OPINION: Sportfishing for carp?

MOST Aussie anglers don’t have much time for carp. These introduced fish are generally regarded as noxious pests that destroy our inland rivers and compete with prized native species such as Murray cod, yellowbelly, silver perch and the endangered trout cod.

There are literally billions of carp infesting our waterways and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent trying to eradicate them. To most of us, the only good carp is a dead carp.

But to anglers in Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world, carp are a fantastic sportfish. There are more magazines, TV shows and competitions revolving around carp than for any other fish. The tackle industry supporting the carp fishery is likewise massive. It is truly difficult for an Aussie angler to comprehend just how big carp fishing is internationally.

Just this week Fisho was contacted by the organisers of a US-based online carp fishing competition. This comp is international and the guys from The Online Keep Sack (see details at were pretty surprised to see a major increase in entries coming in from Australia. They were also impressed with the size of the Aussie carp being sent in. “Was carp fishing a big thing Down Under?” they wanted to know. “And would Fishing World be interested in helping promote the comp?”

At first I was pretty disparaging. I explained that carp are considered a terrible pest over here and that it would have been much better for our rivers and native species if they’d never been introduced to our waters. The TOKS guys understood that, but I think they were taken aback by my anti-carpist attitudes.

This probably isn’t hard to understand. Believe it or not, in other countries carp are highly revered. They are a high status sportfish, always carefully released and treated with what appears to be semi-religious respect by the anglers who specialise in catching them. When I explained that standard issue treatment of a carp over here is that it’s hauled out of the water, given a good belt on the head with a large rock and then thrown up on the bank, there was a shocked silence down the line.

I’ve had arguments with a couple of Pommie mates about carp. They argue that we (Aussies) are heathens in our callous treatment of carp. Instead of disparaging them and treating them harshly, we should embrace the carp as truly great sportfish and learn to love them.

This is an interesting debate. Like it or not, it seems highly likely that carp are here to stay. Unless the “daughterless carp” project being run by the CSIRO is successful, it’s unlikely that we will ever eradicate them from our rivers and streams. If that’s the case, should we accept defeat and learn to live with the carp?

There’s always been an underground carp fishing culture in Australia. I’d argue this has been driven by ex-pat Poms. Coarse fishing is enormous in Europe and the technical intricacies involved in the rigs and baits used in this highly specialised form of fishing are definitely interesting. There is much to be learned about presentation and tackle from coarse fishing exponents. But the elephant in the room is the attitude these anglers have towards carp. More precisely, that they view them as a catch & release sportfish.

I have caught a few carp in my time and have seen some absolute monsters in the upper Shoalhaven River and also in the Macquarie River, near Hill End in the central-west of NSW. I’ve caught a few medium sized ones on fly and found them to be tough fighters. But I gained no particular pleasure or excitement from catching them. It just didn’t feel right. I felt a sense of vindication after knocking them on the head with a rock – killing those carp made me feel like I was doing something good for the Aussie environment. Truth be known, it probably made no discernible difference – there are so many carp in these rivers that the efforts of carp-killers like me are but a drop in the proverbial ocean.

But even though my efforts in disposing of those carp probably has no real environmental benefit, it would require a major behavioural change for me to actually even consider releasing one of these rubbery-lipped imports.

C&R is the premise of all the various international carp comps; all the carp mags and TV shows show carp being lovingly treated and gently returned to the water after taking a maggot or boilie bait. Carp aficionados here in Australia lobby behind-the-scenes for a similar mentality to prevail.

What do you think? Should we embrace carp as a sportfish and take advantage of their undoubted fighting abilities? We have an untapped resource of carp – truth be known, we could probably dominate the world in terms of offering some pretty amazing carp fishing action. Major tackle companies could bring in specialist carp tackle and baits. I could rename Fisho as Carp World. TV shows dedicated to carp would be hosted by any number of motor-mouth presenters.

All this is possible – as long as we accept defeat in the carp war. Personally speaking, I just don’t know if I can do that. I don’t have an issue with someone catching carp and enjoying themselves – but I would find it very hard to accept deliberating releasing a carp so it can go and make yet more carp and thus totally clog our rivers with the mud-sucking vermin.

I guess those last few words indicate my sentiments about carp. I have tried to look at this issue with an open mind and take in all the various perspectives circling the carp debate – but at the end of my deliberations over the past few days I find that I have an ingrained antipathy towards these horrible slimy ugly fish. To me, the only good carp is a dead and rotting one. By all means have carp competitions but my view is that those comps should be based around a catch and humanely dispose ethic – definitely not catch & release.

But that’s just my personal opinion. What do YOU think? Check out the TOKS website. Would you want to take part in an international C&R carp comp? Should we reverse our prejudices towards carp and join the rest of the world in revering them as an iconic sportfish? Or, like me, do you enjoy hearing that solid thunk as a lump of granite connects with a carp’s skull?

Let us know!

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