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Game Fishing > Minnow Family, Cyprinidae > German Carp
The carp was described and named by Linnaeus in 1758. Its original home was in China, and from thence it was introduced into Europe, and from there to America. Since the introduction of the carp into the United States, it may now be said to inhabit every state, having escaped from the ponds in which it was placed at first, into almost every stream, especially in the Mississippi Valley.
The dorsal fin is single, extending from the middle of the back nearly to the tail, highest in front. In the typical scale-carp the scales are large, there being about thirty-eight along the lateral line, with five rows above it and five rows below. But domestication has greatly altered the squamation; thus in the leather-carp the body is naked, with the exception of a few very large ones on the back; in the mirror-carp there are a, few rows of very large scales.
The coloration is as variable as its scales. It is usually of some shade of olive or brown, with golden lustre, darkest on the back, with the belly whitish or yellowish.
In Europe the carp hibernates, or remains dormant during the winter, burying itself in the mud of the bottom with its tail only exposed. In America it seems to have abandoned this habit almost entirely, especially in the more southern waters. It is not strictly, if at all, a herbivorous fish as has been alleged, but stirs up the bottom of ponds in search of minute animal organisms, rendering the water foul and muddy.
It also devours the spawn of other fishes, though some persons contend that it does not, which is absurd, when it is considered that almost all fishes are addicted to this natural vice. I know from my own observation that the carp is not exempt from the habit. It grows to a length of two feet under favorable conditions. One of twenty-four inches will weigh about ten pounds. As a food-fish it ranks below the buffalo or sucker.
I have no love for the German carp, but as it is now so plentiful in most waters, especially in the Mississippi Valley, and is constantly increasing in numbers, it may be well enough to devote a small space to it as a game-fish. It is a very poor fish at best, and as the poor we have always with us, we will never be rid of it. In England, where it has existed for centuries, it is considered a very shy and uncertain fish to catch; and the larger the fish, the more difficult to circumvent. The best success, and the best is very poor, is met with on small, stagnant ponds, with comparatively small fish.
English anglers use a small quill float and split-shot sinker, allowing the bait to just touch the bottom. They then stick the butt of the rod in the ground and retire out of sight of the fish, watching the float meanwhile. They use for bait, worms, maggots, and pastes of various kinds, and usually ground-bait the "swims" to be fished, a day in advance.
Where the carp are large, five or six pounds, the rod, reel, and line recommended for blackbass fishing will subserve a good purpose. A leader three feet long, stained mud color, must be used, with small hooks, tied on gut snells, one of the best baits is a red earthworm.
I think the hook can hardly be too small; number 10 or 12 would probably be more successful than larger ones, as the fish is apt to eject the bait at once upon feeling the hook concealed in it. And this is especially important if such baits as bread paste, hard-boiled potato, or boiled grain are employed.
The carp has a peculiar mouth, and feeds much like the sucker. It draws in mud and water and food together, strains the water through the gills, expelling it by the gill-openings, and probably macerates the residue by means of the tongue and the cushiony lining of the buccal cavity before swallowing it. During this process of mouthing the bait the fish is very likely to discover the hook, if large, and eject it. When once hooked, the fish is not to be lightly esteemed. The angler will have all he can attend to with a light rod in a weedy pond, or even in clear water if the fish is of large size.
As most other game-fishes may in time disappear before the Asiatic carp, the analogue of the Mongolian boxer, it may be well and prudent to learn some of the ways to outwit him. In China and Japan the carp is considered before any other fish for food, and is emblematic of strength, vigor, and other good qualities. It is a custom in Japanese households, upon the birth of a male child, to hoist a flag representing a carp, in order that he may grow in strength and all manly attributes. In England the carp is not much liked. On the continent of Europe it is considered a good food-fish, but it is confined in clear running water to deprive it of its earthy flavor before it is marketed or eaten. It is likewise kept within proper bounds, although it has been cultivated for centuries. In the United States, however, it has spread over the Mississippi Valley and elsewhere from overflowed ponds until it bids fair to become a nuisance, inasmuch as our waters seem to be particularly suited to it.
I have experimented with carp fishing, but I think the results were never twice alike. A great deal depends on the condition of the water. In ponds that are kept constantly muddy by the rooting of the carp, it is difficult for them to see the bait, and they must then depend on the olfactory sense to find it. This may take a longer time than the patience of the angler will admit. When the water is clear, as on a stream, the carp is too apt to see the angler, and being naturally a shy fish will not go near the bait under these circumstances. There is then nothing to do but to fix the rod in the bank and lie down beside it, or behind a bush or screen, until the moving of the float announces the hooking of the fish.
By using a small float, fine line, and very small hooks, and a variety of baits, as earthworms, boiled grain or vegetables, pastes of various kinds, and a good stock of patience, one may eventually succeed in taking a few fish; but the game is hardly worth the candle.