You’re Catching WHAT!?!
Late Ice Carp Tactics ….Yeah Really!!
Everyone has found themselves carp fishing at some time or another. And although most people don’t really pursue them too actively, or even admit that they liked catching them, they sure can put up a fight. Ask anyone who has tied into one while crappie fishing with light tackle, you had better have a good drag or they will put a bruising on your equipment. I have always been a sucker for just about anything that will tug at the other end of the line. On days when I couldn’t get on the water I have even been known to play tug-o-war with my dog by tying one of her chew toys to the end of my musky rod (yeah, I have a problem). So when my brother and I found ourselves trying to sight fish shallow gills this past February and all we kept seeing when looking down the holes were huge carp, we knew precisely what needed to be done. Luckily I had left a couple of tip-ups in my truck from a previous outing.
Lacking traditional carp gear (although I am not sure what technically constitutes traditional carp gear, nor does anyone else on this side of the Atlantic ocean); we took a couple of tip-ups and improvised. All my tip-ups were pre-rigged with 50 lb Power Pro line, but this being gin-clear water we added a Spro swivel and 6-7 feet of 20 lb fluorocarbon to the end of each. My brother added a size 6 circle hook to his with no weight and baited it with as many wax worms as he could squeeze onto it. I took a slightly different approach. Some of the fish were cruising and from the looks of it they were picking off aquatic insects as they swam around. So I took a size 12 Lindy Genz Bug and loaded it with waxies. It didn’t take more than 5 minutes before a flag was flying. The first fish came on my brothers circle hook rig, and he made the mistake of taking his gloves off before trying to land the fish. Well that first fish gave him several line burns on his fingers to make him think better of taking his gloves off the next time. It also weighed in at only 4 lbs on his digital scale, and man was I excited to see what one of the bigger ones we had seen swimming around could do.
The commotion from the fish (and my brother’s squeals of pain as he got burned from the line) attracted some attention from a group of people crappie fishing not too far from where we were. Two of them came over to talk to us about what we were catching, and thought we were either stupid for fishing for carp, or lying through our teeth and had found either some big northerns or walleyes in the shallows (supposed "real fish"). Luckily they didn’t have to wait around long to see it with their own eyes as my brother’s tip-up went off again. This time he left his gloves on, and when the slush cleared and we managed to squeeze it up the hole we has holding a beautiful (they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder) 7lb carp. By the end of the day we were able to ice 6 beautiful (c’mon, they are cooler looking than walleyes) carp, the biggest being a 10 lb brute that took a little extra effort to squeeze up the hole. All while catching bluegills not 50 yards away.
Now We’re Prepared, Whatever That Means
We decided to be a little more prepared the next time we went out to that spot. This was going to be a serious attempt at fishing for only carp. We even took the time to make dough balls out of Wheaties and vanilla extract, which have always been a killer for us when open water carp fishing. The fishing really seemed to pick up from the previous day, or maybe it was just because we were “serious carp fisherman” now. Try calling yourself that without laughing. The action was split between dough balls on the bottom and wax worms about 1 foot off of the bottom, and we ended up icing around 15 fish, although it did seem as though our bigger fish were caught on dough balls lying on the bottom. I also decided it would be a good idea to rig up a tip-down, which is like a tip up except it allows you to fight the fish with a rod and reel. My reasoning was that it would be a lot more fun to fight the fish on a rod and reel, and it would help me avoid burns from the line and the girlish squealing that would ensue. The one down-side to the tip-down is that the moment the fish felt any resistance they would drop the bait, so I had to open the bail and just constantly check to see if I had a fish. Luckily we were using circle hooks so I didn’t have to worry about gut hooking any of these gorgeous fish (they really aren’t that ugly)
We took a look around the area in between flags and found out a little more about the area we were catching these fish. We were getting the majority of our fish in 9-10 feet of water over a sandy/weedy bottom at the entrance to a small bay. This particular area came up out of a 22 foot mud flat very quickly. The back of the bay was very muddy and had a stream that connected to several other lakes. Although we never checked the temp of the water we figured that was a big reason why the fish were in that area, as well as the bug hatches that we could see coming up our holes.
As the snow cover began to diminish near the end of this ice season we found that the fish became a lot spookier and would take longer to move back into an area after we had drilled holes. They also began to move back further into the bay over the dark bottomed areas. They were still biting, but if there was any commotion going on above them they would vacate the area, so there have been fewer doubles on the tip-ups.
Why? Because They are Fish!
I have received almost the same reaction out of everyone I have told about this bite so far, “Why?” And all I can really say in response is that you have to try it, if for no other reason than it gives you an excuse to still have a tip-up out while you are out fishing for panfish. So dust off those tip-ups, grab yourself a pack of circle hooks and some canned corn or dough balls and make an excuse to fish carp for a day, or don’t tell anyone if you feel embarrassed. This is one fish that will quickly win you over, if not for its looks (although I still say they are way better looking than walleyes), than for its sheer brute strength and willingness to eat almost anything. Hook up with a carp on a tip-up (but leave your gloves on) and try and wipe the smile off of your face, I dare you.
"Serious Carp Angler"