Anglers have mixed feelings about the Carp. Most of them don't like him, although he's fun to catch on the right tackle. And he's not bad to eat when he's skinned and the narrow band of pink flesh that runs along each of his sides is cut out before he's cooked. As a matter of fact, as a food item he tops all other fresh-water fish. Originally a native of Asia, and related to the common Goldfish, he has spread throughout the world and has become a major source of high-protein nourishment to people of every continent. In the United States alone an estimated 20 million pounds of Carp are marketed annually, although fish-eaters consider him too soft and bony to be a delicacy. The trouble with Carp from the angler's standpoint is that he chokes out other game fish. He not only competes with them for live food when he becomes large enough to grab it with his small mouth, but he spends most of his life as a vegetarian, digging up plants to nibble on their roots and thus destroying the vegetation which other fish need for refuge and spawning. And his digging stirs up the bottom mud and silt, making the water too dirty for cleaner species. His greatest sin is probably his habit of searching for and feeding on the roe (eggs) of other fish. The only way to get rid of him once he's become established in a lake or pond is to poison the water to kill all the fish. Then, when the water has again purified itself, it can be stocked with game fish.
Whenever you have a few minnows left over after a day of fishing, don't dump them into the lake! There might be some Carp among them and if so, you'll be planting the seeds that will eventually destroy all the lake's game species. You'll never be able to get rid of the Carp by catching them on fishing tackle. Even the commercial netters take only a small percentage. The reason is simply that the Carp is probably the most intelligent fish you'll ever meet! And the most difficult to deceive! Actually he is one of the greatest challenges to your ability as an angler.
In this country his weight averages between 2 and 5 pounds but 50-pounders occasionally are taken. His Asiatic cousin, the Mahseer, grows to 400 pounds. He is a solid, large-scaled fish with unusual teeth—they're in his throat. Growing from his small mouth on each side are two short whiskers, or "barbels." His color depends upon where he lives. In waters with sand, pebble or rocky bottoms he's usually a silvery-yellow, almost the color of brass. In muddy waters he turns various shades of green, brown or black.
In a river or lake that contains Carp, they're apt to be feeding anywhere. But since they aren't dummies, you'll have to make an extra effort if you expect to outwit them. Start by selecting a certain spot where you can see bottom, and "bait" this spot for a week or longer with chopped vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and turnips. Don't drop them on the water; they'll spread too far as they sink. Place them in a pail, lower the pail to the bottom, then up-end the pail to dump them in a space about one foot across. The Carp will find them. When you discover that your bait is disappearing, you'll know the Carp are visiting it, and that's the time to go fishing. But first observe from your quiet, anchored boat how cautious they are. A Carp will mouth a small piece of vegetable a dozen times, spitting it out quickly each time, before he makes up his mind to swallow it.
For tackle, use a strong glass fly rod and a 9-foot leader of thin monofilament. A heavy leader will make him shy away. Your hook must be small, about a No. 12 or smaller, and your best bait will be doughballs. Make these by taking heavy bread dough, or the center of fresh-baked bread, and rolling it into pellets the size of large peas. Mix thin fibers of absorbent cotton in with the dough so the pellets won't dissolve quickly in the water. Also add some honey, sugar or anise oil for scent. Of course you can use bits of vegetable for bait, too, but Carp seem to be especially tempted by bread dough, and it is more durable and will stay on the hook longer.
Embed your small hook in a doughball so it's completely hidden and cast it close to your baited spot. Add a small split-shot sinker on the leader if the current tends to move the bait away. The slightest twitch of your line means a strike; jerk your rod immediately before the Carp rejects the dough. When he's hooked, lead him away carefully into shallow water so he won't disturb the other feeding fish. He'll come peacefully, as yet unaware that he's in trouble. But be ready when he reaches the shallows—that's when the fight starts. And a big Carp is as strong as a bulldozer. Fight him slowly, trying not to make a fuss that will alarm the others. If he swims back to his companions, move around and lead him off to the other side before putting rod-pressure on him again. With luck in keeping the peace, your homemade fishing hole will pay off with several more Carp in succession before you have to let it rest till another day.