Carp tales more than trash talk

April 23, 2006|By Bill Anderson

For most of my life, carp have been considered to be trash fish. Lots of people fished for them, but you seldomly read articles on how to fish for carp or saw ads for tackle designed to target carp.

Times are changing.

In our area, carp are found in nearly all of our waters. They are a prolific and adaptable fish. They feed on many food sources, including aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans - particularly crayfish.

When I was fishing for carp regularly, the approach was pretty basic. You take a small handful of dry oatmeal, dunk it into the river and squeeze the oatmeal into a small doughball that is just big enough to cover the hook.

One of the most interesting changes to carp fishing is the interest from the fly-fishing sector. Industry reports show that this in one of the fastest growing areas in fly fishing. Fly fishermen have learned that you can spot and stalk shallow-water carp the same way that saltwater anglers fish for redfish and bonefish. Obviously, the key is to have water conditions that allow you to see the fish as they grub the shallows for crayfish and similar foods.


Several popular smallmouth bass guides on the upper Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania now specialize in fishing for carp. They call them Pennsylvania bonefish. One guide told me last summer that about half of his bookings are for carp fishing. The carp can be very big, and average between 14 and 20 pounds. This is pretty tough fishing, and a good presentation is necessary to avoid spooking the fish in the shallow waters.

If you check out a fly-fishing catalog, you will probably see a selection of flies designed just for carp fishing. The most common theme is a fly that is fished on the bottom and imitates a crayfish. Carp are big crayfish eaters and this is what they are usually searching for in the shallows. By the way, you will often catch carp with scarring on the nostril area. The scars are from pushing rocks around to find crayfish.

Another approach for shallow-water carp is to use spinning tackle and cast crayfish-colored plastic baits to tailing carp. It works just like fly fishing, and a 15-pounder on light spinning tackle can make for some exciting action.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. E-mail him at

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