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Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Catch Common Carp

With temperatures at 7 degrees this morning the carp fishing is very, very slow locally where I live in Southeast Michigan. That leaves more time for updating information on the carp fishing blog.

I have written articles featuring specific hooks, fishing line, fake maize, etc. in the past and plan to get back to doing more of that in the next several weeks and months. I am far from an expert, but I have learned a few things in the past 4 years that helped me and a few others learn to catch more common carp.

Catch and release carp fishing
There are few things more frustrating for a new carp fisherman than spending hours on the bank and failing to catch a fish. Occasionally channel catfish will bite the corn, maize, boilie, etc. being used to target carp, which is a bonus that helps reduce the disappointment, but only for awhile (at least in my case).

But there are things we can do to help increase the odds. Some are obvious and others not so much. Please don't take this list of carp fishing tips as the "one and only way" to approach the task; and please decide whether it makes sense for your personal situation, but I hope some of my experiences help folks who are new to the pursuit catch a few more fish.

1. Fish in waters that hold carp in larger numbers

You might think this tip is obvious, but I think it bears mentioning. There are likely carp in most every water locally where I live, but some waters hold more of them in total. And in some bodies of water the carp "school" or "shoal" up in common areas in concentrated numbers. So it makes sense for me that when faced with a choice between casting a line in Water A with 15 to 20 carp per acre vs. Water B with 100 to 200 carp per acre (as an example for the sake of demonstration), going with Water B is the simple choice.
  • Where can you find this type of information on waters that have a greater density of carp?
There are several options and at one point or another I have used many strategies, but the fastest approach is to make contact with other local carp fishing enthusiasts. There are groups on Facebook and websites for clubs such as Carp Anglers Group that focus on carp fishing, which will help you a lot. Do a Google search for carp fishing in your local area, do a search on You Tube, on Facebook, on Instagram, find a local hunting and fishing forum and ask others for tips, read the fishing survey reports for various lakes available via the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) websites in your state, etc.

Going to a water that you think may hold carp and walking the shore line looking for obvious signs of carp is another good option. It takes more time and effort, but it can pay big dividends in the long run. Finding the places within the lake, creek, river, or reservoir that hold carp will help you decide areas to concentrate on when you come back later to fish those areas.

2. Use bait that has been tested and proven to attract carp

Techniques for catching carp are very different than those used for catching sunfish, bluegill, walleye or bass. Top water buzz and spinner baits won't get the job done. Float fishing with night crawlers might yield an occasional carp, but it won't catch them consistently day-after-day in most waters.

Sweet corn, bread, and boilies have proven successful over the years. And to kick it up a few notches higher, adding sweet flavors to those offerings works even better.
A productive day
I prefer flavored maize/corn over bread and boilies, and more specifically; corn/maize flavored with a fruit such as pineapple or sweet flavors such as butternut, anise, or vanilla. Commercial carp bait makers offer many different varieties that I encourage you to try, but you can start out with sweet corn straight from the can dipped in corn syrup or even maple syrup. But if you get serious about catching carp I'd recommend you try flavored maize sold by Trilogy Carp Baits or World Classic Baits to start. I mention those to bait companies because I have personally tried their products and fully support the effectiveness of their flavors like "Brendan's Bumbleberry", "Sweet Anise", "Sweet Plum", "Four Seasons", or "Scopex.

3. Learn to ties a knotless knot aka "hair rig" to improve the odds of catching carp

While placing sweet corn directly on a hook can work, threading it on a "hair" that floats below the hook works much better. Here's one my favorite videos for "How to Tie A Hair Rig" on YouTube:

4. Use "pack bait" or "ground bait"

Mixing up some bread crumbs, oatmeal, Wheaties, panko breadcrumbs with some type of binder for moisture like water or cream corn works well enough to allow the mixture to be molded around a lead and adhere tightly enough to be casted. It's not absolutely required to catch carp, but it will increase the odds dramatically.

Two pieces of flavored maize
 tipped with a piece of plastic corn

A picture of the typical pack bait
molded around the 2 or 3 oz. lead
Experimentation is encouraged. From time to time I have added chicken feed, bird seed, flavoring, peanut powder, salt, chili powder, and even peanut bird suet pellets to my pack bait mixtures. Try not to go overboard and add everything on the list all at once. I don't think it's necessary.

Plenty of carp have been caught on plain old bread molded around a hook and floated free line-style on top of the water. In fact, for those confident enough to use that method consistently, with the ability to stalk the carp, locate them in a body of water, and then deliver the bread bait to that exact spot have had a great deal of success.

The best part about carp fishing for me is trying different things and deciding what will work best in a given body of water under specific conditions.

5. Pre-bait

I don't usually go to my planned fishing spot the day prior and through bait into the exact spot I plan to fish, but when I do I always catch more fish. Most of my fishing spots are 30 minutes from my house or more, so heading out the day before isn't usually possible. I wish it was something I could do more consistently. Here's why:

Sometimes I go out to my spot, cast and start catching fish within a few minutes. Other times I cast out and wait...and wait...and wait. I have spent a lot of time analyzing and thinking about the reasons for this.

There are all sorts of scientific explanations that might help explain it - like temperature, oxygen levels, available natural food sources, barometric pressure, etc. - but it can likely be boiled down to one simple concept and I suspect it's correct the majority of the time.
  • Sometimes there are numerous fish in the area and sometimes there are not.
I am sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping for something more substantial, but many times the simple things are most meaningful and insightful. And that's were pre-baiting might help.
  • If there are fish already present, pre-baiting gets the fish feeding on the specific bait you will be fishing with.
  • If fish are not already present in the spot then pre-baiting adds the missing ingredient - food to attract the fish.
Or, as I often have to do, if you can not pre-bait and pack your patience; because if the fish are not present it may take awhile to draw them into the spot by casting and re-casting for a few hours to draw them in. That's why after fishing for 6 or 7 hours, many of the fish are caught during hours 8 and 9 (or not caught at all because we give up before the fish arrive and start feeding).

I also recommend a close reading of the current fishing guidebook before implementing any of these suggestions. There are some restricted streams where pre-baiting restricted.

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