For various reasons, carp have a bad reputation. Here in Ohio, they’re called sewer bass, bugle mouths, and others things that can’t be printed here.
They’re accused of eating game fish eggs (they do) and muddying up lake waters, and other things, and a lot of that is true. But hardly anyone mentions that they’re great fighters. In fact, a four pound carp can outfight a largemouth bass with little trouble and still be ripping off line when the bass is gasping in your boat.
The Brits and other European anglers know this, and in England the carp is the number one sport fish sought by ordinary fishermen who can’t afford expensive trips for salmon and trout. They seek them with “boilies” which we call doughballs, and have developed boilie making into a science. T
he basic ingredients are Bisquick mixed with water to make a thick dough, then adding ingredients like licorice, grape or strawberry jelly, vanilla, and lots of other things to give them flavor. The dough is then rolled into balls, dropped into boiling water and become hardened doughballs. Carp like them.
Actually, carp will eat almost anything, and I’ve caught plenty on ordinary nightcrawlers. In fact, the first big fish I ever caught I took in the Big Scioto River on a worm. I fought the fish up and down the river for probably a hundred yards each way. This while screaming for my father to help, and nearly wetting my six-year-old pants.
I’ll never forget that day. But they do love canned sweet corn, and some of the biggest carp are taken on this bait. There are lots of commercial preparations they’ll eat, too.
The British anglers do have a secret that most of us don’t have. They bait their fishing spots. The idea is to draw fish to you, instead of vice versa, and “get their heads down” feeding, then toss your corn or boilies among them. To do that they might fill a large slingshot with canned corn and shoot it out in front of their chosen spot, and do it to the tune of at least two cans. Then maybe fish the spot for a couple of days. It works.
Rigs for catching these big brown-yellow fish are simple, at least in the U.S., though the Brits fishing for super smart fish who are often caught and released, have some sophisticated equipment. I use just two snelled hooks about a foot apart above a one ounce sinker. Baited with worms, corn, mulberries, or boilies they’ll get you fish.
If there’s a question, it’s what do you do with your fish once you catch them? There’s a simple answer — eat them. I’ve done it more than once, selecting fish of one to four pounds, filleting them like any other fish, then removing the “mud streak” that runs parallel along the middle of their bodies.
Taken from clean water, and Ohio has plenty of that, they’re at least as good as white bass and white perch, though not as great as yellow perch or walleye. You can smoke them, too, and the result is a little oily, but very tasty. Good fighters, plentiful, found in nearly every lake in the state, and fair eating. Reasons enough to try carp this summer.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for 30 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Martin writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.