- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

How could a sport angler ever badmouth a fish that is strong as an ox, wily as a deer, and willing to live in waters that even tadpoles avoid? As far this bona fide tough guy of the fish world, the carp is concerned, it’s happening every day.

Carp generally are looked upon as piscatorial outcasts, yet they have saved countless anglers’ outings by sampling a bait or lure when nothing else would. Also, once hooked, it easily outperforms the local glamour species, the largemouth bass. But like Rodney Dangerfield, it simply doesn’t get any respect.

As the writer Brian Barger once observed tongue in cheek, in a lengthy carp fishing article, “Forget everything your mother ever told you, such as not playing with your food.” Barger said if you want to break mom’s rule and play with food, take up carp fishing.

The man is right. Carp fishing can change your whole outlook on angling. This fish species, thought to have been accidentally introduced to local waters by German immigrant farmers more than 120 years ago, can be found in all the lower 48 states. It inhabits rivers, creeks, bayous, brackish or sweet-water bays, lakes and farm ponds because if the fish itself couldn’t find new locales, wild waterfowl or wading birds like the great blue heron might have done it for them.

Considerable discussions and disagreements have taken place concerning carp introductions. Many believe a long-legged heron or egret wading through fertilized carp roe, then flying off to another body of water, could inadvertently “plant” fertilized carp eggs in a shallow area as the eggs came off its legs. The sun would incubate the roe a while and — bingo! — newly hatched carp inhabit heretofore carp-barren waters.

The playing-with-your-food part that Barger wrote about concerns the various ways to produce a workable carp bait, such as taking a little strawberry soda, putting it into a bowl, adding corn flakes and mixing the two ingredients into a doughy consistency. Shape the mixture into a small ball the size of a chick pea or a gum ball, attach it to a tiny treble hook and cast it out into a likely area with a small sinker to keep the carp food from floating away. You need the weight to hold the bait in one place and allow the aroma of the corn flake/strawberry soda mixture to permeate the waters. The carp will do the rest.

Incidentally, canned corn will do well, or corn mixed with Jell-O and allowed to become very gummy.

This time of year, you can observe carp in every one of our tidal rivers and feeder creeks, as well as reservoirs and lakes, going through their mating ritual. At a place known as Marsh Island, in Mattawoman Creek not far from where it joins the tidal Potomac, you can sit still in a boat and watch carp thrashing and chasing each other around in less than two feet of water.

Anglers using flies that resemble a mulberry can do very well along the C&O; Canal near Fletcher’s Boat House or up around Angler’s Inn in Montgomery County.

But our little group of bass fishermen sometimes targets carp as we spot them on a good electronic depth sounder in the deep bends of tidewater creeks. We’ve caught them accidentally while hoping to hook a yellow perch with a 1/16 or 1/8-ounce jig hook that is attached to a curly-tailed plastic grub. Once it happens, we forget about the perch and begin to gently hop around the tiny grubs.

Even the popular 3-inch-long avocado-color Sting Ray beaver-tailed grubs that work so well on bass, stripers, perch and catfish also will draw a carp, especially when dabbed with an odorous fish attractant.

Once a carp is hooked, watch out. This character has the fight and stamina of a bulldog. Carp don’t readily roll over and play dead. Even average size specimens in the 8- to 10-pound class, such as one our pal Andy Andrzejewski recently caught on the aforementioned Sting Ray grub, can break rods, tear lines in two and bend hooks as straight as a stick pin.

So go and make fun of the “buglemouth bass,” as detractors call it. I know for a fact that when you stick the hook to one, you’ll have a ball trying to subdue it. You just don’t want to admit it to pals who believe the bass is No. 1.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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