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Carping in WA - The Fish - by Bill Marts

The Fish

Common Carp – Cyprinus carpio (no, not Di Caprio) was introduced to the USA in the early to mid-19th century through the early 20th century by Europeans for commercial harvest as a food fish. From private fish farms and intentional transporting, carp were introduced into our public and open waters. They fed on Chironomidae, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, crawfish, small fish, vegetation and detritus. That just about covers everything in our waters. They went forth and multiplied and thrived. They eventually fell out of gastronomic favor and were mostly regarded as “trash” fish.

It wasn’t until late 20th century that carp eventually revealed their savvy feeding habits, strength and sporting qualities to a few fly fishers. I am sure there were fly fishers on the water before the 1990’s who actually targeted carp on a fly, but they hid in the closet (closet carpers), ashamed to admit that they wanted to catch a carp on a fly. I couldn’t find anything written before the mid-1990’s, but I and my friend Darc Knobel started aiming for carp with a fly. It actually took several months to finally figure out the code to hooking them. We eventually succeeded and it has been an adventure ever since. We are constantly looking for better patterns, fishing techniques and new waters.

Since I live in Washington State, I can only attest to what we have discovered here since those early days over 20 years ago. I will tell you, in future posts, about the methods, gear and flies that have worked well for us, but I have a feeling it will pertain to waters everywhere. I also fished numerous Northern California waters for Carp with varying successes.

There are three types of carp we are concerned with in Washington: Common, Mirror and Grass. It is illegal to target Grass Carp in Washington. So, I don’t fish for them, and won’t mess with writing about them. The other two are fair game. See photos for Common and Mirror Carp. The first time I landed a Mirror Carp, I thought it was sick, so I didn’t touch it until I looked it up later. While they are not rare, they are uncommon.

Here in Washington, Carp become fishable in the spring when the ice is off the waters and the sun starts warming the shallow bays. Warming skinny waters next to rivers and around lakes invite early Carp.

I once started exploring waters of Banks Lake in early April for Carp and found them in a shallow bay. The water temp was 53 degrees F. They were feeding. They were not spawning yet. I was shocked to find them but had a blast taking advantage of the situation.

Here in the Northwest, the spawn starts taking place when the waters hit 60 – 65 degrees F. Depending upon water temps in different waters, carp will start sometime between mid-April/early May to full on in June and maybe into early July. The early spawning antics of carp include their gang-banging, female-chasing riots (6 – 8 males after a single female), they’ll usually take a rest sometime during the day, breathing heavy (having a smoke) and start all over again maybe two or three times during a day. After this episode of orgy behavior, that may last several days to a few weeks or more on big bodies of water, they are hungry and ready to eat. They are not impossible to catch during the spawn, but it takes patience and determination

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