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You are here You are here The Red Mill Inn News 2007 News 2006 Archive - Story  Story

Carp Catching On

By J. Michael Kelly , Staff writer 
July 23, 2006
Carp Catching On


It was a familiar sight, to anyone who has ever watched chinooks and cohos porpoising at the surface of a rain-swollen pool before continuing upstream toward their Salmon River spawning grounds.

But this was not Pulaski, and those were not salmon.

No, this was downtown Baldwinsville, and the big, powerful-looking fish that had plastered a died-and-gone-to-heaven smile on the face of Katsuyoshi Fukuyama - "Katsu" for short - were carp.

A week after a daylong downpour saturated most of Central New York, the Seneca River was bulging with foam-topped runoff currents, and the massive carp that feed in languid pools for miles downstream had made a mad rush to the rapids and eddies below the impassable dam above Syracuse Street.

Fukuyama, a fishing tackle purveyor and designer, was in the United States for a combination of business and pleasure. The work part involved a stop at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) trade show in Las Vegas. Carp angling in Baldwinsville was the pleasurable part.

Wednesday afternoon, his local guide, Mike McGrath of Liverpool, had helped him rig up with a 12-foot rod and three tangerine-colored doughballs, or "boilies."

McGrath flipped the bait to the edge of a foam-flecked current tongue and handed the rod to Fukuyama. Within 10 seconds, the rod tip wiggled, then began to buck.

"You got him, Bud," said McGrath. Or did the carp have Katsu, for just a minute there? Either way, the angler gradually took charge, bending the rod into a C-shaped curl and leading the fish downstream to a spot where McGrath's assistant, Tom Bielhauer of Liverpool, could net the potbellied prize.

"Nice job there, Katsu," said McGrath.

The fish Fukuyama targeted is one that many American anglers openly disdain.

Although carp are revered by anglers in most of Europe, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa, they have long been viewed as "trash fish" on this side of the Atlantic.

Ironically, much of the contempt for carp arises from one of their strong points, that is, their ability to thrive in a wide variety of aquatic habitat, including badly polluted lakes and rivers. It's a case of guilt by association, for carp do not cause pollution; they merely withstand it.

In recent years, perceptions of carp have been slowly changing, as more Americans come to appreciate their wariness and the powerful battle they put up when hooked.

News media coverage of European-style carp tournaments, such as the world championship contest held last summer at Waddington on the St. Lawrence River, has played a big part in that evolution. Some American tournament participants and fans have taken advantage of the situation by starting carp-guiding and outfitting businesses that target international tourists as well as local carp-chasers.

McGrath, who recently launched his McGrath & Associates Environmental Recreational Firm, first contacted Fukuyama through the latter's business Web site,

"That helped us get around the language barrier," said McGrath. "But when Katsu comes back next year, I'm going to arrange for a translator."

Although he speaks almost no English and occasionally had trouble understanding McGrath's pantomimed explanations of tackle rigging and use, Fukuyama left no doubt how he felt about our local carp fishing.

The smile that erupted whenever he hooked a fish - on virtually every cast during a long, hot afternoon - said all the guide needed to hear.

"He had a blast," McGrath said. By his tally, Fukuyama landed more than 20 carp, the heaviest of the lot being a 27-pounder.

McGrath and Bielhauer, who won the junior division crown in last year's international derby at Waddington, did a little fishing, themselves. Altogether, the three anglers figured they caught more than 40 carp. Most weighed between 10 and 20 pounds but several were in the mid-20s.

"Many of them were still spawning," said McGrath. "That's about a month late, compared to the rest of Central New York."

McGrath, Bielhauer and Fukuyama had permission to fish on a posted piece of property behind the Red Mill Inn, but there are plenty of other good spots along the Seneca River to tie into big carp, including the Lions Club Park and the eddies just downstream from the Syracuse Street bridge.

The best time to connect with a few whoppers, according to McGrath, is just after a heavy rain has elevated the water level. In other words, right now.

Kernels of uncooked sweet corn, softened by a good soaking in warm water, are particularly good for carp, as are molasses- or strawberry-flavored boilies. English-style anglers thread such baits on wire, leaving their single-pointed hooks uncovered; and they cast with rods 10 to 15 feet long.

Fortunately, Americans not in the know about such nuances can bait up for carp the same way they would for bluegills, trout or any other fish and catch their share, too.

The natives who give carp fishing a try in the Seneca River or some other Central New York waters can expect some company. McGrath said Fukuyama is planning to tout Baldwinsville fishing in his future advertising campaigns, and he expects other Japanese anglers to check out our local trout, walleyes and bass, along with those coveted carp.


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