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The Quest for Carp

By David Figura, Outdoors editor
May 13, 2007
The Quest for Carp


Competitors will bring their special rigs and baits for this week's local tournament

American Carp Society co-founder David Moore says it's all about treating the bottom-feeding fish with respect. "I know we may sound like elitists, and maybe we are," he said. "Fish care. I can't stress it enough."

Moore, tournament director of this week's Northeast Regional carp fishing competition in Baldwinsville along the Seneca River, set up a few fishing rigs earlier this week behind the Red Mill Inn in Baldwinsville. He illustrated the finer points of catching and releasing carp, and talked about the sport he loves and hopes will someday take off in this country.

The soft-spoken, 41-year-old Oklahoma native and financial investment adviser, said he grew up on a steady diet of bass fishing, occasionally hooking a carp in the 6- to 8-pound range. "But then in my late 20s I started catching them in the 20-pound range," he said. "I knew then I'd never go back to bass fishing."

Driving the country in a white Chevy Silverado with a license plate reading "BIGCARP," Moore has competed in numerous regional, national and international contests. He said carp fishing in Europe is a multibillion-dollar industry.

"That's where all the innovations in this sport comes from," he said. "The Europeans make the Americans look like cavemen in this sport." Has he ever eaten a carp?

"Never ate a carp, never ate a bass," he said proudly. "I hate cleaning fish. If I want fish to eat, I go to the market."

Here's how it's done

A short distance from shore behind the Red Mill Inn, a number of carp are schooling just below the dam. Fins break the surface here and there, seemingly every 5 to 10 seconds. Moore emphasizes what he's about to do "is not fishin' - it's just catchin'."

He produces from his truck a bucket half-filled with cornmeal and other ingredients. He squirts pineapple extract into it and adds water. He mixes it all up to a paste-like consistency.

He rigs up his line on a 12-foot pole, which cost $250, and a special $200 reel. Behind him is a carrying case with more than a half dozen poles and reels. He proudly shows off his electronic line alarms, which alert the fisherman when there's a fish on. This week's competition calls for 50 straight hours of fishing in the same spot.

"It's like in the carpentry trade," he said. "If you want to get the job done, you have to have the right tools." His line rig is multi-faceted, including about a foot of thin rubber tubing to protect the line, and a plastic-encased bell-shaped sinker, with about a foot-long leader.

He then shows the "hair rig," which will be used by most of the fishermen. Attached to the hook is about an inch of line that's threaded through a "boilie," a small, round dough ball that's been soaked in a special solution. The rig consistently hooks the fish on the lips, he said, allowing only minimal injury.

Moore reaches down into the bucket of cornmeal paste, grabs a handful and fashions a small hard ball of the stuff around the sinker. He then carefully casts the setup into the water, producing a cloud of the cornmeal on the surface. "That attracts them," he said.

Be careful with the fish

In less than 30 seconds, he's got a fish on. He lands it in a huge special net. He brings the fish on land and places it on a wet, plastic "unhooking mat," where he carefully dislodges the hook from the 17-pounder's lips. "Touch them as little as possible. If they start flopping too much, you cover their eyes with your hand," he said. "That settles them down."

At this point, he carefully rolls the fish onto a wetted sheet with handles, attaching the sheet and the fish to the hook of a scale. He weighs the fish and carefully returns it to the water. Moore emphasized that next week's two-person teams - several from Europe - will be allowed no more than two poles apiece, one hook a pole.

"No death rigs," he said, referring to multi-hook rigs, or those that tend to snag easily on the rocks or branches. "And no treble hooks. If you hook them, it hems the fish's mouth shut."

Moore said competitors use a variety of techniques and scented bait. "There's so many different approaches, you can catch them on strawberry pop and Wheaties."

Just then a tractor trailer pulled up to the Red Mill Inn parking lot and the driver opened the back door. A 3-foot-high pallet of "Aqua Feed" is unloaded for storage at the inn.

Moore helps the driver unload the cargo.

"It's the French team's bait. They sent it ahead, " he said.


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