Fish of a Lifetime: A Rare New England 40-Pound-Class Mirror Carp
The first weekend of October, I had plans to go on a three-day fall carp-fishing trip with my friends Richard Jansak and Chris Lessard. With carp fishing, the hard work comes before the actual fishing trip, or as carp anglers call it, the “session.” There are a lot of steps to carping before fishing your spot or “swim.” The first thing to do is to scout out the right swim. We had in our heads one spot that appealed to us. This area was a narrower part of the river we were fishing, and we figured the bottleneck would give us access to any carp swimming by. The location also put the deeper river channel right at our feet, and just up river from us we had a small eddy that was a lot shallower than most spots around it. It was basically a hump that came up in the river, and this screamed “big fish” to me. Fish would be able to retreat into deeper water and access the eddy area to feed whenever they choose to.
The next step is to chum your swim, or what we call “pre-baiting.” Pre-baiting brings fish into the area, and it also conditions the fish to the baits you will be fishing. If it is done right, you can weed out the smaller fish from the bigger fish. Bigger fish do not like to compete with smaller fish for food. They will be attracted to the sight of smaller fish feeding, but they will stay at the periphery and let them eat first before moving in to feed on the scraps.
A week before fishing we started baiting the area at the same exact time every day until the following Thursday. On Sunday, we threw out boiled particle baits that included chick peas, chufa seeds, a small amount of hemp seed, and deer corn in the channel. Particles tend to attract a lot of smaller fish. Later, we threw larger boilies on top of the shallower hump for the bigger fish to feed on. We repeated this for four more days, reducing the amount of bait so we did to not fill them up. We noticed that when we started, most of the fish we spotted were feeding in the main channel, where we threw the particles. As the days went by, we noticed more and larger fish up in the shallow eddy.
On Friday, it took a while to set up the gear needed for three days of fishing. Richard set up down-river to get a few quick bites from smaller fish. I was set up partially up-river with a few rods scattered in both the channel and the hump in the eddy. Chris was set up just to the side of the eddy to get any big, lazy fish avoiding the current. That night, the fishing was insane for Richard and me in the main channel, with mostly smaller fish but a few up to 25 pounds. Chris had a few fish on, but they had snapped him off. One rod I had right on top of the hump went off late into the night, and it was a beautiful mirror carp that weighed 29 pounds and 7 ounces. My theory was correct, and I started to gain confidence.
The next fish was a 31-pound common carp, and I was stoked about that one. As soon as the sun came up, I set up both of my rigs to fish the shallow hump and focus on big fish.
Through the morning, we had carp up to 28 pounds, but nothing giant. However, later in the morning, I had a pickup that was ripping line off my bait-runner. I flipped the bait-runner and the drag started screaming. After a 5-second run, the fish popped off. I knew it was a giant, and I wasn’t happy, but I controlled myself and got back out there. In only a short while, my carp alarm screamed off like a banshee. This fish had picked up a giant 24mm Coconut Carp Maxx boilie. I picked the rod up, and the fish went on a 100-yard run down river. When it slowed, I tried to lift the rod and only heard my line stretch like a rubber band. I knew at that point it was a significant fish.
I was only able to get the fish off the bottom by reeling down fast and pulling up slow as possible . When I finally saw the fish, it was just one big orange flash, and I don’t think I have ever been so happy in my life. It still took about 5 more minutes to finesse the fish into the net that my friend Chris was holding. I had Richard bring over my landing mat and we put the fish gently inside. We put the fish into a retention sling so it can revive itself before we could take the weight and take a few pictures.
When I took the sling out the water and placed it onto the landing mat, I slid the fish out and noticed its size for the first time. I had landed a 43-pound 6-ounce common carp this past spring, and I had a feeling this mirror carp was close to that size. I lifted the fish in the sling and it weighed 43 pounds, 5 ounces. It was 1 ounce away from my PB (personal best), but it was special because it was a 40-pound-class mirror carp, a rare beast in New England.
Now it was time to release the beast and watch it swim away to possibly become a rare 50-pound carp. I thought about how a fish that big could be close to 40 years old, or twice my age.
By the end of the weekend, I’d experienced, by far, my best session of all time, and it was only my second session of the fall. As a group, we caught four fish over 30 pounds, including the 40-pound mirror carp. It was the trip of a lifetime.