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Once-Maligned Carp Coming On as Coveted Catch
AUSTIN, Texas — Pity the lowly carp no more.
Maligned by serious sports fishermen for decades as a trash fish, the common carp, or “sewer trout” if you will, may some day rival largemouth bass as the most popular sport fish in Texas, according to carp aficionados. That may be a bit far fetched, but at the very least, the common carp could be part of the answer to hooking the urban masses on fishing.
That was the question posed by Phil Durocher, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries director, when he briefed the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission about “Fishing for Common Carp — Is This the Future for the Urban Masses?” on April 6.
Durocher called carp fishing a “growing phenomenon” in Texas and the United States, whose devotees often invest up to $3,000 for fancy carp fishing rigs to try to land what fly fishing enthusiasts on the East Coast call the “golden bone,” a reference to the coveted bonefish.
It turns out there’s some serious money in dem’ bones. If you don’t believe it, just ask Denton native Al St. Cyr.
On March 30, St. Cyr, who lives in Austin, reeled in a 43.18-pound carp from that city’s Town Lake during the Texas Carp Challenge. That state record-setting feat earned St. Cyr a $250,000 payday from the American Carp Society, the largest prize ever earned by a carp fisherman in the U.S. Contestants came from 19 states and as far away as England and Romania.
Historically speaking, the Asian fish species was swimming in European waters by the 13th century. Since then, Europeans have come to regard the lowly carp as highly as Texas anglers do the rabidly pursued largemouth bass. It has been said that the common carp is the world’s most popular freshwater sportfish.
The common carp was first introduced to the U.S. in 1877, and to Texas in 1881. According to Durocher, Texas’ first fish hatchery was established at Austin’s famed Barton Springs to raise, you guessed it, carp to stock Texas lakes and rivers. Today, Austin’s Town Lake ranks as one of the nation’s two world-class carp fisheries.
Durocher said there are avid carp anglers and carp organizations dedicated to promoting carp fishing as a popular sport. One is the Carp Anglers Group that boasts 746 members, including the president who’s a Texan.
Those who carp about the oft-derided species cite its proliferation in polluted waters and its tendency toward overpopulation, which increases water turbidity that restricts sunlight and negatively affects bass, crappie and other sport fish. And, its detractors point out, the carp, which comes in many varieties, is a non-native.
But, Durocher pointed out that the carp is one of the most widely distributed fish species in America. They are fast-growing, he said, and can live for more than 40 years. The world record carp — tipping the scales at 82.3 pounds — was landed in Romania.
Almost all carp anglers fish from banks, not boats, which means easier access to fishing opportunities, especially for people living in major population centers. In addition, Durocher noted that carp, which spawn from March through September in Texas, respond well to chumming and bait-and-hook presentation.
“The potential for carp fishing is considerable,” said Durocher, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division director. “We need to be prepared in Texas if the sport takes off.”
To prepare for that possibility, Durocher says fisheries staff members are meeting with carp fishing groups to see what the agency can do to help promote carp fishing. Fisheries biologists also are looking into carp fishing tournaments in Austin to try to get a handle on what kind of economic impact potential such tourneys present in Texas.
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