Get the Carp Out

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Last weekend was the annual Carp Derby sponsored by the St. Marys Rotary, St. Marys Eagles, and the Lake Improvement Association. The purpose of the tournament was to remove as many carp as possible from the lake in an attempt to improve the water quality. It’s a fact that the estimated 1600 tons of GLSM carp cause lots of problems. They affect sport fish spawning beds and aquatic vegetation, produce nutrients from their waste, and increase the internal loading of chemicals with their bottom feeding activities. Affecting the overall carp population is an impossible task. The carp is a tough fish capable of surviving in the harshest conditions.  On average, a large female carp can lay 100,000-500,000 eggs in a single spawn. The fish also have a long life span, have no natural predators, and are rarely sought by anglers. No doubt that the effects that this invasive species has within lake and various freshwater systems can be significant.

It’s interesting how this carp tournament and similar ones are looked at by the public. Some say that the prize money could be spent on more effective projects. Taking three or four tons of carp out of a 13,000 acre lake is insignificant. There’s another faction of fishermen who hold the carp in high esteem. So much so, that in their tournaments catch and release is mandatory. What’s even more interesting is that this attitude is prevalent in the majority of the world. It’s not uncommon to see comments in some of the carp associations’ chat rooms calling catch-and-trash carp tournaments primitive, unethical, and immoral. It’s not hard to understand these feelings when big carp or worth big money, good carp fishing is hard to find, and belonging to a carp fishing club can be as expensive as an exclusive country club membership.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For example, in this country carp are trash and bass are the king of fresh-water sport fish. I remember the days when a fisherman caught bass to eat and thought nothing about walking around with fish on a stringer. Then, tournament bass fishing took off and suddenly it was important to follow the practice of catch and release. The fisherman who took a bass or two home to eat was a savage. It just wasn’t right to kill such a wonderful fish. In reality, many tournament fishermen feel that one more single fish swimming around might make the difference between first and second.

Meanwhile, in Japan, bass fishing has a special following and the boat and tackle companies take full advantage of that. The catch and release policy is only followed by the bass fishermen while the Japanese government considers black bass a nuisance species. On Lake Biwa, which could be called Japan’s Lake Champlain (165,000 acres, max depth 340 feet and the lake where the black bass world record was tied), anglers aren’t permitted to release largemouth bass. All must be kept and killed. Also, the Japanese fisheries people recently began a “harassment and interdiction” program in known spawning areas. While some guides, pros, and manufacturers have permission to catch and release bass on Biwa, it is not the accepted practice. To beat the law, most fish caught by bass fans receive a boatside release.

Can you imagine a catch-and-release carp tournament in this neck of the woods? It would be received with as much negativity as that generated by the black bass and its supporters in Japan. In reality, however, having a catch and release carp tournament might have some benefit…if the price is right. First, the creation of a whole new sport could draw in a lot of tourism traffic. Next, catching and releasing 25, 50, or even 100 carp would have little if any effect on the ecosystem of GLSM. Finally, presenting carp fishing in a different way might increase the number of carp fishermen which in turn could get even more carp out of the lake. If I were a tournament carp fisherman, I’d definitely release a 20 pound fish because that could eventually put money in my pocket. Meanwhile, I would be taking a lot of the smaller fish and introduce them to my garden, shrubs, and trees.

Regardless, the local carp derby ended last weekend, and a total purse of $6000 was distributed to the winners in various divisions. Fish were weighed in at the first shelter house along the East Bank. This carp tournament is good for the lake since it draws attention to the water quality problems we have. If I had a complaint, it would be that carp removal should be a continuing process not just something showing up once a year. I like to carp fish. They’re great fighters, and a fisherman can learn a great deal going after big fish.  It makes little difference if you’re a catch-and-release carp fisherman or one that promotes catch-and-trash. Each has its own benefits and problems. The bottom line is that carp should be fished for by all anglers, especially the newcomers. What you do with the fish is your own business. In the long run, neither choice will have a great impact on GLSM water quality.

world record carp caught in Hungary