Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Final Battle: The Common Carp and His Little Brother

Now there's a fish I had a grudge against. The common carp, despite supposedly being everywhere, had eluded me thus far. From New Jersey to the 20 lbers that broke me off in Minnesota, the entirety of the species had declared outright war with me. 

So began my quest to catch a common carp. I had failed on my second trip to Minnesota, surely I was to fail near home, right? But research paid off, and I found a spot that I was fairly certain held carp. The only problem was: I had no way to land the carp if one was hooked, and I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to fish there!

Nonetheless, I headed over, and found crowds of people there, not fishing, but just walking along in the busy town. I set up shop on a sidewalk on a bridge and looked into the water. Holy mother of carp. There were dozens, the biggest probably pushing 15 lbs. In addition to the carp, there were plenty of sunfish and some dark fish I couldn't identify, which I thought might have been gizzard shad at the time. 

Having heard that these fish are accustomed to being fed bread, I brought a couple slices of bread along with a bag of corn and oatmeal. I tossed out some bread pieces as chum, and a carp took notice, but only after approximately a million sunfish dashed over to snatch them. Not deterred, I tied on a larger piece and dropped it directly down. It was a bit too large for most of the sunfish, and when the carp saw it raced over and grabbed it, pushing the sunfish aside. 

I set the hook and the fight was on. Carp are tremendously powerful, and this one was no exception. I could feel the line rubbing against the bridge, and I prayed that the braid didn't snap. Luckily, it held, and soon enough I had a carp tired out and ready to land. Then arose the problem of landing the fish. It was a decent size, and I definitely could not pull the fish up. I had a net, but it wasn't long enough. So I devised a way of landing it, but I needed another person, of which I had not. However, there were plenty of tourists around, and I had them hold the rod while I raced to the bank on the other side. Then they would throw the rod to me, I would catch it, and land the fish. 

The system played out perfectly; I was able to sweep the net under my first carp! And just like that, I got over my grudge, since species #66 was in hand. 

Not too big, but a real nice specimen. He even fanned out all his fins!

In the net

Having caught my first on bread, I immediately threw another piece out, but no carp took notice, probably spooked by the commotion of the other fish. Instead, I hooked into an incredibly large and fat green sunfish that looked as if it had been caught before. At 9.25 inches and so insanely fat, it was a new personal best for sure.

By no no carp were responding to the bread, so out went the corn and oatmeal as chum. My hookbait consisted of a couple whole corn kernels. As the chum slowly drifted down, the suspected shad immediately raved over and tentatively ate some oatmeal and corn. I didn't think too much about it at the time, since I was focused on catching more carp!

It didn't take long before my rod was bent over. A smaller fish, landed in the same fashion rather quickly. The carp in this spot don't run too large, but the numbers make up for the size.

Carp continued to consistent action from the smaller specimens.

During a lull in carp action, I turned my attention to the "shad." With my light combo, I tied on a sabiki rig, but garnered no interest other than a few dumb sunnies. Remembering that the fish were eating the corn and oatmeal, I tied a size 12 hook on with half a corn kernel under a float. Upon hitting the water, the sunfish immediately took notice, but the unidentified fish got there first. It sucked it in and spat it out, nibbled a bit, then finally took the bait with confidence and I set the hook. I saw a gold flash and I was a bit perplexed. Then the thought that this may be a wild goldfish crossed my mind. As I lifted it up, my suspicions were confirmed and I was ecstatic. And there it was, species #67, the goldfish.

I experimented with the goldfish for a bit, tried different baits and the like. They are fond of bread, but the sunfish attack to quickly. Don't even get me started about worms. But the secret weapon was oatmeal flakes. They love it, but it has a tendency to fall off the hook even when I spent at least a couple minutes getting it on, haha. I caught plenty more goldfish before turning my attention to their big brothers.

You may be wondering why these goldfish aren't orange, or brightly colored like their domestic counterparts. It is very likely that that was how they were introduced, but once a population lives long enough in the wild, their coloration eventually returns to its natural state, which is a bronze-gold. It has a crazy metallic sheen.

After catching plenty of spectacular goldfish, I again started to fish for carp. The action was hot, and i brought many small specimens to the bank, but no real bruisers. It's quite funny when I think of it, I spent so much time trying to catch carp, and here was a spot close to home loaded with carp. 

This feller had a tail injury. 

A very pale carp, almost entirely milky. 

Look at his mouth!

And a bruiser bluegill to finish the day off.

It was a spectacular outing, comfortable weather and 2 new lifers in a matter of hours! That's hard to beat, especially less than 20 minutes from home.

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