Fishing for carp offers just the right challenge.

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Fishing for carp offers just the right challenge.

By Tim Renken Of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
08/17/2001

If you're going to be a fishing purist, you ought to be a purist in something practical.

Being a dry-fly trout purist in this area doesn't make much sense. Being a bass purist doesn't make much sense if you don't have a boat.

How about being a carp purist? Or, better, a big carp purist? That makes sense because Missouri and Illinois are to big carp fishing what Montana is to wild trout.

Here are some reasons for becoming a carp purist:

Most local waters contain carp and most probably contain large carp - 20 pounds or more. Even the most unlikely places, such as park lakes, provide fine carp fishing.

Almost everybody in the St. Louis area can find carp fishing within an hour from home.

Carp are as challenging as any fish that swims. The little ones may be stupid, but the big ones are old and wary. There's a lot to know in this sport - much more than just finding the right dough bait.

A hooked carp is as strong, tough and difficult to land as any freshwater fish. A large carp doesn't jump around and waste energy. It just pulls and tries to wrap your line around something, maybe even your neck.

You don't need a boat, and no serious carp angler uses a boat.

The money you save on a boat can be spent on tackle that serious carp anglers use. A lot of this stuff comes from Europe and is expensive.

Some serious carp anglers make their own baits. Cooking baits and chum adds culinary science to an already long list of subjects that carp anglers spend time doing and thinking about.

Unlike many kinds of fishing, carp fishing isn't seasonal. It is truly a year-round sport.

Carp fishing is a social sport, more social than, say, bass or trout fishing. Carp anglers seem happiest when fishing with dozens of other anglers.

Unlike fly-fishing, which requires constant motion, and bass fishing, which seems to require at least 150 horsepower, carp fishing is a contemplative pastime in the Walton tradition. Isaac Walton, the patron saint of the sport, was a carp angler.

Carp fishing has an international flavor. Most of the sport's traditions and development came from Europe. Some of the best American carp anglers learned the sport in Europe. Many Europeans vacation here to fish for carp.

For anglers who want fish to eat, small carp are excellent food if prepared properly. Most serious carp anglers, though, practice catch-and-release. They go to great lengths to care for the large carp they catch and release.

Bass, trout, crappie and most other fish must be protected from over-fishing by size or creel limits. Carp are so abundant they need no such protection. Still, it's a shame to kill a carp that may be older than you are.

How does one get into this great sport? It has a good literature. Many of the best titles are out-of-print but still available. Among these are several books by James Arthur Gibbinson and "Carp For Everyone" by Peter Mohan.

Among the titles in print are The American Fisheries Society's "Carp," in paperback, and "Carp on the Fly" by Barry Reynolds The latter contains much general information on carp fishing. It also tells how to catch carp on flies for the purist who wants to become purer.

Another good way to get started is to go to park lakes and look for people who look like they know what they're doing. If you find a typical carp angler, you'll probably get all the information you can stand.

Carp fishing has its own national organization, the 1,000-member Carp Anglers Group, based in Groveland, Ill. (P.O. Box 69, 61535). Its quarterly publication, "North American Carp Angler," is an excellent source of carp lore. CAG's Annual Carp Classic will be Sept. 28-30 on the Des Plaines River in Joliet. Usually, the classic is held on the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, but construction there forced temporary relocation.
 

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