I set up a fish feeder on my dock a little over a week ago in hopes of making an easy spot for my daughter to catch fish, as fishing is almost all she ever wants to do. I also thought it would be a great way to do some "grocery shopping" for when I wanted some catfish for dinner. What actually ended up happening is huge schools of carp showing up and enjoying an easy meal.
I'll be honest, at first I was a little disappointed, but after thinking about it, I had never specifically targeted carp with a rod and reel, and I knew from the reports of others that these fish were extremely hard fighters, and very smart at times. So, with that in mind, I decided to make lemonade.
My set up was an 8ft G Rod, paired with a Pflueger President spooled with 6lb hi-vis line. I attached a very small, red Gamakgutsu octopus style hook completely covered in night crawler, which I fished weightless. I knew my tackle was a little lighter than ideal, but I was afraid that everything else I had was too big, and might spook the fish as I was out of fluorocarbon to use as a leader.
At 7:50, the fish were already staging around the dock in anticipation of the feeder going off. The sizes ranged from 2-3 pounds, all the way up to two very large specimens in the upper teens, to lower 20lb class. Those two big fish got me really excited, but I was just looking to get a single hook up to say I had officially caught a carp on purpose.
I'm standing very, very still when the feeder goes off. The fish immediately move towards the food, and I get a real idea of how many there are in the area. There have to be 40-50 fish skimming the top of the surface when I send my bait into the water. I take a little slack out, and start watching the line very closely for any sharp twitches. I will say the hi-vis line commonly used for crappie made this very easy. Within seconds, my line tightens very quickly, and I am hooked up with a very angry fish. He takes off to the left towards my neighbors dock, and I add a little pressure to my drag in order to turn him. It works, and after a few more runs, I have just landed my first fish of the evening.
After a quick picture and a swig of oat soda, I'm ready to do that whole song and dance again. The fish have spooked from all the commotion, but it doesn't take long for a majority of them to group back up and return to feeding. Again, I toss out my bait. This time, it takes roughly 10 seconds of waiting before I get hit, and the fight is on again. This fish makes great run at the start, and it's easy to tell he is bigger than the first. He gets sideways on me, and I get feel his powerful tail as he goes from left to right. I get him close enough to see, before he makes another good run.
I know I won't be able to lift this fish on the dock, so I'm trying to convince him to follow me down the walkway so I can get in the water with him. Obviously, the fish doesn't like this idea, but he eventually tires out, and meets me at the staircase that enters the water. I judge him to be in the 4-5lb class, and upon lifting him out of the water, I get an applause from some neighbors I didn't know were watching.
In my mind I'm thinking this is freaking awesome. I'm sweating under a Texas sunset, but I'm ready for more. I want to do battle with one of the big fish that I saw in the area, and with that thought, I retie my hook after clipping some line off, and toss it back out. I catch a small catfish, and am now disappointed that it wasn't a carp. My how the tables have turned. I take off this little guy and toss my bait back out. Seconds go by with no bites at all. I can see the fish on the surface, so I reel in slowly and try it again.
Before my bait hits the bottom I am hooked onto something that is very strong, and very fast. I keep my rod up high, but it's no use. The size of the splash that takes place is a good indicator that this is a double digit sized fish, but that's all that I'll see of this beauty. He continues to run, and after thirty yards, turns under a dock, and you know the rest...
The one that got away has me really excited to try my hand at carp fishing again. I'll admit, I had more fun than I thought I would, and I have a new respect for what I thought were lemons.