East Tennessee Outdoors: Carp – the ugly half-brother

Published 2:43 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2020

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It had been a frustrating day. My father, brother, and I had fished hard all day on Watauga Lake and had very little to show for our efforts.

As we trolled by a rock cliff that I knew held a monster smallmouth bass, my pole rocked with a solid bite. I fought the monster for what seemed like forever and knew I had just hooked an eight- or nine-pound bass.

Slowly the fish gave in to my hook and line and came to the boat. It was a mud-ugly carp that probably weighed 15-20 pounds. I was called the trophy carp king after that!

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Carp. Some may call them the ugly half-brother to the rest of the fish in an average lake. It is ugly, will damage a lake, has a misshapen head and mouth, and tastes like mud when you eat one.

They are an invasive species because of their impact on shallow lakes and wetlands. Their feeding kills rooted plants and makes the water muddy.

They emit phosphorus that causes algae and reduces the water quality of almost any body of water. This phosphorus kills aquatic plants needed by waterfowl and fish.

Now West Tennessee has the Asian carp also. This is a species that does even more damage than the common carp.

The Asian carp is agitated by the engine of a boat, and they will jump out of the water and sometimes into your boat causing injury to the driver or passengers.

The only positive for this extremely ugly fish is that it is fun to catch. If you want to fight a big fish, go carp fishing.

In the spring they can be found in very shallow water as they come into the shallow coves to spawn.

Just remember the fish you are attempting to catch may be huge. The largest common carp on record weighed 100 pounds, but though you will not catch one that big, you can count on catching one weighing 10 pounds or larger.

Use a large rod with at least a 12-pound line to maximize the fun of catching these fish.

There are baits that work well with these big carp. Use natural baits such as nightcrawlers, corn, or even dough balls.

If you want to use dog food for bait, that will sometimes work also, or some people make special baits that they insist drive carp wild.

If I catch one, I usually put the creature back to grow larger because I do not want to kill something and not eat it. I will not eat a carp unless I happen to be starving. The problem is I have never found a way to cook a carp that eliminated the “fishy” taste to it.

There is an old joke about the carp that tells the best recipe for cooking a carp for supper. It says to take an average-sized carp. Place the cleaned and skinned carp on a small piece of wood.

Salt and season the carp fillets to taste. Cook the carp on the piece of wood for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the carp and piece of wood out of the oven.

Throw the carp away and eat the wood because it will taste better.

That is how I feel even though there are people around the world that eat carp and insist it is a good food to eat. Maybe one day I will find a recipe I like and actually enjoy eating a carp.

Carp fishing can be fun especially for children who have never caught a big fish. Take some dough balls or a can of corn and give it a try. You might catch a monster!