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Story 2018 Ten Days of Discovery

Page history last edited by Jerome Moisand 3 years, 7 months ago

Carp are everywhere! Ten days of discovery



Fall 2018


Various places in NY

See also NACA Winter 2018



It wasn’t planned at all, but during my usual fall road/fishing trip, I realized that I was going through an interesting discovery adventure, findings new spots and catching carp in very distinctive environments.  Here is a multi-part story that ranges from the smallest pond to the largest lake!


Day 0 (PM) and Day 1 (AM): ponds and large river


My first stop was partly aiming at a section of the Hudson River that I briefly explored while driving back from the junior tournament last summer. Proper shore access was very sparse, but I had found a nice park along the river, with lots of mussels on the shore and a nice river bend, and wanted to give it a try.


I arrived late afternoon at my Airbnb rental. I had noticed two ponds nearby and quickly went to explore them. Alas, there was no decent shore access besides an overused dock. Talking with one of the catfish anglers at this dock, he said that he knew a small pond in an industrial park loaded with grass carp. He showed it to me on the map, this was an hour away, actually on my way to my 2nd stop, I took good note of it. Being friendly with local anglers can be invaluable during a discovery trip.


Dusk was near, so I rushed to the park along the Hudson, did some quick plumbing (good depth, bad snags) and dumped a full bucket of maize + birdfood in a spot that seemed reasonably snag-free.


I was back in the morning; it was quite pleasant to fish there. After a while, I got a nice run, which turned out to be a fairly sizable (and very ugly) catfish. One more run and I discovered a new snag and lost what seemed to be a carp. Then I finally landed my first carp of the trip, 10 pounds or so. Two more runs went straight in the snag, so I shifted my rods by 20 yards on the side, and… this killed the action. After eating my lunch, I decided to move on.



Day 1 (PM) and Day 2: mid-size lake and big river lock


The second reason for which I elected to visit this area is that there is a lake where bow hunters regularly massacre 30 pounders and even the occasional 40. I knew that some CAG members gave it a try a long time ago. Google Maps and Google Earth showed very little public access, mostly the local boat ramp. I drove there mid afternoon and stumbled upon a big rowing regatta. Why do people get so excited about rowing on a very unstable boat while being screamed at by a totally obnoxious coach, I will never understand. I was grumbling and kept driving aimlessly around the lake. Surprise, I found a nice little park that I had missed on the map, with a nice cove on the side that looked great except for the lack of depth. I fished there for a few hours, nothing moved, I decided to throw a good deal of bait and come back the morning after. Which I did on Day 2 and… after three hours of nothingness, I wasn’t too eager to keep trying.



Running out of options faster than expected, I decided to go explore another river that intersects with the Hudson. After checking the usual green spots on the map that did not translate in any actual access, I stumbled upon a lock on the river. Cool, I didn’t fish a lock in years and this one looked good. Multiple anglers shared the same opinion and were fishing there. I dragged my gear farther away and set up three rods, one very close to the wall, one in the middle of the lock, the third very close to a big barge anchored on the other side. I was happy with my cast (repeated 3 times with success, a foot or two from the barge). One hour, nothing, then I heard the signal that the lock was going to open. And I got a timid run right then. It was a tiny carp, I lifted it instead of using my net, mistake, it fell back in the water. The lock opened, freeing a lot of water, this usually triggers bites, but not this time. After an hour, I got another timid run near the barge, and landed one of the smallest carp I ever caught. Well, this counts, I made it work! And that was it for the day. Mid-size lake: fail! Big river lock: mini check!



Day 3: tiny pond in industrial park


On the way to my next Airbnb rental, I stopped by the ‘grass carp’ pond. The weather was quite rainy, but I don’t have many opportunities to land a grassie, so I planned to set up my rods in three different areas of the pond (which was really quite small, everything was at casting distance). Well, I didn’t have time to set up the 3rd rod, I got a run. Which turned out to be a small common. Ok, why not. I landed two other commons and a catfish, then got a fish that started to zig zag. This was obviously a grassie, but… the hook pulled, aarg. I tried for 2 more hours and nothing moved, I probably chased all the fish to the other side of the pond with the commotions. I tried to set up a rod out there for a little while, but I had 3 solid hours of driving ahead of me and was tired of the rain, so I ended giving up on my grassie goal. Still, tiny pond, check!



Day 4: urban fishing in a canal; big lake


The rental place was on the shore of a large lake that I fished earlier this spring with good success. I had not perceived though that the access to the lake implied to go through steep and narrow stairs, ending up in an area terribly busy with docks (snags!), which didn’t look terribly carpy. Plus my host had no recollection of large jumping fish. Hm. 


Anyhoo, it was raining cats and dogs. I finally went out around noon, aiming at a bridge near the center of the local town. I remembered noticing this area when roaming around last spring, I could park the car under the bridge and fish a quay right there along the canal, this was perfect for rainy weather. I set up two rods and I landed a 10 pounder rather quickly. 



The weather cleared up, I caught the usual annoying catfish, grumbled and decided to go spend a few hours in a state park nearby, fishing the big lake in an area I discovered last spring. Three hours later, I was none the wiser. This area was loaded with fish in the spring, as it is a spawning area. I realized that it wasn’t obvious that fish would be there in the fall too… As I was deep in thought and short on fish, the rain resumed. On the parking lot, I noticed a guy holding rods. He was friendly and said that he was going to another local spot I didn’t know, and suggested that I follow. Sure, why not! A couple of miles later, he showed me an area behind a small dam. This didn’t seem terribly suitable, the water flowing quite hard. He said folks catch large carp and catfish in the ‘pool’. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but the rain intensified and chased us away. Big lake and dam: to be continued!



Day 5: dam basin and a small lock


I came back mid morning, having realized that the ‘pool’ was probably the water basin above the dam. I found access, I saw some fish rolling, this looked quite nice and I set up two rods. And got a run right away, landing a small dinky carp. I recast, I got another one, even smaller. And I smiled, thinking of the Big4 sign that I had printed in a local copy shop the day before, the lady thought it would be funny to print it on a double-size piece of paper and gave it to me for free – in addition to a regular printout. So I went to my car to get the big sign, recast my rod, landed another dinky fish in no time and took a fun picture.


This is where I realized that I was doing something quite cool, discovering new spots in very diverse environments and that my plan for the days to come would continue to add to the list. This wasn’t quite by design, but I decided to go with the flow.



Since I actually didn’t catch many fish in the past few days, I settled down for a while, catching one fish after another (I quickly had to downsize to a single rod). Ten dinky fish later, this was getting old. Another local angler had stopped by, obviously a tad disappointed that I was fishing this spot, but he remained gracious and moved below the dam. After wrapping up, I decided to be nice and go tell him that the space was now available. He was pleased, we chatted a bit and he told me that, two hundred yards further on the road, there was another branch of the same river with a lock.  


This turned out to be a very scenic and pleasant area with nobody fishing there and I decided to spend the rest of the day there. One rod close to the wall, one rod mid-way, what next? I watched the river for a little while and finally noticed some activity on the other side, close to a muddy outflow of sorts. So I cast there.



Nothing moved for two solid hours. I did notice a few carp jumping farther downstream though, so I took it easy and just read my book while watching the water from time to time. Then my ‘other shore’ rod got a run. A low teen, way bigger than the earlier dinky fish, I was pleased. I used my good old trick of always recasting to the hot spot, trying to be as precise as possible. With method balls, this can lead to hours of non-stop action if you do it right. It was a bit tricky in this case, as the river was wide and I was casting at 50 yards or so. Still, I made it work and landed six fish total. I got a couple of pulls on my other rods, but no fish landed.


Now think about it, I had a 10+6=16 fish day, from two very distinct discovery spots. I didn’t catch anything big, but this was a very satisfying day! Please note that without the friendliness of two local anglers (and me reaching out), I would never have thought to go fish in this area, which I had not noticed on the map. Dam basin and small lock: check!



Day 6 and Day 7 (AM): weedy small canal lake


Rain again in the morning, aaarg. Around noon, I reluctantly decided to go fish the urban bridge again, but the weather cleared up as I arrived. So I roamed around a bit and found a nice looking lake on the side of the canal. I did a bit of plumbing and it was surprisingly deep, at least 12 feet if not 15. I learned later that the lake was formed when the canal was built, as the area had a significantly lower elevation than the rest of the town (my Airbnb host knew all about the corresponding history, multiple houses were displaced before the area was flooded).


I set up my rods, two in front of me, one in the corner of the lake. 45 minutes later, I was very pleased to land a 22 pounder (and to record my first official Big4 catch). Two hours later, I was less pleased to have caught nothing else besides a stupid catfish with an over-extended belly, undoubtedly full of my maize. After running some errands, I came back near dusk and threw a full bucket of bait in there. I always wonder if this approach truly works, as I suspect that corn disappears in a few hours once carp (and catfish) find it and then they have plenty of time to move away overnight. I suspect this actually runs through a couple of cycles (they eat, they shit, they eat again!), their digestive system being so primitive that a good deal of the food goes quite straight! Still, I always add a good deal of birdfood when I chum at dusk, as such tiny kernels should keep them busy for much longer.


I came back in the morning, with a much nicer weather, and it did work, a big fish rolled in front of me, another one and I got a run in no time, a nice teen. Now the problem was the weeds. Not only did I have thick floating weeds along most of the shore (wasn’t there the day before), but also with the depth, when I had a run, the line was getting caught in underwater weeds. A trick I learned from Andy Phinn helped. Don’t try to lift your rod up, as your line then has to uproot the weeds. Back up slowly while holding your reel, keep the line low and horizontal, and the line (and the fish) has a much better chance of going through the weeds. This worked nicely for a little while, the fish were all muscular thick teens. I even had a double run and had to net both fish at once. Then the wind started to blow and the floating weeds made it truly impossible to keep fishing. Weedy small canal lake: check!



Day 7 (PM): the big lake


I just couldn’t decide to fish the shore of the Airbnb rental. But I couldn’t shake the idea of the state park. Yes, I know, I had already fished this area in the spring, no discovery here, but I just wanted to have some fun catching a few 20s. In the past few days, every time I drove along the state park after leaving the rental, I had stopped and chummed with a small bucket of maize and birdfood. This actually cost me a speeding ticket, as the area was limited to 25mph (ah come on!), and well, when you cruise while watching the lake, you pay less attention than the local cop dedicated to this speed trap. The charming police officer claimed I was going at 40mph, I seriously doubt this was true, but you can’t argue. Tourist tax. ARUMPH.


Anyhoo, this was my last day in this area, so after my success at the weedy lake, it was time to try the bigger lake again. I spent the afternoon at the state park and caught absolutely nothing, saw nothing, zilch, nada. Big lake: I royally failed while the 'bad luck' f*** cop got the prize.



Day 8, 9 and 10: great lake & tributary


My next stop was a fairly sizable city on the shore of Lake Ontario. The original plan was to fish for salmon with another CAG member, but due to health issues, he couldn’t make it. My new Airbnb host was gracious enough to let me check in early and I was in full discovery mode late morning while the weather had miraculously cleared up. I was flying totally blind, never been there, never read anything about it, didn’t do any homework besides a cursory look at the map the evening before.


My first instinct was “can’t really fish the great lake itself, fish the main tributaries or the harbors”. On the map, a river crossed the city and numerous parks were located along it. I started by a very green neighborhood near the local university, but wait, fairly straight river + university = row boats and obnoxious coaches. Plus the river had a really uninspiring color, very muddy. I kept driving and discovered that multiple parks downstream were actually quite elevated compared to the river, hence no real access. I finally got close to the mouth of the river, where hundreds of expensive boats were anchored all over the place, leaving no shore access. LOTS of floating money.



At the beginning of a very long pier, I finally found some space (and some anglers). I actually saved the fishing rod of an old guy who didn’t see/hear the pull on his flimsy rod that I grabbed at the last second (it was a nice catfish). Looking at the other shore, I noticed space and some sort of backwater. And a big current break in the entire area due to a protruding quay upstream. I drove there and settled in the middle of a group of salmon anglers who were a bit baffled by my fishing technique!


I had two rods in the backwater, plus one in the main river. I could see the occasional salmon jumping, this was fun, the local guys had no luck with them though. After one hour, I got a run on the river side and… lost it on a wooden pillar on the side. This got a couple of salmon guys curious, we started to chat and it turned out that they occasionally fish for carp with sweet corn on the hook when they get too bored. I asked about another pier a few miles away near a big bay that I saw on the map, they told me a 40 pounder has been caught there last year and that the water was much clearer out there. After a while, I tried to add more strawberry flavoring to my mix, as it was clear that carp had no visibility in this muddy water and could only find bait by scent. Maybe this did the trick as I finally landed a 10 pounder (on the backwater side). It was missing a gill plate, not hard to guess that it was snagged by one of those salmon lures… Great lake tributary: check!



The day after, I drove to the other pier in the morning and the configuration looked better, the pier was crooked in an ‘L’ shape and I could find some flat rocks to go down to the water to land fish. Still, I had troubles to believe that carp would stay there, in the middle of regular boat traffic. It rained all night long, the rocks were wet, no way I would fish there for now. So I chummed a bit, thinking to come back in the afternoon. In the mean time, I started to explore the bay, a very large backwater that looked really carpy. Long story short, the only (very limited) access I could find was occupied by marinas and the bottom of the bay was very thick with weeds and unfishable.


I drove back to the first pier to fish a couple of hours to try to land something before going back to the much more hazardous second pier. I added more sweet corn and flavor to my mix and this helped as I landed a lively mid-teen and a couple of more fish. The salmon anglers has one run total in the mean time and the guy lost a big jumping fish. Now that I had secured the fish of the day, I finally drove back to the second pier mid-afternoon, expecting it to be quite busy with salmon anglers. Surprise, nobody in sight and the rocks were dry. I threw some freebies, cast a rod and… ten minutes later, I had a muscular 26 pounder in my net and I was having a hard time to bring it up from the rocks to the narrow pier. To say that I was baffled is an understatement. I took a scenic Big4 picture, recast the rod, I just had time to set up the second rod when I got a second run. And as I was lifting the net and the fish, my second rod started to scream. What the heck? After awkwardly dealing with those two (almost losing my net in the water in the process), I downsized to a single rod, not wanting to kill myself on those uneven rocks. I lost a fish on an underwater rock and then things slowed down. A couple of other anglers showed up. I added a second rod and was immediately punished by a double take. I had to scream for help for another guy to assist, he was all too happy to play a lively fish!



The other anglers didn’t stay. I was alone again fishing a single rod while the rocks in front of me got wet from my netting activities. I was quite tired and figured that I’d better play safe, give it a day, throw a good deal of bait, come back in the morning and be more methodical.


Day 10. The grand finale. Single rod. Truly fishing the great lake (not a tributary or a harbor!). First cast, a run within minutes. Second cast, same thing. It kept going all morning, 9am to 1pm. Every time, I was throwing a full spoon of maize/birdfood to keep them busy, a new method ball and yet runs came within minutes. Two times, I didn’t even have time to put down my rod. Most fish were healthy mid-teens to upper teens, all big fighters. I also landed two 22 pounders, including one which dragged me all the way near the lighthouse, a good opportunity for a scenic picture.


A young angler from Virginia shared the experience for a little while, he was in complete shock by what was happening and had a huge smile when I gave him a run. It was the kind of day where your back and legs scream for a pause, where you don’t listen to them, except for the lunch break where you HAVE to put rods out of the water to get a chance to sit down and eat your sandwich. After 1pm, things slowed down, but I didn’t dare setting up a second rod, oh no. I finally got my last run of the day, the second 22 pounder. And then I had to drive 4 hours to my next stop, not before stopping for a coffee and a breather though, as my eyelids were getting heavy… Great lake/pier: big check!



Final thoughts


During those ten days, I found carp in a tiny pond, in a small lake and a mid-size lake, in an urban canal, in a large river, behind a big lock and a small lock, above a dam, in a great lake tributary and in the great lake itself. Only failures, the mid-size and large lakes, probably mostly due to lack of access and time dedicated to those venues. Besides the large lake state park, I didn't fish any of those venues before, nor do I know of a CAG angler having done so in the past few years. Carp are everywhere!


Although I fished very diverse environments, I never felt the need to change my rigs or my bait (besides adding more flavor for the muddy tributary). I just don’t believe the choice of bait makes a big difference in a non-competitive context. If they find food and are hungry, they will feed, period. The trick is really to find them, cast in the right spot and keep them active in front of you. Which does require multiple small adjustments and a good rig, mind you, but the concept of switching bait in hope of making a choosy carp pick a specific item from a fancy menu always seemed very dubious to me.


In the next few days, I’ll keep going with my trip, fishing known venues, including a very large river and probably face other challenges (e.g. mud and high water level). Tight lines!


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