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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

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