SNYDER: For fishermen, the common carp can put up an uncommon fight


It's the scenario fly fishermen dream of.

I was standing in two feet of water, feeling the slow, easy current tickling the soft skin behind my knees. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement and instinctively made my cast. The bead-headed wooly bugger landed just 10 inches past my adversary.


With one fluid motion, the 12-pound fish turned, gulped and took off. Within seconds, the hooked fished took me into my backing. It was a fight that bent my seven-weight rod to the cork handle.

After half a dozen, leader-testing runs and a few mid-air flips, the tired fish was circling at my feet. I won. Mission accomplished.

I seduced, hooked and landed the fish I was searching for, cyprinus carpio the common carp.

I can hear the jeers and mumbles of disgust.

"Carp, why would you want to catch those ugly things? What kind of fisherman are you?"

Thanks to their disproportionately small head, mud-sucking lips and the fact that they're not from around here, carp have a bad rap. But just because they have a physique only their mothers could love doesn't mean they are not worthy of our angling attention.

If you've ever targeted the powerful swimmers, you know they're some of the toughest-to-catch fish out there. One wrong move and the fish you spent half an hour stalking will spook and disappear. Even worse, a startled fish will emit a "danger" pheromone that alerts all other nearby carp. Make one mistake, and you might as well call it quits for the day.

Because carp can be found in nearly all local waterways and are prevalent in large numbers, many folks mistakenly believe the fish are native to the area. The truth is, they couldn't be farther from home.

Carp are native to central Asia. They were brought to the United States in the 19th century to provide a cheap, hearty food source for a quickly growing country. It's because they're so hearty, the gold-colored fish (which are actually a large minnow species) can be found in any body of water from a backyard pond to the Susquehanna River.

Catching a carp can be quite a challenge, especially if you want to do it on a fly rod. Your best bet is to stalk feeding fish in ultra-shallow water. In areas with depths of two feet or less, look for the fish's caudal fin slicing the surface of the water. It's a tell-tale sign of a fish sucking its meal off the bottom.

Make a cast a foot or so in front of the target and there's a good chance the hungry fish will take your bait. Once hooked, you will be amazed at a carp's brute strength. Few of Pennsylvania's trout will expose the backing on your reel. A carp will do it before your jaw fully drops.

Few carp end up on the cover of fancy, fly-fishing magazines, but that doesn't mean they're not an adversary worthy of your time and effort. They're a challenging fish that are abundant and put up a fight worth bragging about.

Forget outdated stereotypes. Head to any local lake or river and hook into a carp.

Once you do, you'll be the one that is truly hooked.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at