Fishing for carp used to be one of my favorite summertime diversions. I would spend many hours on the water fishing for those huge bottom-feeders. But as smallmouth bass fishing on the Juniata River became better and better in recent years, chasing bass has occupied the majority of my summer fishing time. In spite of that, however, I still like to set aside a day or two each season to do battle with some of the big carp that also inhabit the river.
Carp are everywhere in most of the larger rivers in our region, so finding them is rarely a problem. The best places to catch carp are usually large pools or back eddies, and the slower the current, the better. Carp can also be caught equally well from the shore or a boat. I've always preferred carp fishing from a boat whenever possible and even have caught them from my kayak.
There are many schools of thought on the best tackle for carp. Larger carp are strong enough to put a real strain even on heavy tackle, but most experienced anglers like the challenge of subduing them on lighter gear. Using a rod with a reasonable amount of backbone is a good idea, both for putting pressure on the fish when it makes several long runs and to bring it back upstream against the current when it tires. A reel with a smooth, reliable drag is also an important piece of gear.
Some anglers use the cheapest gear they can find for carp fishing. That's because anyone who has fished for carp often enough usually has a story or two about a big carp pulling an outfit into the water before the owner could grab it. I must confess that years ago I lost two rods and reels in one summer when carp jerked them out of the boat virtually under my nose. Since then, I almost always hold my rod while carp fishing. If one of those bruisers wants any more of my equipment, he's going to have to pull me in with it.
The three favorite baits for carp would be night crawlers, dough balls and whole-kernel canned corn. I prefer corn. Night crawlers will also catch about every other species of fish in the river besides carp, so if you get a bite, it is more likely to be a fallfish, rock bass, catfish, or even a smallmouth. If I'm going to take the time to still-fish for carp, I want to catch carp.
I'm sure lots of folks catch lots of carp with dough balls, but I honestly can't recall ever catching one on dough bait. And I've tried several times. I bought prepared dough bait, and one time, a friend gave me some super-secret recipe, guaranteed-to-catch-every-carp-in-the-river dough balls.
The stuff smelled so good I was tempted to eat it myself and probably should have for all the good it did me. As a test, I fished with two rods, one baited with the magic dough and the other with my old, reliable canned corn. Every carp I caught that day took the corn.
Carp fishing can be a relaxing way to spend a day on the water in the summer. Few fish in fresh water get bigger or fight longer or harder. If you've never caught a really big fish on light tackle, a carp of 10 pounds or more will test your skills to the utmost.
Most of the carp I've landed from the Juniata range from 5 to 12 pounds, but I've caught a few over the years that were in excess of 20 pounds and took an hour or more to bring to the net. So if you are looking for a way to beat the late-summer fishing doldrums or just want to tangle with a big fish on light tackle, get a couple of cans of corn and go carp fishing.