Friday, December 12, 2008

Memorable December Carp Fishing Day

Dec. 11, 2008- It's a miserable day here in RI. Wind is howling, temperatures are in the 30's and it is raining on and off. I'm determined to go carp fishing, and I'm excited about the prospect of good fishing.

Just two days ago, most of the small ponds in the state were covered with ice. However, a big warm-up hit yesterday with balmy highs in the sixties that liquified the ice. I went carp fishing yesterday and blanked. In the past this was a common occurence that I attribute to the carp not used to an abrupt change in water conditions. It was always better a day or two after the ice left.

The small and shallow pond I am fishing is in East Greenwich. This place has a track record of producing in the dead of winter. I am using sweetcorn on short hair rigs, short hooklengths and small oatmeal method balls packed around a mall egg sinker. Small and lean are always better for finicky and sluggish winter carp. I casted out my first outfit and mounted it on a bite alarm. I am not even able to bait up the second outfit when the alarm screams off. I grabbed the rod and soon a five pound common was on the shore. The rest of the afternoon follows the same frantic pattern that is more like a Chinese fire drill. One alarm goes off, land a fish, another alarm goes off. Sometimes both rods are banging at the same time. It is terrific action, like I'm fishing the post spawn in June rather than the doldrums of December. My day ends two and a half hours later with ten carp landed, two on and lost, and at least another five runners that I missed. There were no monsters as most of the fished weigh 3-6 lbs., but they were some of the scrappiest winter carp I have ever caught.

Dec. 11, 2008- a miserable weather day, but it turns out to be a memorable carp fishing day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cold Water Tactics

I was out carp fishing today with Jeff Allard, another RI CAG member. We fished one of the small ponds at Roger Williams Park, one of my favorite late season/early season spots. Just days ago this place was covered in ice so the water was cold, 40 degreess according to my water thermometer. However, there were still fish to be had as evidenced by the picture that goes with this article.

Carp still do hit in cold water but realize that their metabolism slows down greatly as the water temperatures drop. There will be fewer hits, and when you do get hits there will be lots of bangs on the rod tip with few screaming runs as the fish tend to nonagressively play with the bait. If you hook a fish, expect the fight to be a sluggish battle. So, things do slow down in the cold, but they don't stop.

Here are just a few tips that may lead to some success with cold water carpin. Go small with the bait. If you use method balls, go small. Possibly go with only one or two kernels of corn on the hair rig if you fish with boiled field corn, or you might even try going with small and tender sweet corn kernels. Go back to doughballs. While bluegills and horned pout picked it apart a month ago, these pests are dormant right now. Try to find places where people are feeding bread to ducks. Carp just love doughballs; it truly is the universal carp bait. Try to fish the warmest part of the day. Noon to dusk is prime time now, especially on a sunny day. I also like to fish small, shallow ponds or shallow areas in big ponds like an shallow underwater sandbar. These places tend to warm up faster and the carp are seeking the warmest waters at this time. Carp also tend to pack up in the cold, so look for spots that have a track record of giving up decent numbers of fish at this time.

Overall, expect to catch fewer carp at this time, but still expect to catch some.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chick Peas

Chick peas are a great corn substitute. We all know the ridiculous “Corn prohibited in trout waters” rule in effect here in RI. Note that we are the only state in the union that bans corn in trout waters. Since the state stocks trout in many of our prime carp waters, you will need to use a substitute bait. Try chick peas or garbanzo beans (same thing). I’ve taken many carp this year over 20 lbs. while using this effective bait. See photo.

You should purchase them dry in a supermarket like Stop and Shop. You can purchase them in cans, but canned peas tend to be too soft to use. You can prepare dry chick peas for fishing in two ways. First, put them in a pan of water overnight. They will swell and are ready to use the next morning. Here is another way to do it. Boil water in a pan. Then, I dump in dry chick peas. Let them boil for 20 minutes, and they are done and ready to be used.

I like to put two of them on a hair rigged hook (see photo). Note that the hair on the hook may have to extend a bit longer than you would have it with corn. I have a few extra long haired rigged hooks just to use with chick peas.

Carp Care

The most serious carp fishermen go to great lengths and expense to protect their fish. Here are a few ideas that carp fishermen use to ensure the safe release and health of the fish.
Treble hooks are out! Trebles can be very damaging to the fish. In addition, if a fish breaks off, it is possible that a treble could impale the fish’s upper and lower lip, thus locking its jaw shut. This would cause the fish to slowly starve to death. Sharp hair rigged hooks are just as effective as trebles and far less damaging to the carp.
Many fishermen use special carp nets with a fine mesh. Large Euro-style nets are sold at many online carp stores (suggest Wacker Baits). These expensive nets have a fine and soft netting that protects the fish’s scales. Normal bass nets have a harsh nylon netting which can cause damage to scales though those nets are a inexpensive and better than no net at all.
Many serious carp fishermen use unhooking mats. These are soft mats that have a nylon-type slippery surface. Once the fish is brought ashore, it is placed on this mat to be unhooked. I have one and find that they are especially useful to use on hard banks and surfaces with rocks and gravel. In many cases, I usually just keep the carp in the net and unhook it in the water, avoiding contact with the bank and making the unhooking mat unnecessary.
Never stick a weighing hook from a digital scale in the gill plate of a carp like you would with a largemouth bass. Carp gills are super sensitive and tear easily (which will cause death). If you want to weigh a big fish, you can do it safely in one of two ways. Keep it in the net and hook the net, lifting both the net and the fish with the scale. Another way to do it is to use a weigh sling. These inexpensive slings look like a sack with handles. The fish is placed in the sack and the scale hook is placed around the handle for weighing (see photo). Wacker sells these also.
The CAG is serious about promoting carp safety. The above procedures ensure a healthy release meaning the fish lives to fight again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Big Week for RI Carpers

Just as I have predicted in the past this has been a big week for members of the RI Carp Anglers Group. There have been some very large fish taken and the good sized carp have been numerous. They are hitting in various parts of the state with the fall action peaking in many locations. The recent rains and cool nights have set off a feeding spree with these carp as they sense the approach of winter.

I fished the last three nights after dark at Lake Tiogue in Coventry. In that time period, I landed 9 big commons from 14-18 lbs., very good sized carp in RI waters. Jeff Allard, our newest CAG member, accompanied me a few nights ago and he landed his first RI 20 lb. carp, a big achievement for a first year carp fisherman here in RI. Last week, I also hit the Blackstone River (prior to the flooding rains) and I was able to catch several mirrors in the mid teens, very good sized fish for this species. In addition, Steve Mc Kenna, another new CAG member has been fishing Twin Rivers in North Providence in the daytime. Steve landed a bunch of fish in the past week that went from low teens to 20 lbs. In fact, he landed a pb (personal best) 20 lber. from this spot. This is another big accomplishment for a first year carp fisherman.

Judging from past years, this type of action should continue for the next couple of weeks in the above locations. But, it will not end. As fall moves on, the fish will seek the shallows on warm days and continue feeding right until the ice arrives. Last year I caught my last 20 lb. fish on Dec. 1. The next day I went back to the same spot and it was covered in ice! In past years, I have caught carp in open water every single month of the year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hog Time!

For carp enthusiasts, the window of opportunity is open. There is no better time of the year to catch a large RI carp than now. That widow will remain open for at least another month as large carp go on a fall feeding spree before cooling waters send them into dormancy.

It is not that easy to catch a large carp at this time of year. First off, they are wary feeders who often feed heavily at night. Not many freshwater fishermen are accustomed to fishing at night, so the hotspots are generally empty. Additionally, few ponds in the state have the real hogs. A “big hog” carp in RI tips the scales at over 20 lbs. with some super heavyweights weighing over 30 lbs. It’s a genetic thing with the big ones, so the biggest ones exist in a short list of places. Some well know big carp waters where I have taken fish in the twenties include Roger Williams Park in Providence, Lake Tiogue in Coventry, Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods State Park and Twin Rivers in North Providence. Finally, bait presentation is important if you are looking for a trophy. I like to prebait my spots using corn or doughball. I might bait up a spot in the morning and return to fish in the evening. When fishing, I will fish my baits (either corn or doughballs) on a hair rig, and I generally use an oatmeal method ball around the sinker as an added enticement. It’s all fished using bite alarms which are a must in total darkness because they have lights and auditory alarms which signal a hit.

The biggest RI carp I have ever caught weighed 27.5 lbs. It was caught on an early October night in total darkness. I have landed numerous others over 20 lbs. in September and October.

Hog Time has arrived. Get out and catch your biggest fish of the year!

Monday, September 1, 2008

What is Method Mix???

Method mix is a mixture of “chum” that is to be packed around your sinker or method feeder. When packed around the sinker, it is usually referred to as a method ball. Because of the ingredients it is made with, it is quite firm in a dry state and easily casted, but when completely wet, it breaks apart soon after hitting the bottom, leaving a circular area of chum with your hooked bait right on the edge. This really attracts carp to the circle of food on the bottom. As they begin eating, they find the hooked bait and soon will be on your line. It is a deadly way to fish and many of the sharpies who catch fish all the time are using method balls on a regular basis. Note that some people also refer to this a packbait. Some fishermen choose to pack it around their bait, rather than the sinker and thus, the name packbait. Below are some recipes that I have tried and that work well. More recipes can be found on the Forum on the Carp Anglers Group website. If you want to improve your catches, commit to using method mixes.

Method Mix #1- This is what I generally use as a method mix: 8 parts oatmeal, 2 parts cornmeal, 2 parts crushed up bread, 1 part particle added such as corn, flavoring (optional). Mix dry ingredients and then gradually add water and knead until you have a mix that will pack well. Be careful not to add to much water. Pack around the sinker and squeeze many times until firm.

Method Mix #2- 1 box (32 oz.) of Minute Rice, 1 (32 oz.) bottle of ketchup, particle handful (corn) of your choice. Heat the ketchup before pouring over the rice. Stir. Let it sit for an hour or even overnight. Add potato flakes or even oatmeal if too watery. Add a little water if too dry. Pack tightly around your sinker.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Incredible Merrimack

While RI carp fishing is good overall, some of the best carp fishing in the US takes place a little over an hour away from here at the Merrimack River. When I'm looking for action with "big" fish, I head to this place.

Yesterday I arrived at the river about 11 AM and started to slingshootcorn into the river. Immediately, I had bangs and within 20 minutes, I had a 15 lber. on the bank. That would be the SMALLEST fish I would land on this memorable day. Good days in the past would see 5-8 fish caught. Today was phenomenal. When I left the river at 6:45 in the evening, the fish count totaled 18 common carp landed along with 2 breakoffs. I had 3 fish over 20 lbs. with the biggest going 22 lbs. (see photo). At one point, two alarms went off at the same time and that produced chaos, but in the end it also produced a 17 and 20 lb. carp. Most of the carp were in the 17-19 lb. range. It was the best day I ever experienced along here.

I was using my typical set up. I used my "big" rods, DAM 11 1/2 foot carp rods along with big Shimano 4500 Baitrunners. I used 17 lb test line and 20 lb test leaders. The only way to fish this place is with big stuff. You are fishing for big fish in a big current. I used 3 oz. inline leads, standard sinkers in this spot. Bait was corn on the hair rig ahead of oatmeal method mix, about the best combination.

It was fabulous fishing here, but not unusual. I have never had a bad outing along here. It is as close to a sure bet as you can get in fishing!

RI Fish-in A Success!

We held our late summer fish-in on Aug. 22 at Scott's Pond and it was a big success. We had about 12 fishermen attend, good numbers for a RI fish-in. We had kids from the neighborhood, Charlie and Jeff Allard, Steve Barbato and his son and friend, Steve, Steve Mc Kenna, and Chris, Vinny and Jerome from MA along with myself.

We landed 9 mirror carp and 1 common. The fish were on the small size, all less than 10 lbs., but many fishermen caught their first mirrors ever! Our goal was to fish for mirrors and catch some. Don't be fooled....if you return to Scott's, there are good numbers of mirrors in this pond that weigh over 15 lbs.

Best fish of the day went to Al Lannon, a neighborhood kid who landed a mirror of 8 lbs. The hottest team was the father/son team of Jeff and Charlie at peg 4. Using corn on a hair rig ahead of an oatmeal method ball, they landed 3 mirrors.

While many fishermen left at dark, the few of us who stayed were treated to better action and mor runners as the after dark fishing was definitely more productive than the daylight fishing.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fish-in at Scott's Pond, August 22, 6:00

Our second fish-in of the year is scheduled for Scott's Pond in Lincoln, RI. We will be fishing from 6:00 until after dark along the Walker St. shoreline at the south end of the pond. Directions and additional information can be found at the Carp Angler Group website on the Forum under the New England thread. Fish-ins are generally informal get-togethers where information and techniques are shared as anglers fish a shoreline together.

Scott's Pond is almost in my backyard and I know the pond like the back of my hand, and I've caught hundreds of carp here. It is regarded as the very best mirror carp pond in the state and mirrors outnumber common carp 10 to 1 in this pond. The average mirror here runs 6-12 lbs., though I have taken mirrors up to 18 lbs. in this pond (see photo). Some fishermen believe the biggest mirror in the state resides here.

A number of baits work with corn and doughballs being the best. Corn is best fished on a hair rig ahead of an oatmeal method ball. Doughballs can be fished on a hair rig or packed around a hook and freelined. Best times to fish are evenings, early morning or on rainy days.