Yep, you did actually just read that right. Today, I’m going to talk about the much maligned, stinky, pest species – The European Carp. They are a “noxious Pest” in Australia, and the generally accepted protocol is to humanely euthanase them once caught.
Despite this, carp are actually a legitimate sportsfish. Why? Well, they are fairly ubiquitous and because they can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and can breed in highly polluted, oxygen drained water, they can be found in just about every waterway where there is fresh water. Secondly, they are a great species to sight fish on light tackle, they can be targeted on bait, lures or fly, whichever is your preference, and when hooked, they pull like a steam train.
Location, distribution and Diet:
Understanding the distribution and feeding habits of the carp goes a long way to understanding where and how to catch them.
European Carp are a noxious pest native to Asia and it is believed that several strains were introduced into Australia sometime in the mid 1800’s. These fish are now a major pest particularly in inland streams in NSW, however their distribution ranges from South Eastern Queensland, NSW and Victoria to the Southern areas of South Australia, as well as populations in Tasmania and Western Australia.
They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders. They lack teeth, and as a result resort to sucking and straining mud from the bottom and sucking insects, crustaceans and plants from the surface. The adaptable feeding habits of carp, along with their ability to tolerate less than desirable water conditions have allowed them to colonise new environments relatively quickly.
Carp are widely believed to have detrimental effects on native aquatic plants, animals and general river health, particularly through their destructive feeding habits. They contribute to poor water quality by uprooting vegetation and stirring up sediments during feeding, leading to increased turbidity decreasing light penetration, dissolved oxygen and plant material. These changes in water quality are believed to affect native fish.
As a result Carp are now one of the most abundant fish species in many NSW rivers, accounting for 90% of the fish biomass (total weight of fish caught) in some areas of the Murray-Darling Basin.
Fishing for Carp can require very little preparation and gear.
Foremost, a good pair of polarised sunglasses are a must. All of the carp fishing I do involves sight fishing for them using either small soft plastic lures or on fly. A 6 wt flyrod or a 6’8” – 7’ 2-4 kg spin rod with a 2000 sized reel is about all you need.
Leaders in the 6-8lb class make for great fun when you hook up, and a handful of small soft plastic lures such as the squidgy critter or a 2” curl tail grub rigged on a light size 2 or 4 jighead cover off the terminal tackle.
As for flies, Woolley Buggers, Crazy Charlies, Nymph patterns and Egg sucking leech are all patterns that have worked for me.
I’ve not personally fished for them using surface lures, but remember Carp are opportunistic feeders, so if you can “match the hatch” and if you get your cast close enough, you’re a good chance of a hookup.
Polaroiding, sight casting whatever you want to call it, this is the most fun kind of fishing to be had. Be it for Bream or Whiting or schooling Salmon or Barra, Bass or even Carp, nothing compares to the anticipation of sighting, casting and hooking a visible adversary in the shallows.
Considering the water quality where you’ll often find carp, a still sunny day makes spotting them easier. When you’re fishing with a mate, it also helps if you take turns, with one of you perched higher up on the bank as a spotter. Even better is when the fish are up in the shallows, with their backs out of the water feeding on the edges.
Casting your lure or fly within close proximity to the feeding fish, being careful not to spook them, and working it back past them is often all that’s needed to induce a bite. As with any fishing, some days you’ll need to experiment with lure/fly selection and the aggressiveness and/or the speed of the retrieve until you work out what the fish want on the day.
Cruising fish can be slightly more challenging and requires a bit of judgement to predict the speed of the cruising fish. Your casts need to be made a couple of meters in front of the carp, and judging the retrieve to bring your offering into it’s sight line as it cruises past.
No matter what their mood, when you hook a carp, they go hard in the shallows, and more often than not, the backing on your reel might get to see some sunlight for the first time in a while.