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Huge carp a kick in the grass

Posted on September 19, 2013

Slate Hill, N.Y. — David Whitworth was sure he had caught a state-record fish.

The massive carp he caught in a downstate lake earlier this summer weighed 63 pounds, according to one scale. But Whitworth, a strong advocate of catch-and-release, would not take it to be weighed on a certified scale, so he had to be satisfied with photographing the fish and believing he held the record but not officially certifying it.

“There was no way I was killing a 60-pound carp,” he said. As he debated how hard to push for the record, he had a carp expert he knows – upstate guide Michael McGrath – see pictures of the fish. McGrath concluded the lunker was not a common carp – for which the 50-pound record would have been shattered – but was instead a grass carp, a fish imported to the U.S. from Asia for the purpose of weed control. Whitworth agreed when McGrath pointed out subtle feature that separate the species.

Grass carp are only to be stocked in small ponds by state permit and only sterile (triploid) fish are to be introduced into state waters to eliminate reproduction, so the state Department of Environmental Conservation does not recognize a sport fishing record for them.

Whitworth, a Brit who grew up sport fishing for carp in England where carp are a major species targeted by anglers, said the fish initially did not appear to him to be a grass carp, which generally have a more silverish body than brown common carp. The fish did have a mouth that was not the distinctive downturned mouth seen in common carp, but Whitworth believed that stemmed from its age.

He would not say where he caught the fish, but said it was known to have only common carp as far as he knew.

“I had no idea there were grass carp in this lake,” he said.

Grass carp are also not known to take bait because they eat vegetation. But Whitworth said the fish he caught took a piece of corn used as bait.

Whitworth, of downstate Slate Hill, near Middletown (Orange County), said he’d like to see the DEC recognize a record for grass carp.

DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the agency has no plans to institute a grass carp record because it is not considered a sport fish and cannot be stocked without agency approval.

“They may not be possessed in the state except under state permit,” Severino said.

Whitworth said a lunker where he grew up in England was a 4-pounder and he said many anglers don’t appreciate the carp fishery in New York.

He said the fishing in Baldwinsville, where an annual carp derby is held on the Seneca River, is as good as anywhere. He said he landed 74 fish topping 1,000 pounds in one outing.

“The Baldwinsville area is a world-class carp fishery,” he said.

Days after he caught the 63-pounder, Whitworth returned to the same lake seeking more lunkers. He caught a 28-pound common carp, and believes there is a state record common carp there for the taking.

The current common carp state record of 50 pounds, 6 ounces was caught in the Tomhannock Reservoir in Rensselaer County on May 12, 1995, by Charles Primeau, Sr. Primeau was fishing with a nightcrawler when the big carp hit.

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