Facts of Fishing 

Carp Fishing - Ontario Angler

Fishing Lures

Guide to Carp Fishing, Baits and Tackle
Ontario Fishing Links

J.P. DeRose 


Rods

   Spinning
   Casting


Reels
  Spinning
  Baitcast
  Spin Cast

  Float


Hardbaits
:
  Crankbaits
  Minnow Baits
  Jerk Baits
  Top Waters
  Jigs
  Spoons

Soft Baits:
  Swimbaits
  Soft Plastics
  Top Waters
  Minnow Baits


Wire Baits
  Spinnerbaits
  In-Line Spinners
  Buzzbaits
  Chatter Baits


Terminal Tackle
:
  Hooks
     Trout
     Bass
  Jig Heads
     Football Jigs
     Darter Head Jigs
     Tear Drop Jigs
  Weights
     Bullet
     Bell
     Drop Shot
     Split Shot
     Egg
  Snaps / Swivels


Line
  Monofilament
  Braided
  Fluorocarbon

Carp Fishing

The Carp Primer

Hunting down giant goldfish

 

Mike J. Leung

 

 

Why fish for carp?

 

Why not fish for carp?  They are large, powerful and plentiful fish that can be found almost everywhere in southern Ontario.  For those who want to catch something from shore over 30lbs and not willing to drive 3hrs to catch it (let alone 1hr in most cases), carp are one of the few choices available.   Some of my favourite fishing spots are right in downtown Toronto and around other major urban centers.  In many cases, passer-bys don’t even realize the world class fishing they have right in their own backyard.

 

Many people think of carp as slow moving, bottom feeding fish that aren’t too challenging to catch.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Carp are documented to be the smartest freshwater fish on the planet and many times can be as spooky as bonefish or permit on the saltwater flats.  They are a quarry not to be taken lightly.  These large, robust fish can smoke line off the reel in a hurry when hooked and many a rod has been broken while trying to land them.  How they aren’t classified as “sport-fish” boggles the mind!

     

 

    

Tackle

 

The plain and simple truth is that carp fishing tackle can be as basic or advanced as you want it to be. In Asia and throughout Europe, anglers often use long bamboo, fiberglass or carbon fibre poles with a length of line, a float, a lead weight and a hook attached only to the very end – No reels used.  In America, the tackle used in pay-laking - a form of competition carp angling - isn’t much different than what the average bass or walleye angler might use while burning spinner-baits or crankbaits along weedlines. 

 

Anglers from the UK and Europe have all sorts of neat gizmos in the form of electric bite alarms, adjustable rod stands and remote controlled boats which help chum the water where they want to fish.  Fly anglers can hunt down carp on shallow flats and catch them on crayfish and nymph imitation patterns made of fur and feathers. Carp fishing is a dynamic sport with various ways of catching them.  Most likely you already have tackle suitable enough to go out and land one.

 

REELS

 

A sturdy spinning or baitcasting reel with a smooth drag and a high line capacity is mandatory.  A reel which holds at least 200yards of 10lb mono (or equivalent diameter braided line) is definitely a must. When a carp gets hooked, it’s not uncommon to have 70-100 yards of line smoking off the reel in a hurry.  A jerky or ‘sticky’ drag on the reel can mean hook-pulls, a line break or even a rod + reel donation to the carp gods (to be discussed later).  If you own a reel that has a ‘sticky’ drag, have it serviced and repaired before you start your quest for gold. 

 

One popular option when it comes to carp fishing reels is the baitrunner.  Companies like Shimano, Daiwa, Okuma and Penn have their own versions of this type of reel.  The unique characteristic about baitrunners is that they have 2 different drags as opposed a normal spinning reel with just one (i.e. the fighting drag).  A baitrunner has a fighting drag along with a free-spool type of drag.  The objective behind the free-spooling drag is that when you place your rod on the rod rest/holder, you won’t need to worry about carp pulling your rod into the lake on the take.  The free-spool lets the carp take line when it runs.  Flicking the baitrunner switch allows you to return back to your normal fighting drag.

 

For anglers without a baitrunner reel, loosening the drag to simulate free spool is the next best option when leaving your rod sitting there on a rod stand.  Should a carp take the bait and start running, the line can freely leave the spool which saves your rod and reel from being pulled into the water from an angry carp.

 

The Rod

 

Rods are a little trickier to discuss mainly because of the diverse environments that carp inhabit.  From small ponds to lakes to small creeks to giant fast flowing rivers, carp have found a way to live practically everywhere.  One rod simply can’t do it all.  I will discuss various rod options available to the average angler below.  Rod selection is obviously not exclusive to the following:

 

The majority of anglers in Ontario have a 6-7ft medium-action spinning rod designed to handle lines from 6-15lb and lures from ¼ to 5/8 oz – It’s primarily the bread and butter multi-species rod for bass, walleye, trout, pike, catfish and panfish.  Carp also can be hooked and landed with this set-up. Provided the area you’re fishing in is relatively weed and snag free and the current (if you are fishing a river) is relatively slow or still, you can still control fish to 30lbs reasonably well and land them in good time.  You are somewhat limited in how far you can cast with these rods because of the restrictions on how much weight you can cast with them.  They are great tools for sight-casting to carp in the shallows from a boat, stalking the shoreline for fish or when wading the flats.   They also work well when fishing close into shore in areas that are heavily treed with no room for longer rods to operate without risking smashing them into tree branches overhead.   

 

Steelhead float/noodle rods are an option for small to medium sized carp (to about 20lbs) or for areas with little to no current.  They typically handle lines from 4-10lb test.  They average 10-15ft in length and have a softer, parabolic action designed to cushion light lines and prevent small hooks from pulling out of the fish’s mouth under great pressure.  They lack the same backbone and lifting power compared to the medium and medium-heavy action salmon/steelhead rods but paired with a centrepin reel or a smooth running spinning reel, they are quite fun to use.  With these lighter rods, playing the angles and using side or low pressure are key to getting carp to the bank.  Stay within the line ratings on the rods or you’ll risk exploding them into hundreds of pieces.   

 

A medium to medium-heavy action salmon/steelhead rod is a great alternative if you own one.  A rod in the 10-12ft range and capable of handling lines from 8-17lb or 10-20lb and lure weights from 1/2oz to over 1oz. can offer greater flexibility in where you can effectively fish.  You have more power to pull big carp away from snags, cast out a little farther, use heavier sinkers to hold bottom in faster currents and the extra length of the rod acts like a big shock absorber when a monster carp decides to shake its head.  If you’re using a float, the longer length also helps to pick up line off the water for a faster hookset.  I love using my 10ft Shimano convergence (8-17lb) for hunting big carp down in the shallows

 

 

The last 10 or so years, ‘Specimen carp rods’ have been slowly making their way into stores in southern Ontario.  They are usually 11-13ft long and have more backbone than most salmon/steelhead rods.  Specimen carp rods look similar to saltwater surf casting rods in that they are beefy in action, they have a long butt grip with usually only the reel seat for a handle.

 

They are designed for casting heavy leads (2oz-5oz is common) or feeders (a device you put bait inside or mould free-offerings around).  They are also great for casting long distances (sometimes up to 230 yards) and for pulling large carp away from snags.  Most carp rod brands originate from the UK or Europe.  These rods are rated by a ‘test-curve’ rather than actual line and weight ratings.  The majority of carp rods available in stores in Ontario range from 2.5lb to 3lb. The test-curve gives us some indication on how much weight you’ll be able to cast out as well as how much power you can expect the rod to have.  The higher the test curve, the heavier the lead sinker you can throw with it and the farther the distance you can cast.  Lower test curves (under 3lb) generally have a softer, more forgiving action and are great for fishing in close. Higher test curves (over 3lb) are designed for distance casting and tend to be stiffer.


 

The Line

 

In short, don’t skimp out on buying a good line.  A line is what keeps you attached to the beast at the other end.  When fishing for carp, a line must deal with all sorts of underwater hazards like sunken trees, sharp zebra mussels and rocks, bridge pilings and it must have the strength to pull fish out of thick weed-beds, away from snags and most importantly, REMAIN INTACT WITHOUT BREAKING!

 

Monofilament is a popular and relatively inexpensive choice to use as a line.  Provided you have a reel with a smooth drag, try to stay within the limits of your rod ratings.  8-12lb is manageable on most spinning reels without having too much memory.  Baitcasters can handle heavier lines.  Larger surfcasting- type spinning reels have larger spools and can handle mono lines to 20lb test.

 

I use heavy braid (eg. 50-80lb PowerPro) when faced with zebra mussels or serious snags for the superior abrasion resistance and castability compared to equivalent diameter or breaking-strain in monofilament.    You will need to back-off the drag a little as there is no stretch in the newer super lines. 

 

 

 

 

END GAME – Hooks

 

Like a mainline, hooks offer direct contact to an angry carp.  A hook for carp fishing needs to be strong enough to handle bringing in large fish (often through weeds or snags) and have a hook point sturdy enough to handle knocking on rocks, gravel, sand on bottom.  Specialty carp hooks can be found in a few tackle shops in the GTA.   A few things that make them distinct over other hooks is the beefier gauge wire they’re constructed of. Some are also Teflon coated to reduce glint and reflection coming off the hook (which might spook wary carp in clear water).  There are 3 basic patterns of carp hooks on the market: Short shank, long shank and curved.

 

Short shank hooks are great for times where you are fishing near snags or heavy current.  They are usually built with heavier gauge wire.  Long shank hooks offer better ‘flipping’ abilities in a carp’s mouth where when tension is applied to the line, it will ‘turn over’ and dig into the fish’s bottom lip – They are often used when fishing more advanced anti eject rigs (which I only use on occasion).  Curved hooks offer the best ability to ‘turn over’ in a carp’s mouth.  They were primarily designed to be used with floating baits (popped up an inch or two above the bottom).  I find they do bend and straighten more easily than the other style of hook so it’s a compromise between hooking effectiveness and strength.

 

Don’t fret if you don’t have specialty carp hooks in your tackle shop.  You might actually be able to save a few dollars in the process by looking for alternatives which will provide the same performance as the specialty hooks.  Fly fishing shops usually have a good selection of different styles of hooks as well.  For years I used a Kamasan B175 hook – a heavier gauged-wire hook used by fly tiers for tying streamer flies.  Most octopus style hooks will also handle carp – They are also chemically or lazer sharpened in most cases as well which is a plus.  For my own fishing for carp between 5 and 30 plus pounds, I use hooks in size 4 to 8 the most.  When fishing in super strong current, heavy weeds or near snags, I might use bigger hooks in size 2-4 for large fish.  For smaller carp, hooks size 8 and smaller will work just fine. 

 

 

 

The Rigs

 

A simple and effective rig to use for carp is sticking canned corn, bread, worms or your doughbait right on the hook.  For years I used a size 4-6 baitholder type hook and stuck 3-4 kernels of corn right on the shank.  It was (and still is) very effective. 

 

Hair rigs:

The hair rig is perhaps the most confusing aspect of carp fishing which beginners have a tough time grasping.  The hair rig was designed to fool wary carp.  When a carp feeds, it will often mouth the bait before deciding whether to swallow it or to spit it out.  In the case of hair rigs, because the bait is not on the hook, the fish will not detect the hook till it’s well inside the fish’s mouth.  When the carp realizes that there’s a hook in its mouth, it will try to blow it out and the super sharp, exposed hook finds a bit of flesh to grab onto.  Usually thereafter, the carp takes off in a panic and the hook is driven further into the flesh.

 

Hair rigs can be made of a variety of different materials.  Monofilament (the same one spooled on your reel) can be used as well as fluorocarbon, braid and specialty coated braids designed for carp fishing.

 

Monofilament:  It is the least expensive and most readily available line we have in Canada.  You can basically use the same material that’s already spooled onto your reel.  Soft, supple monofilaments and fluorocarbons offer a very natural presentation and the translucent colour of the line offers a stealthy approach to your rigs on bottom.  Supple monofilament or fluorocarbon rigs are usually made with 8-12lb lines.

 

Heavy monofilament or Fluorocarbon can be used to make stiff rigs.  Stiff rigs are harder for carp to eject from their mouths than supple monofilament or braided rigs. Most monofilament lines in 20-30lb breaking strains offer the stiffness required.  Heavy fluorocarbon is a great alternative and because it has the same refractive index as water, it is less visible to the carp underwater. 

 

Braid:  In general, braid is more supple than monofilament.  I use hair rigs made from 20-50lb braid.  The suppleness of the braid allows the carp to suck in your baits more easily.  Unfortunately it doesn’t provide the same ‘anti-eject’ properties as stiff monofilament and it is also more prone to tangling around the lead weight on the cast. For the last 10 or so years, I’ve been using 20-50lb PowerPro as my braided hair rig material and my friends have been using Berkley Fireline in the same breaking strains without a problem.  I normally have a few yards of line left after spooling up my reels and I use whatever’s left for hair rigs. 

 

Many of the braided ‘hook-link’ materials found in the UK and European tackle shops are designed to sink.  Tungsten or lead granules are incorporated into the braid fibers during the manufacturing process to make the line sink and hug bottom.  Carp can be conditioned to avoid fishing line and rigs and getting your rig to blend into the bottom can be the difference between catching and sitting behind a motionless rod. These hooklink materials are quite expensive and they are only available in a few stores around southern Ontario which regularly stock carp supplies.

 

Coated braid:  Coated braid is a braid which has been coated with a removable polymer (plastic) coating.  It is unlikely you’ll find coated braid in your local tackle shop but several stores in Canada and the US carry these and sell them through mail-order and the internet.  A 20 metre spool usually costs $20-$25.  At the end of this article, there is a list of vendors who sell carp tackle who might be able to get you a spool.

   

Coated braid combines the properties of braid and monofilament into one line.  The supple braid is encapsulated within a stiffer (monofilament-like) coating.  By removing the outer coating with a fingernail or your teeth (don’t tell your dentist), you can expose the supple braid within.  By keeping the coating intact, you can make a stiff hair rig.  The stiff outer coating also allows the rig to have the same anti-eject and anti-tangle properties of mono and by stripping the coating nearest to the hook, you can have a supple piece of line which the carp can easily suck up.  The coatings also provide an extra degree of abrasion resistance when fishing around snags. 


How do you tie hair rigs?

 

The easiest and most popular way of tying hair rigs is with the knot called the ‘No-knot-knot’.  Instructions on how to tie them are as follows (Braid was used for demonstration purposes):

 

Before you start, you will need:

-          A hook

-          Swivel

-          Hair rig material (mono, braid, coated braid) – The length can be varied to make the rig longer or shorter.

-          Pair of scissors or line clippers

 

  1. Thread the hooklink material (braid, mono, fluorocarbon) through the eye of the hook.  Make sure you thread the line starting from the side of the eye facing the hook point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Form a loop in at the end of the line and tie a small overhand loop.  Alternatively, if you know how to do the figure-of-8 loop knot, you can use it instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. For beginners, I recommend putting the bait on at this point (Skip to the tutorial in next section on putting bait onto a hair rig loop and come back)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Slide the hook down the line till it reaches the bait.  I like to leave at least a 5mm to 10mm gap between the bait and the bend of the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Take notice at where the eye of the hook is attached to the shank of the hook.  On most hooks, there is a gap on one side of the eye of the hook. Start wrapping your hair rig material around the shank of the hook on the side OPPOSITE to the gap.  I like to stop wrapping at the spot on the shank opposite the point of the hook.

 

Depending on the thickness of the hooklink material and the size of the hook you are using, it can take anywhere from 8 to 25 wraps. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Take a pair of sharp scissors and cut the hooklink material at your desired length.  For demonstration purposes, there is 9 inches of material between the hook and the cut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.                  Feed the end of the hooklink material back through the eye of the hook.  Make sure the line leaves the eye from the side facing the hook-point.  By doing this, it allows the hook to ‘flip over’ in the carp’s mouth more easily and catch it on the bottom lip (The ideal place for a solid hook-up).

 

 

 

 

  1. Tie on your swivel using a palomar knot, grinner knot or any other knot that doesn’t slip.  With stiff monofilament or fluorocarbon, many anglers like to tie a loop knot to the swivel so that the rig can move more easily when a carp sucks it up.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hair rig is now complete and ready to attach to main line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting bait onto the hair rig

 

To get bait onto your hair rig, you will need:

-          A baiting needle

-          A boilie or nut drill (if you are using a bait that is hard) – A tiny drill-bit will suffice

-          Hook bait (corn, chickpea, boilie, etc)

-          A boilie stop or alternatively a tiny piece of twig from a tree.

-          Scissors or a nail/line clipper

 

 

 

1.                  Carefully stick your hookbaits onto your baiting needle.  I use a baiting needle specifically designed for this but a fine crochet knitting needle or a straightened-out bass hook (with a barb) will suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the bait you are using is hard (like a boilie or a nut), take a small boilie drill and drill a hole through the bait before you stick it onto the baiting needle (top picture).  Remove the drill once you’ve gone through the bait and thread your baiting needle through (bottom picture).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.                  Stick your baiting needle through the loop of the hair rig and catch the loop with the barb on the needle (Top picture). Boilie baiting needles have a small gate which must be closed before the bait is slid onto the loop (Bottom picture).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.                  Keep tension between the needle and the loop of the hair rig and gently slide the bait on the needle onto the loop of the hair rig using your thumb and forefinger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.         Once the bait is on the hair rig, put a boilie stop or a small piece of twig into the loop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.         Pull the bait down towards the boilie stop and cinch it down tight so the boilie stop won’t fall out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.         Cut the boilie stop or twig to size with a clipper or pair of scissors (if required)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bait is now on the hair rig                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Carp fishing techniques

 

Ledgering

 

The most common method of targeting carp that the majority of anglers are familiar with is ‘ledgering’.  In layman’s terms it’s basically ‘bottom fishing’ with your bait and sinker right on bottom.  Carp for the most part, feed on or near the bottom.  They vacuum up natural food items like crayfish, zebra mussels and insect life hiding in the substrate.  Most ledgering rigs primarily have the hook (or hair rig) at the end of the line with a lead weight or sinker located somewhere further up on the line.  Some rigs can be seen below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Due to the fact that the bait needs to be in a stationary for long periods of time, carp anglers utilize some form of rod holder the majority of the time.  Bank sticks along with V-rests are becoming more available in tackle shops around the GTA.  At around $10 each, they are a fairly inexpensive investment which can be used for other fishing as well (eg. Catfishing). 

 

Many anglers prop their rods on forked tree branches or twigs and it works.  I must advise though when using tree branches, keep a very close eye on the rod and don’t walk away.  Fishing line has a magical ability to get wrapped up or caught on it and losing your rod to the carp gods is a possibility.  For years I used to use the wire rod holders you stake into the ground and they worked quite well – Inexpensive too. 

 

Bite indication is one area of great importance when ledgering.  The majority of the time when carp get hooked, they scream off in a panic and zoom away at high speeds – Knowing when you have a fish on is easy at those times.  There however are times when a hooked carp will just sit there in one spot or swim towards the bank creating slack in the line.  Having a weight of some sort to pick up the slack is vital in knowing when this happens.  I use specialty bite swingers and watch for when they drop down or jiggle up and down.

 

 

 

 

 

You can also make your own bite indicator if stores in your area don’t supply specialty carp tackle. One method I used early in my carping career was to put a hooked screw through the top of a chocolate kinder surprise egg (the plastic prize within) and fill it with a couple rocks or water for weight.  You place it on the line between the butt guide of the rod and the reel.  If you see it twitching up and down or dropping right down, you’ll know you have a fish on.  It’s easy to remove when you hook into a fish.  You also got to treat yourself to a chocolate every time you lost it in your tackle box.  

 

Alternatively for indication, you can mold a bread ball onto your line between a pair of rod guides or on the line between your reel and the butt guide.  It is a little messy and geese love to peck at it but it’s a cheap way to see bites.

 

When you have a fish take the bait, DO NOT SET THE HOOK.  Often times you end up ripping the hook right out of the carp’s mouth.  When ledgering (especially when using a hair rig), the hook sets itself and all you have to do is flick the baitrunner switch on the reel to the off position or tighten up the drag a little (if it was set to freespool).

 

Some ways to set up a ledger rig include:

 

Semi fixed bolt rig ******************

 

Free-running (or free sliding) rig ******************************8       


 

Float fishing for carp

 

Float fishing for carp can be very exciting.  Watching a delicate, slender float bob up and down registering light bites can be nerve racking at times.  Float fishing can offer a few advantages over ledger fishing.  The ability of a float to register extremely light bites is better than that of most electronic bite alarms matched with swingers.  The distance from the hook to the float is far less than that of a hook to your rod where your ledgering bite indicator (eg. Swinger) is.

 

You are however limited to how far you can cast and how calm the surface of the water is.  The more wavy or windy it is out, the harder it can be to detect bites. My preferred float to use for carp is a waggler float made of balsa, clear plastic or high-density foam (almost like Styrofoam).  They come in various sizes and shapes and shine when fishing in still waters of a calm lake or pond.  They also don’t get affected by the wind very much due to how they are set up.

 

Setting up a float rig takes more time than a ledgering rig.  Finding the depth of water you’re going to be fishing in is paramount.  Also figuring out how much weight is required to put on the line to make the float balanced and sensitive in the water is very important.

 

A float rig is fairly basic.  Many tackle shops in southern Ontario sell Waggler floats. There are a few ways to set them up.

 

Basic Waggler Set-up

The basic waggler set-up is great for indicating very light bites.  The majority of bites have the float dipping down below the surface of the water (often quite violently).  You also do get some lift-bites where the float will actually pop out of the water so paying close attention is vital.

 

1.      Slide your mainline through the hole in the bottom stem of the float.  Slide it up the line.

 

2.      Tie your hair rig or hook to the end of your mainline

 

3.      Estimate the depth at which you think you’ll be fishing. Place 1 split shot on both sides of the float to lock it into place.  The float should be fixed in one spot. 

 

Most floats have a weight rating (for example 2AA or 5AA or ‘3 swan’.  Knowing how much weight each float will take is very important

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a basic chart of the ratings and their weights for “Sure Shot” brand of split shots:

 

Rating

Weight (grams)

SSG

1.6g

SA

1.2g

AAA

.8g

AB

.6g

BB

.4g

#1

.3g

#4

.2g

#6

.11g

#8

.07g

 

Example: If I’m using a 4AAA waggler float, I know in total it should be able to handle 3.2grams worth of split shots on the line.  I normally use 1 AB split shot on either side of the float to temporarily fix it in place on the line (more shots will be added later).    

 

Try to find the softest split shots you can find as you will be required to slide them up and down the line later.

 

4.      With your float fixed in place, find out the depth at which you are fishing.  Many anglers do this buy clipping something heavy onto the hook.  ‘Plummets’ are often used by float anglers to find the depth.  They look a lot like bell sinkers with a bit of cork glued onto the bottom (pictures below).  Thread your hook through the hole at the top of the plummet and burry the hook point into the cork at the bottom.  Anglers also use lead weights attached to small alligator clips to clip onto to the hook.  Some anglers clip their hemostats onto the hook in a pinch.  Cast your rig out PAST the spot you’ll be fishing (usually 10ft or so).

 

 

 

 

  1. Submerge your rod tip underneath water and reel in a bit.  You want to see all the line between the rod tip and your float to be submerged underwater.  THIS IS PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO WHEN FISHING WAGGLER FLOATS.  Sinking the mainline reduces the affect of wind and surface currents on the float.  Reel your rig in to the spot you want to fish

 

  1. If you didn’t see your float pop up to the surface, you need to slide your float and locking split shots up the line.  If you see the float laying on the surface on its side, slide the float and shots down the line to remove the depth.  Ideally you just want the coloured part of float’s tip to be sticking above the surface of the water.  When fish are biting extremely light, you may want to submerge your float to the point where the tip looks like a pimple on the water’s surface (for very calm, still water).  Repeat this steps 4-6 till you get the float sitting just right

 

 

  1. Now it’s time to put the rest of the other split shots onto the line.  There are various ways to do this.  In windier days, I prefer putting more weight right by the float touching the locking shots.  I also have small split shots spread out on the line between the float and the hook. 

 

Spreading the splits shots evenly along the line will give you a more natural presentation as the bait falls through the water column (some fish prefer to see it and race to catch the bait on the drop).  You may also experience more tangles when casting it out.

 

Bulking up the remaining shots on the line near the hook make casting easier.

 

I prefer to rig up 3-4 inches over depth than how I originally set up the float with a plummet.  Often times the bottom is uneven and your bait could be hovering a couple inches off of it.  Some fish like the bait to be hovering off bottom but the majority of fish I catch prefer it to be right on bottom.  I know for certain my bait is right on bottom.  Remember to slide your float and locking shots equal distance up the line if you do it this way. It does make the float rig less sensitive though.  I always try to use the lightest float I can get away with.

 


 

Float ledgering

 

Float ledgering involves putting your float in a fixed position via a rubber or neoprene slip-float stop up the line and having most (if not all of your weight) clumped together on bottom with your rig.  The majority of bites you will see are lift-bites where the float pops upwards out of the water.  This happens when the fish picks up the bait and lifts the split shot(s) off the bottom.

 

Float ledgering is also great for fishing deeper waters if you fish the float like a slip-bobber.  It’s also easier to cast rigs further out as well. 

 

As with the basic waggler set-up described above, knowing how much weight the float will take is vital.  I try to use the smallest float I can get away with for the situation taking into account: Depth, wind, how far I need to cast, etc. 

To set up a ledger float rig:

  1. Thread on a neoprene, rubber or Dacron bobber stop onto the mainline and slide it up.  I prefer using one on each side of the float to lock it into place (bottom left picture).  If you are fishing deep water (depth deeper than the length of your rod), I recommend using just 1 float stop (As with a normal slip bobber).Thread the mainline through the hole in the bottom stem of the float.  Slide the float up the line.

  1. Tie on your hook or hair rig

 

  1. Add your split shots to the line.  The split shots will be sitting right on bottom when you cast out.  Knowing how many split shots are needed to sink your float is important.  I try to use the smallest float I can get away with (hence smallest amount of weight needed).  The less amount of weight used on the line, the less a carp will notice it when it picks up the bait.  Small sliding sinkers are also a great alternative to use as weights. 

 

 

  1. Cast out your rig 10ft past your chosen spot.  Stick the rod tip below the water sink all the floating mainline between your float and the rod tip.  You can also reel in a little to pull your rig over the desired spot you want to fish once the line has sunk below the water.
  2. Check how the float is sitting in the water.  If you can’t see it, slide the float and float stops further up the line.  If the float is laying on its side, remove some depth by sliding the float and float stops down the line.  Ideally only the coloured tip of the float should be visible.  Shown below are pictures of how the float should be sitting – An improperly adjusted float (bottom left) and a properly adjusted float (bottom right).

 

  1. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you get the float to sit right in the water

 

 


 

Fly Fishing for Carp

 

Fly fishing for carp is perhaps the closest thing to fishing the saltwater flats for bonefish.  In many fly fishing circles, even the most ‘elite’ of fly anglers have adopted carp as a fun quarry to throw fur and feathers at – ‘Golden bones’ as they call them.  Fly fishing for carp involves stealth, observation, accuracy and timing.  A 7-8wt fly rod offers enough backbone and power to handle most carp and battle wind. A 9-10wt fly rod is sometimes a better option when cattails, reeds or lily pads are involved.  A reel with at least 150 yards of backing and a smooth adjustable disk drag is mandatory. 

 

Some fly anglers prefer to attract carp to their spot with bait before they cast to them.  Purists whoever prefer to just sight cast to fish in the midst of feeding on bottom for natural food items like crayfish or insect larvae (stonefly nymphs, mayfly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs, etc).  The key is to look for fish stirring up clouds of mud off the bottom.  In the shallow water, you can often see carp tailing as they vacuum up the bottom.  Wearing polarized glasses will help you spot cruising and feeding fish by cutting out surface glare – Never leave home without them!

 

Cast within 1-2ft of a feeding fish and attempt to get your fly close to the carps head.  Casting accuracy is a must.  Casting the fly too far away and the carp won’t notice it.  If you cast too close and actually hit the carp with the fly or leader, they might spook and move off in a hurry.

 

Once the fly reaches bottom, slowly strip the line in a bit to give it some action.  You may have to vary the strip speed as well as strip length over the course of a day to find out what they prefer.  Sometimes not stripping also works.    

 

Some fly patterns that are effective include: crayfish imitations, various nymph patterns, small woolly buggers (black, brown and olive have been effective for me in the past).  Even saltwater patterns like small clouser minnows, crazy Charlies and small shrimp patterns can work as well.  One of the simplest fly patterns I’ve had success with in the past involved just a small strip of black bunny fur tied onto a size 6 streamer hook with small lead dumbbell eyes tied near the eye of the hook.  Carp are opportunistic feeders and any fly that resembles something remotely natural can work well.

 

Sight Casting for Carp

 

One of the first carp I ever laid my eyes on as a kid was an accidental catch for an angler fishing for bass.  The angler caught it with a 3 inch chartreuse jig and curly tail grub combo.  Over the years I’ve caught carp using tube jigs, micro soft plastics, and small flipping jigs while attempting to catch other species of fish.  It wasn’t till I was in my early-teens that I saw In-Fisherman’s, Al Linder produce several segments on sight casting for carp.  He was actually targeting them with artificial lures!  His main tactics involved casting a micro twister tail grubs on a 1/16oz jig head toward schools of feeding carp and lightly twitching it back along the bottom on the retrieve.  He also used flipping jigs (the same ones used for heavy cover bass fishing) in the same manner.  Not surprising, flipping jigs when coupled with a soft plastic trailer, look like crayfish, one of the favourite foods of a carp.

 

This type of fishing is very seasonal.  It is hard to target carp in deep water using this method (though I can’t say I’ve personally tried).  I like to target carp in the shallows a few times a year with artificials during the pre-spawn and spawn periods when they are in 2-3ft of water.  Anything deeper and spotting feeding fish can be difficult.  Polarized glasses are a must for spotting fish.

 

 

The Bait section

 

Many ) of years, carp anglers have been developing baits to attract carp to their hooks. Some specialty carp recipes have been passed down from generation to generation in some cultures.  Below are only a handful of baits regularly used by carp anglers that can be easily obtained at a grocery store, tackle shop, farm feed co-op store, or through mail order. 

 

Hook Baits

 

1.                  Sweet corn (canned corn): Hands down, sweet corn is the number one universal carp bait on the planet.  When ‘grocery shopping’, look for cans of sweetcorn with salt and sugar added as part of the ingredients.  Some anglers have noted that the kernels of the cheaper no-name brands are more durable and stay on the hook better than more expensive brands.  No preparation is required.  Open up the can and use.  You can even add flavours like vanilla extract or strawberry juice crystals for some added attraction.    

       

2.                  White bread:  If you have stale white bread lying around the house, you are in luck.  White bread is a fantastic bait to use for carp being that it’s easy to find at the grocery store or bakery and use. Rip a small piece of bread off a slice, fold the piece of bread around the hook shank near the eye and then pinch lightly.  You should have one end that has been pinched and one part that remains fluffy.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.                  Maize:  Like canned corn, maize is also a universal bait for carp.  Away from carp fishing, maize is mainly used to feed cows and the alcohol obtained while fermenting it is used as fuel additives in some automobiles.  It’s relatively inexpensive at around $12 for an 80lb sack at most farm-feed stores and it’s a lot more durable than canned corn. You can cast out knowing that your bait didn’t fly off the hook and small fish like gobies and sunfish probably won’t be picking it off before the carp get to it. 

 

 Preparation involves: soaking 24hrs in water and boiling 20mins. You can also flavour your maize by introducing your chosen flavouring in the soaking stage. Soak 24hrs, boil in the same water with the flavouring.  Add more flavouring after the boiling process.  Because of the hard/durable nature of maize, the kernels are best fished on a hair rig.

 

4.                  Jumbo corn:  Jumbo corn is just that – JUMBO.  The kernels look like a mutant form of corn which received a little too much fertilizer.  Jumbo corn kernels are often sold dried in Latin, Italian and Asian grocery food stores.  Some tackle shops in Southern Ontario sell jumbo corn already prepared with flavourings and preservatives for convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

5.                  Chick peas:  A great bait to use in places where the carp are wary of corn.  They are highly under-utilized as bait and take flavourings and dyes very well.  It’s best to buy dried chick peas from the grocery store and prepare them yourself.  Canned chick peas tend to be a little too mushy to use and aren’t very durable.  Soak the dried chick peas overnight in water (with flavourings + food colouring if you wish), boil for 10 to 15 minutes.  You can customize your own secretly flavoured chick peas like I do.  I will note that over flavouring your chickpeas (as well as any other bait) can attract huge numbers of bullhead and channel catfish to your hook.  Be conservative with the amount of flavouring you use.  They also love them too. 

 

6.                  The doughball: Along with corn, the doughball has to be the only other bait synonymous with carp fishing.  I can’t think of a place in the world where doughballs aren’t used as a bait for catching carp. Dough baits are easy to make.  There are thousands of recipes available on the internet.  Most likely you already have the ingredients in your kitchen. 

 

7.                   Boilies:  Boilies are the European equivalent to the standard doughball.  They range in size from micro-sized 8mm to jumbos of 32mm (or more).   Boilies are essentially flavoured doughballs which have had eggs and/or other proteins (like powdered milk proteins) added to the mixture (instead of water) and boiled in water to get a tough outer skin on the outside.  They are durable baits and can withstand constant pecking from small nuisance fish like gobies and panfish.  Larger carp tend to be caught on boilies.  Many stores in Southern Ontario are carrying bags and tubs of pre-made shelf-life boilies in sizes from 12mm to 21mm in strawberry, pineapple, chocolate or tutti frutti flavours.  To use, you will need to use a hair rig as it is almost impossible to get hook into them.  In most cases with store bought boilies, you will need a ‘boilie drill’ to drill a hole to get a baiting needle through.  

If you wish to make your own boilies, there are countless recipes on the internet available.     

8.                  Live Worms:  Garden worms, red worms and nightcrawlers you find in baitshops or on the lawn at night after a rain aren’t exactly carp-specific baits.  Bass, panfish, bullheads and unfortunately gobies love worms and eat them readily. When stalking or targeting single cruising carp right by shore, they are very effective.  In spring, worms are one of my top baits to use.  The wriggling action of a worm falling through the water column is often too tantalizing for carp to resist.  I often see carp rushing up to the surface to intercept a falling worm.  I find a simple split shot & hook combination to be the best and the easiest way of presenting worms to carp.  I normally hook the nightcrawler once through the collar with a size 6-8 Octopus style hook.    

 

Groundbaiting (AKA: Chumming, Mass baiting, Carpet feeding)

 

There are a few reasons why groundbaiting is effective when carp fishing.  Carp are omnivorous creatures. They feed on things like crayfish, various aquatic insects and the larvae, swan and zebra mussels, small fish, fish and amphibian eggs (including their own), weeds, and more.  There’s a huge variety of food for them to eat in the wild.

 

By groundbaiting, you can concentrate a huge amount of food which carp can eat in a relatively small area.  Instead of swimming 100 meters to get one single crayfish beneath a rock, it can move a few inches and suck up dozens of easy to get baits with a fraction of the effort. 

 

Similarly, the amount of attraction created by groundbaiting acts like a giant bill board sign that reads FREE FOOD…What fish wouldn’t want to head out for that?  One single hookbait on its own might attract one lone cruising fish, but a small handful of free offerings can attract dozens of fish to your spot.  The idea is to get them rummaging around the bottom near your hook till one of them actually gets hooked.    

 

The smell and visual effects of groundbaiting (where particles of bait cloud the water column) is stimulating for carp and attracts them.  When carp feed, they often muddy up or cloud up the water.  This in turn is a signal for other fish in the neighbourhood that there is food – And hence, more fish come to feed.

 

While you can use any of the hookbaits as baits for chumming up the area, as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life…Or in this case, carp fishing.  By using a variety of baits for chumming, it’s harder for the carp to learn what he’s actually been caught on during the course of a day (and even the season).  I’ve personally seen carp avoid piles of maize (without a hook in it) and feed on surrounding piles of maple peas, chickpeas or boilies.

 

Groundbaits

  1. Bird food.  Pet shops, department stores, farm feed stores usually sell sacks to hobbyist birders who hang bird feeders in the backyard.  I get a sack of pigeon mix bird seeds from a specialty racing pigeon store.  Inside the sack, food items include, maize, maple peas, green peas, millet and other tiny seeds which are all attractive to carp.  To prepare, empty out desired amount of bird food into a bucket and soak in water overnight.  Bird seeds do soak up a lot of water and grow so add quite a bit of water.  Boil for 15-20 minutes.  It may be best to boil the mix outside or when the wife is out shopping as she might not appreciate the ‘earthy’ smell in her kitchen.

 

  1. Hempseeds:  Perhaps the greatest carpet feed-bait known to the carping world.  I doubt carp get ‘high’ off of hempseeds.  The ones for sale have been sterilized by toasting them in large ovens or beneath heat lamps to prevent them from germinating.  The seeds I get are used for feeding pigeons.  Hempseeds are full of natural oil which is attractive to carp.  A sack of hemp is a little on the expensive side.  In some places, it sells for about $1.10 per pound if you buy a 50lb sack.  It’s $2.75 per pound if you buy smaller quantities.  Preparation involves soaking overnight and boiling till you see them split – you should see a thin white line on the seed when it has split.  It can take anywhere from 5min to 15min for the seeds to split.

 

  1. Pellets:  Carp pellets are available in a number of tackle shops in Ontario.  They are quite expensive for what you get.  In most cases they are flavoured with scents and attractors which carp love.

 

Farm feed stores offer a great variety of pellets which horses, cows, pigs and carp love at relatively inexpensive prices – usually $10-$20 for a 50lb sack.

 

Calf manna pellets: These pellets are used to feed baby cows but the carp love them too.  They are full of protein, roughage and vitamins. 

 

Rabbit pellets:  As the name suggests, these pellets are what pet owners feed to their rabbits (As seen in the picture right). These sort of look like calf manna pellets except they’re green.  I’ve been told they contain processed alfalfa, vitamins and minerals.  

 

Trout pellets: Some farm feed stores sell trout pellets in bulk for commercial and hobbyist trout ponds.  Trout pellets are oily and very attractive to carp.  Unfortunately, they also attract loads of catfish as well.  If you want to purchase trout pellets, ask for the sinking ones.  Trout pellets are more effective in warmer months as in cooler temperatures, the oils inside the pellets tend to congeal and carp have a tougher time digesting them.

 

Layer mash: Also known as layer crumble isn’t exactly a pellet food but it’s close.  Layer mash is used to feed chickens.  When you add a little bit of water, it binds well enough to mold into balls which can be thrown into the water.    

 

 

When tossed into water, pellets will dissolve on the bottom into mush after some time.  It provides a food signal for the carp but it doesn’t offer them much food to eat.  The carp will continuously root around the bottom trying to eat mostly nothing.  They remain pre-occupied without getting full. 

 

4.      Chopped boilies:  Essentially chopped boilies are boilies which have been run through a food processor or chopping device.  There are several specialty products in the market designed for doing this. Chumming with whole boilies can get expensive after a while – Most stores sell a 1 kilo bag of boilies for about $15.  Instead of chumming with 20 boilies at one time, you could chop them up and get hundreds of small food items out of the same quantity of bait.  Carp will spend more time in your area picking up the small food items.  Chopped boilies also release more scent into the water which in-turn can be more attractive to the carp.

 

5.      Commercial carp groundbait.  These types of groundbaits look almost like breadcrumbs with small food items mixed in.  In many cases, breadcrumbs are the main bulk ingredient due to their fantastic binding properties when dampened with water. The idea of these commercial groundbaits is to be used in conjunction with feeders and/or to be molded into balls (with the addition of some water or other liquids like attractants or scents) and thrown into the water.  I sometimes use these commercially available products but more often then not, I make my own.  I often use a basic mixture of bread crumbs, cornmeal flour, brown sugar, 12 grain cereal, a handful of maize and seeds and add enough water so you can form firm solid balls of bait.  Getting the amount of water right in the mixture is key – Too much water will turn the mixture into a soggy mess.  Too little won’t make it bind very well together.  You should be able to squeeze it into a ball without excess water squirting out of it.  Add only a little bit of water a at a time and mix thoroughly before adding more.

 

  Like pellets, this type of groundbaiting offers plenty of food attraction without there being a whole lot of food out on the bottom to eat.  It also helps to cloud the water and provide visual stimulation for the carp where it represents other feeding carp.  

 

  1. Make your own mixtures:    Mix various pellets, seeds, chopped boilies, maize and other various hookbait/food items together.  Add liquid flavourings if you wish like maple syrup, honey, molasses, vanilla extra, etc.  Farm feed stores and bulk food stores are in my opinion, the best places to shop for ingredients.  Take a stroll down a few aisles at your local bulk food store and use your imagination. 

 

Groundbaiting Tactics

When it comes to groundbaiting, besides the basic question, “what do I chum with?” the next most common question is, “how much do I chum”.  This isn’t an easy answer to come up with.  You have to take into account: the size of the fish, the size of the body of water you are fishing, the time of year, the weather conditions which are present, etc.  The gold standard when it comes to groundbaiting is the notion of, “Little and often”.  What does this mean?  Essentially, you chum little amounts of bait at each time but at regular intervals.   

 

How little is little? And how ‘often’ is often

Again it’s variable.  In spring on the St. Lawrence river, a little can mean throwing out 10-20lbs of maize and other baits every 20-30 minutes because there are literally thousands of hungry carp in each school.  In summer on the Toronto Islands, a little can mean 1-3 handfuls of corn or maize every 30-40 minutes.  On average in most places where there is a decent population of carp with an average size of 8-12lbs, 4-5 handfuls of bait every 30 minutes isn’t out of the ordinary – If you aren’t getting any bites or indication that carp are feeding,  bait up every 40-60 minutes.  If you are getting fish to take every 5 minutes, increase the frequency you bait up.

 

The primary thing to remember is, YOU CAN PUT BAIT IN BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE IT OUT.



Getting bait out into the swim

There are a number of ways of getting bait out into your chosen fishing hole. 

 

  1. Throw it out by hand:  Corn, chickpeas, maize, boilies and balls of groundbait have enough mass to them that they can be thrown into the water at close distances.  For the most part, the majority of carp I catch are within chum throwing distance.  I do recommend stretching as continuously throwing bait into the water can tire even the fittest person.

  1. Slingshots/Catapults:  Slingshots/catapults offer a less tiring way of getting your bait out into the swim.  All you have to do is fill the pouch with bait and fire towards your intended spot. Some tackle stores in the Hamilton and Toronto area carry them and you can order them off the internet or through mail order. I have seen homemade ones fashioned out of a Y-shaped branch, some silicone tubing and a leather pouch. As fun as it is to do, PLEASE CATAPULT RESPONSIBLY!

 

 

 

3.         Spods:  Throwing bait out by hand and using catapults can take bait only so far.  When the wind is blowing at 30 clicks into your face or you need to get bait out to 50+ yards where the fish are surfacing, spods are the only way to do it.  Spods, also known as ‘bait rockets’, are tied to the end of the line and filled up with bait.  You then cast the spod out to the targeted area.  When it hits the water, the buoyant nose of the spod tips up on the surface of the water and the bait empties out.  Spods are aerodynamic and with the right tackle and casting technique, they can be launched to distances over 200 yards.  To use spods, you need a rod capable of casting heavy weights.  A full spod may weigh in the neighbourhood of 6oz or more.  Specialty spod rods are available in a few stores in Ontario though selection is quite limited to just a couple different models. 

 

Spod rods are relatively expensive (especially for a rod just used for baiting up) – An inexpensive one will go around $120 and some cost upwards of $400 for higher end models. Anglers who don’t own a specialty spod rod often use cheaper surfcasting rods, old musky tackle and longer, heavier versions of the Ugly Stick to cast their spods out.

 

The spods themselves aren’t widely available in Southern Ontario but you can make your own homemade ones out of an old water bottle, a cork (or boyant foam), some wire (or heavy mono) for only a few cents.   

 

 

 

5.      The Method Sling: Designed for ‘firing’ out balls of groundbait quickly.  Like a spod, it is tied to the end of the line.  Unlike a spod, you don’t cast these out to your spot.  Instead, you cast method slings in the direction of your spot.  The method sling works on the same principles as the ancient weapon, the trebuchet.  You put a ball of groundbait into the sling and cast.  The ball of groundbait will separate from the sling in the middle of the cast and carry on towards the target.  Like spods, you will need a rod capable of casting a heavy ball of bait (2-4oz).  I have used my own spod rod as well as old carp rods to cast these and can achieve distances of 60-80 yards with ease.  Method slings aren’t widely available in Canada.  I bought mine online for $8US.  With a little bit of creativity, you could probably make your own.


6.      Baiting spoons:  Baiting spoons look almost like a gardening trowel except for the handle which can vary anywhere between 12 inches long to 60 inches long.  Baiting spoons are great for delivering large amounts of bait (either balls of groundbait, loose boilies or particle baits like maize) out into the swim at short distances quickly.  The longer the baiting spoon handle, the further you will be able to get bait out there.

 

One of the best ‘bait-spooners’ I know of is Jeff Vaughn of the Long Sault motel.  He is a carp fishing guide on the St. Lawrence river and uses his baiting spoon religiously, chumming hundreds of pounds of bait into the water per day for his clients (St. Lawrence carp are usually very hungry fish).  To get bait out into the swim, Jefff recommends using a ‘flicking’ motion with the spoon rather than a smashing motion (as you would do to a piñata).  The motion involved in launching the bait out into the water is similar to that of a fly-casting stroke where a short but rapid burst of acceleration is followed by a sudden stop (usually at the 12 o’clock position in the air).  It takes a bit of practice to not throw bait directly down in front of you but over time, you should have bait clumping nicely in a tight circle.



 

 

WHERE CARP LIVE

 

The ‘invasive’ classification that many anglers term carp as being, stem from their ability to adapt to and thrive in a huge range of aquatic environments.  They live in lakes, rivers, creeks, small streams, brackish tidal areas, ponds, storm run off drains and places where native gamefish cannot thrive due to factors such as pollution.  They are a hardy, long lived fish capable of eating a large variety of food items due to their omnivorous diet.  The only continent I know of where they aren’t found is Antarctica. 

 

Where do you find carp?

 

In the late 1800’s, carp were stocked in inland lakes and ponds to be harvested for food. The original intent for the mass stocking in North America was to reduce commercial harvesting pressures on native gamefish.  Here in Ontario, most likely any river, stream, harbour or lake you can find that flows into the Great Lakes or is attached via a river or canal will have carp cruising around. 

 

If you are unsure whether your local lake or pond has carp in it, you can often see them rolling or jumping on the surface or sunning themselves in the shallows.  Ask your local tackle shop or search the library or online archives for stocking records.  For anglers living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) the Ministry of Natural resources has put together a document about urban fishing opportunities and lists the places where carp can be found in the area:

 

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/STEL02_163569.pdf

 

 

CARP THROUGH THE SEASONS

 

I found a lake and/or river with carp in it, where do I start?

 

The movement and migration of carp is dictated mainly by water temperature.  Unlike humans, fish are cold blooded and activity level is determined by how warm or cold the water is.  The fortunate thing for those in search of carp is that carp movement is usually very predictable during the season.  It may take a season or two to develop a pattern for each river or lake you want to fish but generally, year by year, you will see similarities in the timing.

 

 

Late winter/spring

 

At this time of year you will often see carp schooling up by the hundreds (if not thousands) in shallow flats or in shallow bays sunning themselves for warmth.  I refer to this time as the ‘pre-spawn’ period.  Many anglers often mistake this gathering as the spawning period.  Carp generally won’t start spawning till later on in spring when water temperatures reach 16-20 degrees Celsius.  With the water still quite cold in early spring, carp often head to the northern areas of the lake or in shallow bays which receive the longest hours of daylight (at least for most places in the northern hemisphere).  Dark muddy bottoms in lakes can also be quite attractive to carp as the dark colour absorbs the most heat during the day.   

 

There can be some fantastic fishing during this time of year as carp are coming out of a whole winter of not eating (and they certainly are hungry).  It is also one of the few times of the year when quality specimens (25-40lb carp) can be caught along with great quantities of fish (30-40 fish per day is not unusual).  Timing however is critical.  If the water is still too cold, carp will generally worry more about sunning themselves than actually eating.  You might throw in a handful of corn or groundbait into the water in the same area as the carp but you won’t see them feeding.  Fishing in the afternoon can sometimes be the ticket in catching these carp.   

 

Spring/Summer – The spawn

 

Fishing for carp during their spawn is perhaps the most frustrating time of the year.  Tracking down spawning carp isn’t that hard to do – Just look for the surface of the water to be exploding with jumping and rolling carp.  Once carp start the spawning process, there is little that stops them from continuing on.  They have only one thing in mind and that is to mate.

 

During the spawn, you’ll often see a dozen or so carp following one another in a long train of fish.  Moments later, you’ll see all the fish simultaneously rolling and jumping on the surface.  It’s an amazing sight which can involve several dozen fish splashing at the same time on the water’s surface in a tiny area.  The carp attempt to fertilize the eggs and deposit them on weeds, rocks, logs and any other surface which their eggs will adhere to.  Fishing for these visibly spawning fish is futile.  They don’t stop to eat. 

 

There is some relief in the fact that not all carp spawn at the very same moment. Some carp which haven’t spawned yet or have already spawned can be tempted to take bait.  Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of fishing at this time is being able to see sometimes hundreds of fish cruising over your hookbait or free offerings without stopping to investigate it – Especially when the fish is 40lbs or more!

 

Summer

 

Once the spawn is done in the shallow bays or canals, carp typically vacate the area in search of deeper water.  In rivers, they usually can be found cruising deeper boating channels or below dams in whitewater.  There they find greater amounts of oxygen and larger quantities (as well as variety) of food items.

 

With regards to fishing in and around the great lakes (almost everywhere in Ontario I’ve fished), the larger carp (25-40+lbs) often disappear with smaller fish in the 8-17lb range being most common.  I’ve talked to a number of other carp anglers and they also report similar findings.  Nobody knows where these larger fish go during summer.  With that said, I find carp in the 15-17lb range (especially river carp) fight the greatest and have no problems peeling line off the spool in a hurry. 

 

 

Fall

 

Carp can be found sticking to deep water areas during the fall season.  Large trophy fish also seem to make a return and carp of all sizes seem to put the feedbag on knowing that winter is just around the corner.  Many places that anglers target carp late in the season are as deep as 45ft.  The carp in Hamilton harbour are notorious for this where anglers may fish in 25-40ft depths near close-to-shore drop offs and off piers.   As in summer, carp relate to steep drop-offs where food of all types can be found.

 

Weather conditions can fluctuate greatly in fall and water temperatures can plummet or rise from day to day.  Stable periods of weather and temperatures can boost carp activity.  Sudden drops in temperatures can make even the hungriest carp, tight-lipped and inactive.  Just like in early spring, sometimes fishing later on in the morning or afternoon/evening can be better than fishing before sun-up. 

 

Winter

Carp are caught accidentally by ice fishermen targeting perch, crappies, walleye and other species.  The most consistent way to catch carp in winter is to target areas that discharge warm water.  Power stations and industrial manufacturing outflows and any other areas that don’t freeze over in winter are prime spots to try.  Aside from the warm water coming out of power stations, carp are also treated to food like baitfish which get sucked into the turbines, chopped up, and spewed out from the outflow tubes.  Some of the largest carp I’ve ever seen caught have been from these areas and it makes sense.  Their growing season is year round as opposed to just being from spring through to late fall.  Huge numbers of fish often congregate year round near these outflows.

 

Finding access to these warm water discharges can be challenging.  After the 9/11 attacks, many power stations have limited or completely closed off areas for anglers to access.  Garbage like empty coffee cups, used fishing line, fishing tackle packaging and beer bottles left behind on bank didn’t help either. 

 

It must also be noted that fishing in or around these warm water discharges can be dangerous no matter the time of the year.  Ice can form along the shoreline in winter and falling in is a possibility.  Beyond hypothermia (if you do manage to get out of the water), the currents flowing out of these power plants are often strong enough to make swimming impossible and undertows are very much a guarantee in many spots.  Take extra caution when fishing around warm water discharges.

 

 

 

 

 

CARP CARE

 

Though carp are quite hardy fish, take care in handling them if you plan on releasing them.  Keep them horizontal and try not to lift them vertically by the gills  - They tear surprisingly easily under the weight of the fish. As with all fish, try to wet your hands before handling them to prevent slime loss.  As a kid I was always taught to respect the fish I catch and handle them in a way that does the least amount of damage to them (even if they are to be eaten).  Carp are long lived fish that can be enjoyed by future anglers for many years. Your kids or grandkids may one day catch the same fish you did – Hopefully 20lbs heavier!  In the UK, several carp have been caught multiple times over a span of 60 years. 

 

Anglers from England and many parts of Europe on the continent have taken carp care to a whole new level.  Catch and Release is the law there.  Soft, padded, unhooking mats to lay fish on while taking the hook out and anti-septic medications to apply to wounds are often used to prevent damage to their prized fish.  In many places in England and Europe, it is law to use a soft meshed net and an unhooking mat.

 

Unhooking mats, weigh slings and specialty carp nets can be hard to find in your local tackle shops here in Ontario.  Most tackle shops don’t stock carp tackle in general.  These items can be found online from specialty carp tackle dealers at reasonable prices.  There is a list at the end of the article for places where specialty carp tackle can be purchased.

 

It is unrealistic that everyone in Ontario to use an unhooking mat during their carp fishing adventures.  I fished many years without one because they had to be imported from Europe at great expense.  For the average angler who might fish for carp once or twice a year, purchasing one may seem like an unnecessary expense.  Once landed, I’d recommend placing carp over top soft grass while unhooking them. Making a bed out of wet washed up weeds works in a pinch when the shoreline is very rocky – I try do this with all other large species of fish I catch as well.

 

Weighing carp by the gills not recommended.  Weigh slings are soft-mesh cradles designed to weigh fish in.  Some slings are made out of waterproof fish friendly plastics that prevent slime loss when dampened.  They are hard to find in most local tackle shops but can be ordered online or through mail order fairly inexpensively. Alternatively you can weigh carp in your landing net – All you have to do is subtract the weight of the net from the total weight indicated by the scale.

            

 

WATERCRAFT

 

This section isn’t purely about carp fishing.  It also isn’t about boats, canoes or kayaks.  It relates to the understanding of your quarry and the ability to gain an edge in your own fishing regardless of where, when and for what you’re fishing for.  I’ve been fortunate enough to share the banks with some amazing anglers and have learned and observed them in action.  From my observations, some things these anglers had in common involved:

 

INFORMATION - Before you head out, know the behaviour patterns of the fish you’re going after, gather as much info as you can about the venue, weather forecasts, successful baits, rigs, etc and equip yourself accordingly

OBSERVATION – Gather real-time information about weather conditions, fish activity, etc and update your pool of knowledge. Formulate a plan of attack or re-consider your current tactics and adjust. 

PRESENTATION – In essence, it means doing the little things right and paying attention to small details.  For me this means, keeping a close eye on how sharp my hook is, recasting if I didn’t hit the spot I wanted to hit, and checking my line for fraying.  Be a perfectionist for each aspect of your fishing. 

DOCUMENTATION – Saying you have 20yrs of experience in carp fishing doesn’t mean much if you can’t somehow use those experiences in a meaningful way in the future.  I was blessed with a photographic memory and can remember the conditions, catch rates and baits I was using on almost every fishing trip I’ve been on since I was 2 yrs old - unfortunately it didn’t help me in school.  If you don’t have a good memory, write these things down in a diary or keep information a computer spreadsheet.  Having the discipline to do this is important.  You can refer back to your records should you encounter similar fishing conditions you experienced in the past.

BENCHMARKING AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT – Always aim to improve your skills by benchmarking those skills against something that does those skills well.  The thing you benchmark yourself to doesn’t have to be related to the field of fishing…For example, if stalking spooky carp in the shallows is the name of the game, take a page out of the book of a military sniper on concealment and stealth and think and move like a sniper on the bank – Wear clothing with subdued colours and walk the banks lightly.  Aim to improve your presentation skills to perfection and never be embarrassed when you’re being out fished by a newbie either. Learn from their experiences and gather as many tips as you can.  Never stop learning. 
 
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING - Being 99.9% POSITIVE is key. Fishing is fishing and catching is catching…You won’t always catch when you’re fishing.  Being respectful to other anglers as well as Mother Nature…It’s great for karma.

 

 

 

Carp fishing is a dynamic sport that anglers of all ages can enjoy without great expense.  Carp will provide kids an opportunity to fish for something that can grow and pull hard yet do not require lengthy road trips away from home to enjoy.  Most likely you have carp within a 10-20 minute drive from your home and they do not require the use of a boat or similar watercraft to persue.  Go and get them!   

 

 

Carp Tackle Suppliers

 

 

Canadian Retailers

 

 

Angling Specialties (Concord) - 2104 Highway 7, Concord, ON

(905) 660-9707

 

Angling Specialties (Mississauga) - 325 Central Parkway West, Mississauga, ON

(905) 275-4972

 

Angling Specialties (Scarborough) - 251 Kennedy Road, Scarborough, ON

(416) 609-0804

 

Bill’s Bait and Tackle - 534 Upper James Street, Hamilton, ON

(905) 388-5873

http://www.billsbaitandtackle.ca/

 

Carpins – 15 Dickinson dr (unit 2), Ingleside, ON

(613) 537-2248

http://www.carpins.ca

 

Fishing World Outdoor Centre - 2411 Barton Street East, Hamilton, ON

(905) 573-2288

http://fishingworld.ca/

 

Long Sault Motel (Canadian Carp Club) – 16055 Highway No. 2, Long Sault, ON

(613) 534-2546

http://www.canadiancarpclub.on.ca/

http://www.longsaultmotel.com/

 

Natural Sports - 1572 Victoria St N, Kitchener, ON

(519) 749-1620

 

New World Carp - 185 King St E Hamilton ON
http://newworldcarp.com/

 

Tightline Fishermen’s warehouse - 1050 Brock Rd   Pickering, ON

(905) 837-0544

 

 

 

 

 

Online Vendors – USA

 

Wackerbaits - http://www.wackerbaits.com/

 

Big Carp Tackle LLC - http://www.bigcarptackle.com/store/home.php

 

Resistance Tackle - http://www.resistancetackle.com/

 

Scorpion Tackle - http://www.scorpiontackle.com/

 

 

 

Vendors Abroad – Europe and UK

 

Specialist Tackle - http://www.specialist-tackle.co.uk/

 

Leslies of Luton - http://www.leslies-luton.co.uk/

 

Tackle Box - http://www.tacklebox.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

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