and I and they were on there way out onto the lake.

Some observations for would be boaters that may read this:
  • Please remember that just because you own a boat and launch it into a body of water it doesn't give you priority rights to that body of water over anyone else.
  • Please be courteous.
  • If you decided to beach your boat near a fisherman and drive straight in to that spot, please try to drive straight out when you leave.
  • If you are in doubt as to where lines may be in the water, please ask.
  • If there is an alternate location a few yards down the bank to beach your boat, please be considerate and beach in that location.
  • These few simple considerations will help make your boating experience more pleasant and it will also help the shoreline fisherman have a nice day on the lake as well.
  • Boaters and shoreline fishermen need to share the water. Each have equal rights to use the water. Neither has priority over the other one.
  • Common sense and courtesy are the order of the day in those situations.

Missouri Carp Fishing

Here are a couple more pictures from my Missouri trip.

Very carpy looking river location

That's me, my dad and mom watching the rods

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Vacation Carp Fishing in Missouri

For the past several years I have spent the 3rd weekend in May visiting relatives in Missouri to attend graduation ceremonies. It's a really great opportunity to do some carp fishing and try out some new spots. This year I tried an old spot and also a new spot. One on a lake and one in a nearby river.

Smallish carp from a popular park lake
Nice sized catfish

My spot on the Lamine River

Largest carp of the trip

First carp from the river
The river turns out to be a spot with some good potential. I definitely want to return to this river next year when I head back to the area.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mirror Carp

A very cool scale pattern on this fish. It's only the 3rd mirror carp I have every caught, so I was pretty excited to see it in the net.

Mirror carp

More Saginaw River Pictures from 2017

I found a few more pictures on another camera from the Saginaw River trip. Between phones, cameras and Go Pro I sometimes forget to download them all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Carp Anglers Group 2017 Battle of the States Midwest Regional

I really enjoyed this year's event (my 4th). The rules were changed a little for 2017 and the change proved to be very popular with anglers.

In prior years, pre-fishing was allowed on Friday with a peg draw on Saturday and then a peg change on Sunday. This year the peg draw was on Friday and then anglers were allowed to fish their swim on Friday afternoon, fish it for the contest on Saturday and then again on Sunday. This allowed anglers to "build" their swim and learn all the in's and out's over the duration of the weekend event.

My two largest fish weighed 23 pounds 14 ounces and 24 pounds (although our scales registered 25 pounds 12 ounces). The variation in the larger fish was likely attributable to the wind gusts up to 20 mph we were experiencing making it challenging to "tare" the scales.

Here are some more pictures:

Upper teens

20 pounds

Look at that big tail

25 pounds

23 pounds