Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring carp, redhorse, and suckers

I've been diligently watching the water temperatures of one of my favorite rivers in southern Wisconsin. Last spring I took careful notes about the water conditions each time I went fishing, so this spring I had a good idea of when the carp and suckers would show up. Yesterday afternoon, everything looked perfect, so I made a trip down to the river to see if the fish had arrived. A one ounce sliding barrel sinker, swivel, one foot leader, and a #8 octopus circle hook was my rig of choice. Bait alternated between nightcrawler halves, red worms, and wax worms. When I arrived I could see carp and occasionally a quillback cruising in the shallows, so I knew it would be a good day. Here are a few of my catches.

Common carp male (Cyprinus carpio) - notice the milt dripping off his anal fin

Common carp female (Cyprinus carpio)

Shorthead Redhorse male (Moxostoma macrolepidotum) - tubercles on the anal fin and lower tail

White sucker male (Catostomus comersoni) - also has tubercles on the anal fin and lower tail

And lots of milt dripping out...

I'm not trying to keep this spot secret, but I'm also trying to not advertise it as a spot for killing carp and suckers.  I'm not opposed to bowfishing or spearing in order to put food on the table, but I've personally had negative experiences with people trying to shoot the exact fish I was trying to fish for.  I have yet to see someone take their kill home - they either end up dead on the shore or tossed in the nearest open garbage can.

As some of you may remember, I am a strong advocate for eating non-native fish. I am also a strong advocate for NOT leaving undesirable fish on shore to rot. The redhorse and suckers are native fish, so in order to encourage their successful reproduction I released them unharmed, after taking a few pictures. The carp, however, are not native fish, and so they went home with me, destined for the dinner table. The word invasive is often used to describe the common carp, but this is not actually true. These carp were intentionally introduced to our waters by the government in the late 1800's. They have thrived ever since, and tend to compete strongly with native fish species. Carp have a reputation for tasting nasty. I'm not quite sure where this idea originated, perhaps because carp taken from polluted waters tend to taste bad. I would venture to guess that desirable fish such as walleye and perch taken from polluted waters would also taste bad. Carp taken from clean water, and prepared appropriately, taste perfectly fine. So, to set an example that hopefully others will follow, I took the carp I caught home.

Eight common carp, each around 3 to 4 lbs.

Common carp simmering on the stove. (the other fish will get frozen or pickled)

A delicious meal with common carp as the main course.

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