This, my friends, is my first carp of 2014...and it is my first mirror carp!
As always, there are stories to tell...
Our research associate asked for our absence at the lab on Friday since we were having a lab inspection. I was home looking outside at a beautiful day. I had been working for 2 weeks straight putting in almost 10-12 hours each day. You know that grumpiness starts to emerge when you are stressed and been away from the water too long.
Dave mentioned that he had seen Gizzard Shad along the lake recently. I wanted to try again for these very annoying fish. They are annoying because their diet consist of everything that we cannot possibly imitate - zooplankton, detritus, and algae. In the winter, due to the lack of food, they are a little less picky and they may occasionally take nymphs and even a small worm. But the key is to find a concentration of shad.
When I arrived, Dave said he had already caught a 30lb carp and lost a mirror carp right on the surface. Dave knows his carp here, so when he's having success, I'm not about to forgo that opportunity to get on a hot bite!
I set up my carp rod and let it soak while figuring out how and what to present to these shad. Before I even attached a float on my shad rod, the baitrunner was already sounding...I hadn't even chummed the swim!
Using 8lb mono only, I had to play the carp carefully over this zebra mussel encrusted bottom. The best thing to do was to pull the carp toward the surface and to prevent the fish running the line on the bottom.
While Dave was getting the net, his rod went off. DOUBLE!
Dave's fish was obviously larger than mine, and I heard him said it might be a 30 (pound fish). So now we have an issue. We were fishing on a steep wall that was 5 feet above the water. Dave had a net with 4 feet handle so he must lie on the ground to reach the fish. We were fishing on a very narrow strip of land where we had a fence behind us, and a rusted railing in front of us. The ground we were standing on was one half iced and one half muddy. On top of the ice and mud was enough goose dropping to make all of it slippery and foul. Dave had to get down to lie on this mess while trying to land those carp.
We have one decent fish and one husky one that wanted to run into each other. If the lines were to tangle, that would be a complete disaster. The situation was made further desperate when we discovered my fish as a mirror carp and I had never caught one before. Dave wanted to land the mirror carp more than I did! I made a suggestion...let's get these carp under control, and when they seemed calm enough, I'll hold both rods while Dave get down to net one fish, get it up the wall, then net the other.
My smaller mirror was more cooperative but it was on 8lb mono. Dave's bigger carp was on 20lb mono but it was headed toward a floating tire buoy anchored by a chain. Somehow, I managed to turned my mirror carp into the waiting net on the first try. We got it up the wall, unhooked it and put it on the carp mat and with one foot preventing the carp from wriggling back into the water, I turned Dave's carp several times before we got it in the net.
As I was unhooking the mirror carp, I noticed a second leader and hook on this carp. It was Dave's rig! We were both surprised since a hooked carp rarely come to back to the same swim. It was even more remote that the carp would bite again on the same day...never mind the same hour!
The picture of my mirror carp is above. But I really want to show you Dave's piggy! We weighted the fish in the net and the carp was 40lbs!
This was the first time I've seen a true 40!
After this excitement, I wanted to get back on my Gizzard Shad hunt. Although the shad were present, we didn't find anything resembling a concentration. There were the odd loose school or a pair lazily swimming around. Once in a long while, a shad would surface but there is no consistence to where they would surface and what they were, if at all, taking off the surface. I thought perhaps they were taking emerger since there were a few caddis around...but after drifting nymphs through the water column at different depths, including subsurface, it seemed like a really steep uphill battle with so little shad around.
Instead, Dave and I put more focus on the carp. In total, we landed 9 carp - Dave landed 6 (40lb, 30lb, 25lb, 21lb, 10lb, and 7lb) and I landed 3 (mirror, 12lb, 15lb).
The 12lb baby
The 15lb model
We got off the water just before sunset. For a 4 hour session, that was a hell lot of fun! I guess I could have caught more carp if I were to put more effort into chumming my swim, but I was always looking out for those shad and having the shad rod ready when I see them. Dave was hoping that I would break my PB today, but I didn't catch one over 25lb. I'll go back to put more time at this spot in the future and hope to get a 30...or perhaps a 40...in the future.
I've had a tough icefishing season. I wasn't able to fish as much as I liked...and it seems, aside from a couple of exceptions, I always fished on the slow days. It was simply enjoyable to cast some rods into open water again and get them bent!