Usually, they’re called carp, but other names include bugle mouth, sewer bass, and some that can’t be printed here.  They’re maligned as destroyers of game fish eggs, bottom rooters that murk clear water, fish with few enemies, but wonderful reproductive success, so much so that an accidental introduction in a farm pond can see that pond swarming with carp in a few years.  In fact, these yellow-brown fish with their underslung mouths and whiskers are basically the only species in Ohio that has a worse reputation than sheepshead, at least among most anglers.

But that’s not so for avid Mansfield, Ohio-area fisherman  Shawn Woerlein, and his friends among the Carp Anglers Group (cagstaff@carpanglersgroup.com), a national organization with a local membership that’s steadily increasing, and where Shawn served as Ohio Chairman in 2005.  “I just like to carp fish.” Shawn said, “and I rarely fish for anything else.  They’re an untouched fishery in the U.S.  which is geared for bass fishing with big tournaments, crappie events, etc.  And you can carp fish in almost any lake and catch some.”

Shawn had other reasons for seeking carp.  He noted that a four pound carp could beat the socks off a four pound largemouth, fighting-wise, and that they were a super kids fish, one that was plentiful, fast biting, and hard scrapping on light tackle.  “Kids love them.”  He has a point.  The first big fish I ever caught was a seven pound carp taken in the Big Scioto River, and I nearly wet my six year old pants before I finally landed the fish.  What a thrill!

Woerlein doesn’t just head for some local lake or river and toss in a worm, though the method will catch you carp.  He knows that in Great Britain carp are the No. 1 game fish, and Brits have developed some excellent techniques for taking the big ones, so he follows closely their methods.  For example, he uses a 3 way swivel on lines end with 8-10 pound mono and a No. 4 or 6 hook on one eyelet, and a half to one ounce sinker on the other attached by a rubber band.  If a fish breaks free, which big ones sometimes do, they’ll only have to contend with the hook, since the sinker quickly breaks off.

Bait?  He follows British tactics on that, too.  His favorite is “boilies”, round doughballs  which he buys from RoyalBaits.com in Georgia or from WackerBaits.com in Chicago.  “I probably have 300 pounds of boilies at the house” he said, and I have them in every flavor from mulberry to tiger nut and strawberry jam to pineapple/banana.”  He also experiments with making his own doughballs and boilies, using corn flour and Bisquick mixed with water to make a thick dough, then adding anything from vanilla to grape jam for flavoring.  Rolled into balls they become doughballs, dropped into boiling water to harden, and they become boilies.

He rarely uses nightcrawlers since they attract mostly smaller fish, but is willing to turn to canned sweet corn when nothing else is working.  Carp love sweet corn.  Shawn believes in baiting too, to attract lots of carp, and routinely will buy a bag of shelled field corn, boil it soft, then shoot slingshot loads of corn into an area he’s fishing “to get their heads down.”

If you’re wondering what this carp hunters largest fish so far is, it’s a 27 pounder caught at East Harbor State Park.  East Harbor is a great place for carp fishermen, so good that his group, which meets and fishes each month, once took over 800 pounds of fish there.  He likes northcentral Ohio lakes, too, his favorite being Charles Mill which has great numbers of fish, including many mirror carp.  Shawn recommends fishing an area across the bay from the marina or an area due south of the marina that’s shallow and mud bottomed.  “But you can catch some almost anywhere.” he said.

Does this angler eat his catch?  Never.  He returns every fish taken, but said he’d heard that smoked carp were good.  He’s right, especially when the fish are just 1-4 pounds, no larger.  But carp can be eaten fried too, again young fish that are filleted and the “mud streak” or lateral line removed.  I can personally testify that taken from clean waters  they’re as tasty as white bass and white perch, though not nearly as good as an 18 inch walleye or yellow perch.  Catch a few this summer and give them a try.  You might be surprised.

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