They call them bugle mouths, sewer bass, and other things even less complimentary, but there's one group that has a lot of respect for these brownish-yellow fish with their underslung mouths, so much that they fish for little else.
That's the Carp Anglers Group (http://www.carpanglersgroup.com/), a loose flung, multi-state organization that's dead serious about their sport.
A couple of springs ago I drove up to East Harbor State Park where the Ohio segment was holding a friendly tournament, and spent some time talking to Reynoldsburg member Vince Shiflet. He and his friends were camped at the end of the park campground just yards from the water and when I walked out to visit, it was like another trip to England. In that country the carp is king, an immensely popular game fish that Brits never tire of seeking, this with amazingly sophisticated equipment, bait and tactics.
When I was a kid I often went carp fishing with my uncles, and we used home-made doughballs flavored with anise along the Big Scioto River. Our rods were simple steel types with level wind reels loaded with black braided line, and for rod holders we used forked willow twigs. This group was fishing with 12-foot rods that had sensitive tips, spinning reels that had special switches to let line move out when a fish took with little drag, and when that happened the reel went "Beep, beep" to warn the angler.
Since it was a blustery day and the sky was spitting rain, they were comfortably seated in half tents that kept them dry and wind protected, and they were settled in to fish all weekend. Vince said that they held their informal tournaments all over the state, but particularly liked the shallow waters of East Harbor because it was loaded with carp, and many ran to good sizes.
"We fish just like the British do," he said.
"Typically, we'll start by chumming the water out front with soft boiled field corn which carp like. We use a ‘spom’ which holds the chum while we cast it out, then releases it to the bottom before we reel it in again. We might add a bit of oats and creamed corn too, to help draw them in and get their heads down. Then we fish canned sweet corn in the chummed area with a special hair rig copied from the British."
It wasn't working too well this morning since they hadn't caught a fish, but action picked up in the afternoon and the group made a good haul in spite of the weather. Why do these men fish for carp, rather than bass, walleye or some other species?
"Because there are lots of them around and they grow to 30 or 40 pounds, sometimes more." Vince said. "But most important, they're fighters, and I mean fighters. Pound for pound, a carp will outfight any fish in Ohio. Steelhead do run a close second followed, in my opinion, by catfish. Bass are popular, but they can't touch a carp for long runs and dedicated scraps."
He has a point. The first big fish I ever caught came when I was 8 years old and river fishing with nightcrawlers. It was an eight- or nine-pound carp that saw me running up and down the river bank chasing it madly excited and yelling for help from my dad. The group is always looking for new members to enjoy their leisurely bank fishing and camaraderie. Check out their website, join if you like, maybe try their next tournament. You might find a tooth-and-nail fight with a 20 pounder lots of fun.
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Hooks & bullets
• Apparently, a fair number of Buckeye anglers like to go fishing without bothering to buy a license. That can be expensive. Recently, two wildlife officers spent time checking 16 fishermen at Indian Lake using their patrol boat. They issued four summonses to anglers fishing without licenses and fishing with more than two rods per person. The violations resulted in a total of $720 in fines and court costs for the unlucky fishermen.
• Local anglers who don't mind a modest drive might enjoy the Perch & Pilsner Festival on Sept. 8 and 9 in Ashtabula County. There'll be plenty of fish to eat and beer to drink with more information waiting at www.ConneautChamber.info. Those who don't mind an even further drive and enjoy elk hunting should check out the 2018 Elk Expo on Aug. 18 and 19 hosted by the Elk County Visitors Bureau in Benezette, Penn. Check elkexpo.com for information here.
• The U.S. Department of the Interior has published a new free booklet to help kids get hooked on fishing. Now aspiring anglers can download the Junior Ranger "Lets Go Fishing" activities booklet which will introduce them and their families to fishing and encourage healthy and responsible outdoor recreation. To download a copy visit www.nps.gov/subjects/fishing/
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.