Carp fishing underrated
Crossing the bridge spanning the Susquehanna River on an
afternoon walk, I stopped and peered over the bridge rail to watch
several large carp feeding along the river bottom. I knew it was
carp from the telltale puff of mud each made as it slowly moved
Carp were originally farm-raised in Asia for food from about 400
B.C. but it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th Century when they
were introduced from Europe to America. Carp are one of the best
known of all fish and are actually members of the minnow family.
They have a bronze-yellow coloring with large scales, two barbells
on each side of the upper jaw and serrated dorsal and the anal fins
arranged in a spine-like ray.
As far as habitat is concerned, carp prefer warm bodies of water
with a muddy bottom and, not surprisingly, our Susquehanna River
and hundreds of other rivers like it are home to tens of thousands
of these piscatorial behemoths. Because they constantly scour the
river or lake bottoms for mollusks, worms, insect larvae and plant
material, most fishermen consider them a nuisance or trash fish.
Their active feeding habits constantly muddy the water and uproot
aquatic plants. In addition, their sheer numbers compete with other
popular sport or game fish such as bass, walleye and catfish. For
this reason, it’s legal to catch carp by just about any means
available. Clubs, spears, and even a bow and arrow are popular ways
of capturing carp, not only here in New York but all across the
Carp can reach enormous size. New York’s state record carp
weighed in at 50 pounds, 4 ounces and was caught in Rensselaer
County in the Tomhannock Reservoir.
The carp may be despised here in the United States but this
isn’t so in many parts of the world, notably Europe. Many European
anglers consider the lowly carp a game fish and look at it the same
way we Americans view bass, walleye, trout and panfish.
A few years ago, at the behest of the tourism officials from
Erie and Onondaga counties, English fishermen came to upstate New
York waters to fish for carp. They found the fishing fabulous and
couldn’t wait to get back home to tell their friends about the
wonderful carp fishing awaiting them in the states.
Once hooked, carp are dogged fighters, and therein lays their
appeal for some anglers. A large carp is a force to be reckoned
with since it is capable of long and powerful runs. Fishing for
carp can be done in a variety of ways using a large range of bait.
Two of the most popular carp baits are night crawlers and dough
balls, although they may be caught on live bait and even artificial
Although I haven’t found time to stalk carp with a bow and arrow
lately, I used to do it several times a week because carp fishing
with a bow and arrow is extremely challenging and a lot of fun. A
few days a week at sunset I headed out for a few hours of
bowfishing. I didn’t have to hunt hard because it was easy to find
the river carp feeding near shore with their backs out of
Carp are extremely wary and require the stalking ability of a
deer hunter, so getting near them is always a challenge. They are
not easy to hit, either, because the refractive index of the water
often results in shots that are either over or under the intended
target. Hit one, though, and it’s game on, because the fish will
immediately peel line off the bow reel and head to deeper
The old saying that nothing goes to waste in nature became very
clear when we found what little remained of the two carp we bagged
on the previous afternoon’s hunt. A few bones and some fish scales
were all that was left. The carcasses proved to be an easy meal and
were picked clean by the variety of wildlife that roams the
riverbank on a nightly search for food. Catch them by rod and reel
or stalk them with a bow and arrow, carp can be worthy adversaries
and provide a great deal of fishing excitement regardless of how
they are brought to shore.