Whereas Europeans have long considered carp to be the King of Gamefish, to Americans the notion of purposely targeting carp with hook and line is flat-out weird. That might all be changing.
In September, more than 200 anglers are expected to compete in the Carp Angling World Championship on New York’s St. Lawrence River. Total cash prizes in this Ironman-style fishing event will top $100,000.
A Fish for All
But big-money competition is only a small part of what’s behind the new hype surrounding trophy-carp fishing. Simply put, carp are common fish that grow uncommonly large, and that’s easy to get excited about. Further, it doesn’t even matter what style of fishing you prefer. You can rig some simple bait—sweet corn or a ball of white bread—on a No. 6 hook. Or you can opt for bigger tackle with specialized baits and terminal gear with odd names such as boilies or hair rigs.
A boilie, for example, is basically a scented cornmeal or flour-based mixture with eggs and a flavor additive. This pasty dough is then rolled into bait-size balls that are boiled for one to two minutes, which gives the boilie a firm outer core. It is then strung onto a hair-rig. Originally, hair-rigs utilized a length of human hair to attach the boilie to the hook. Modern rigs are tied with any thin hook-length material, but the principle is the same—the bait sits away from the hook, and therefore goes undetected by the sometimes mouth-sensitive fish.
Match the Hatch
Flyfishermen, too, are getting in on the action, and are even challenging the old notion that carp are not-so-beautiful fish that inhabit not-so-beautiful places. From stunningly scenic, popular Western rivers like the Madison and Bighorn to Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula to the sandy, coastal flats off the coast of Lower Michigan, carp are falling for flies.
River fishing requires a 7-weight rod and a fly box with a good assortment of nymphs, crayfish imitations and even dry flies that match the local hatch.
Flats-style fishing in northern Lake Michigan calls for an 8-weight rod, black and brown Woolly Buggers, Clouser Crayfish, White Crazy Charlies and small Stonefly Nymphs. The presentation should be subtle. Cast in front of a cruising fish and entice strikes with a series of small strips. Try to envision the fly merely scuttling along the bottom. And hold on—carp are tireless fighters, heavy as cinder blocks, and capable of reel-burning runs. Isn’t it time to get in on the action?