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Begining Carp Fishing

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Beginning Carp Fishing

I suspect many of you started out fishing the same way I did. As a kid, I would chase any fish that bit. Yellow perch, bluegill, trout, bass, sucker it didn't matter. The object of the game was to have fun and to catch something, anything really. In time, I got the urge to catch BIG fish. A five pound bass, an 18 inch rainbow, a fat and sassy channel cat, as long as it was bigger than average it put a smile on my face. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, most of us learn to turn our noses up at some fish while prizing others. It's sad really. Why not get excited over a 10 lb carp?

Maybe its some rebellious streak, or maybe I'm just an overgrown kid (probably both), but I do still get a thrill catching a big fish, any fish. I especially like fishing for carp, because even average size carp are far bigger than most freshwater species and big carp of twenty or even thirty pounds are not all that rare. I could try to convince each of you of the fighting power of these fish or of their value as a sportfish, but I've found the quickest way to convert a non-carper into an avid carp obsessed maniac is to simply put the rod in the non-believers hands when that first carp rips off with 20 or 30 yrds of line against a smooth drag. That is the purpose of this article: To put a rod in your hands attached to a carp intent on emptying your reel and reaching the other side of the lake!

While carp fishing has evolved, mostly overseas, into a very specialized pursuit complete with its own set of specialty tackle, I intend to detail how to catch carp with the gear you most likely already own. If you've got a 5 to 7 ft fishing rod with a spinning, baitcasting, or spin-cast reel spooled with 8 to 12 lb test line, you've got what it takes to catch that first carp. Here is how.

Unlike many of the fish we chase, carp are more grazers than out and out predators. Think more along the lines ofa deer than a mountain lion. Sure, they will chase down food in certain circumstances, but more often they are content to efficiently mooch along the bottom separating out food items from inedible sticks and rocks. Assisting carp with this type of feeding are four short barbels used to taste/smell new food items. Additionally carp posess teeth not in the mouth but in the throat which are used to grind up hard food items like mussels,small clams, and various plant materials. Because a carp is virtually surrounded by food, it may be less likely to home in on your bait. Clearly a strategy suited for predators like bass or pike, will probably not be very effective with these foraging carp.

To maximize our chances of catching a carp, we need to both find the fish and bring them to us. Finding the fish is a game of its own. For now, keep an eye peeled for any jumping or rolling fish. Also look for bubbles that appear to be moving slowly along. Often carp will stir up the bottom and give their presence away with rising bubbles or even clouds of silt. I've caught carp in water from 1 ft to 30 ft deep. Unless I see carp in an area, I will try to fish on the bottom between 5 and 15 ft deep. Sometimes carp can be found suspended shallow over deep water. I've not had much luck with these, maybe they are just resting. You might try getting up wind and floating several free small peices of white bread over them. Sometimes they will take notice of surface baits. Imagine being able to watch a 20 lb fish swim up and suck in your bait! Carp are creatures of habit. Keep your eyes open and take note of where you see activity. Given similar conditions you are likely to find the carp there again in the future.

If you've found the fish and want to keep them in the area, or if there are no signs of fish, but you'd like to attract them try chumming. The best starter chum I can think of is plain old sweet corn from the grocery store. Better yet, buy the gallon size cans from the discount center if you can. It is difficult to chum to much. A single ten pound fish can really hover up the bait in a hurry. Just imagine how fast a whole shoal of fish can eat. Getting the corn out the fishing area requires creativity. Tossing by hand, using a sling shot, lashing a throwing scoop to the end of a broom stick, all are at least partially effective. Swimming, boating, or float tubing are also good ways to get the bait out. Chumming both attracts the fish and creates a competitive feeding situation, like tossing seed to pigeons. Carp competing with each other are less cautious and more easily caught.

Ok, let's say you've found a likely spot and chummed it up a bit. Now you are ready to rig up and bait up. The key to remember here, is that a small rig can always catch a big fish, but a big rig is not likely to catch small or even medium sized fish. Despite their large size, carp have relatively small mouths and tend to feed on small food items like baby clams, seeds, insects and the like. So, lets start off using a hook anywhere from size 4 through 8. Since a carp bite will likely be much softer than say a slashing bass, extra sharp hooks are required. The Eagle Claw lazer sharp baitholders are a step in the right direction. For bait, I strongly recommend canned corn. Right out of the can or flavored with anything from sugar and kool-aide to peppermint shcnapps, sweet corn is an almost magical carp bait. Other baits to try include soft doughbaits, worms, and bread. Due to the suck and blow feeding pattern of many carp, I have the most confidence in an exposed hook point.

{see baited hook diagram}

Rig-wise, carp can be very sensitive to resistance. For this reason, I recommend using a sliding casting sinker of 1/4 to 1/2 ounce like that pictured in the diagram. With a sliding rig and light bite indicator (discussed below) you should be able to see the carp bite before the carp notices the resistance and spits out the bait.

{isert rig diagram here}

Carp fishing can be a waiting game. It really pays to fashion some sort of rod holder. The traditional forked stick can work well with one modification. Insead of propping the rod tip in the air, try placing two forked sticks in the ground about 3 ft apart. Then position the rod horizontally across the two sticks (see rod set up diagram). Position the sticks so that the rod points directly at the bait. Once you have cast out and placed the rod on the sticks, slowly reel as much slack as you can out of the line. Pull a little bit of slack from the reel, and hang a light bite indicator on the line between the first and second rod guides. Finally back the drag way off so that a running fish can't pull your rod in the water before you have a chance to grab it.

{insert rod setup diagram here}

Here is a diagram on how to construct a simple, light weight bite indicator from a small bobber and a snap swivel.

{insert bite indicator diagram here}

When a carp begins to play with your bait, you will be alerted by the bite indicator starting to jiggle, fall, or rise. This is the moment you have been waiting for! When the dance turns into a slow steady pull or drop take up the slack, secure the spool, and set the hook. Remember to slowly re-apply the drag or you will soon find you are out of line! A carp's first run can truly be a knee wobbling experience. Just keep up the pressure and the fish will eventually turn, maybe. Don't try to horse the fish in. Fish this large require a lift up and wind down strategy. When the fish is not running, slowly lift the rod tip, then slowly wind in the line gained while gently dipping the rod tip lower and keeping a tight line, repeat, until the fish tires and is played in close to the shore. A long handled net is a real fish saver since there is no way you can lift a fish of this size with the rod. If you happen to have one, I'd recommend using the rubber meshed boat nets like those used for walleye or pike as they will cause less damage to the fish and they are tough enough to flex deep and envelope your newest trophy capture. Consider carp like bonefish or tarpon, while a blast to catch they do not have to be eaten. Small carp from clean waters are very good when properly prepared, though.

If you do plan on releasing your newest capture, please consider holding the fish horizontally as depicted on the Carp Anglers Group Logo displayed below. Lipping, gilling, eyeballing, or gaffing these heavy fighting machines can easily damage them. A fish friendly and accurate way to wiegh your prize is to keep the fish in the net. Then hook the scale onto the net rather than directly into the fish. You can later subtract the wieght of the net from the total to yeild the fish's weight, or not...

{insert CAG logo Here}

Well, I hope you are now on your way to targeting and catching your first carp on rod and reel. If you happen to contract carp fever, please don't hold that against me. Carp fishing can become a true addiction. But don't worry, you are not alone.


Brian "Carpaholic" Nordberg

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Excellent Carpaholic. Really outstanding intro to carping.

Your inserted pics aren't showing up though.

And "shoal" eh? LOL. You been spending too much time with our UK cousins. School!!! Fish congregate in a school. :D

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Another tip that comes to mind:

If you don't want to loosen the drag or buy a baitrunner type reel, there is another way to keep the rod from getting pulled in. Try tying a rubber band around the rod handle just above the spool of the reel. After casting out, reel in the slack. Next, tuck a loop of your fishing line under the rubber band. Leave the bail open. Now you can hang a light bite indicator on you line because the line is held tight by the rubber band. If a fish takes of with your bait, the line will pull out of the rubber band and allow the fish to pull line freely from the spool. To hook the fish, just close the bail and hang on!


Brian "Carpaholic" Nordberg

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Hi again -

I know hair rigs are not exactly "beginning" level topics, but if anybody wants to try one for the first time, the most difficult thing to find is often a baiting needle. Well, here is a cheap way to make your own.

First, find a bendable fishing hook. Often a wire Crappie hook will work. Make sure it is a barbed hook.

Next, straighten out the hook.

Fiinally tape, glue, or tie the the shank and eye of the hook onto a pencil or stick that will serve as a handle.

Presto! you have now created a baiting needle than can be used to impale baits and then slide them onto the hair. Just hook the loop at the end of the hair under the barb and slide the bait from the baiting needle and onto the hair. To keep it from sliding off, insert a small peice of rubber band, a bit of grass, or any thing else that can keep the bait from sliding off.

Best of luck,

Brian "Carpaholic" Nordberg

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Another DIY baiting needle and one I still use - get a package of the wire you use to make up your own spinner rigs. About 3 inches long with a twist/loop at one end.

Make a bend in the other end with a pair of fine needle-nose pliars. The loop section works fine as a handle.

And I can usually find these things for about $2 per pack of 50.

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Another useful item to use as a baiting needle is a crochet hook.

Of course you need to go into a needlework shop to get one and most of us big guys might not want to be seen in that type of shop :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Phone teaches other what not to do by fishing his normal way :D

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