For the past three weeks, I have been going down to the end of the wharf to check out the water level of the lake. The lake has certainly come up in the past few weeks.
Another thing I’ve noticed is all the carp that have come into the bay to feed on some sort of early insect hatch. I mention this because it is usually a big carp that wins the annual Salmon Arm Kid’s Fishing Derby.
A kid can have a lot of fun fishing for carp off the docks at the end of the wharf. So can an angler such as myself, never having really grown up.
According to what I have been able to find on the Internet, carp are members of the Cyprinidae family and inhabit fresh waters from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Russia. The common carp, which inhabit our Interior waters, is easily distinguished from other cypinids by the heavy and strongly serrated spines in the anterior portion of its dorsal and anal fins, and by the presence of two rather long, fleshy barbels on each side of its upper jaw. They are not a pretty fish by any stretch. Carp are omnivorous feeders, with a preference for chironomid pupae and damsel fly nymphs, as well as, other aquatic invertebrates, plankton and macro algae. When feeding, they tend to disturb sediments, thus increasing water turbidity and causing all sorts of problems for insects that inhabit the flora on the lake bottom. In their natural habitat and over their natural range, carp can live to be well over 20 years old, and can grow to reach lengths of up to 50 inches.
Sexually mature fish move into the warm waters of the shallows to spawn in late spring. One single female will lay anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 eggs.
There are any number of species of coarse fish swimming around in the waters near most wharves at any given time. Carp, suckers, peamouth chub and pike minnows (squaw fish) are but a few. Which again brings me around to the 18th Annual Salmon Arm Kids Fishing Derby, to be held Sunday morning, June 15 down at the end of the wharf. As in previous years, there will be a variety of coarse fish caught. However, as in previous years, the derby will be likely be won by the angler who manages to bring in the largest carp.
While some coarse fish may have certain preferences when it comes to eating, they also have an amazing ability to adapt. In my experience, one can pretty well guarantee finding a few course fish hanging around beneath structures such as wharves, docks and log booms, waiting for food to fall into the water. The tremendous variety of angling “methods” used by the hundreds of participants who take part in the derby every year only goes to show how varied the diet and feeding habits of carp and other coarse fish can be.
Everything from worms to dough balls to pieces of cheese can be used to attract coarse fish. Species such as pike minnows tend to be predatory, non-selective feeders, while suckers and chub, which have smaller mouths, tend to take worms over food sources such as bait fish. Carp, on the other hand, are both aggressive and opportunistic feeders who will feed on everything from micro-invertebrates to insect larvae and pupae to baitfish.
While it is more often than not a carp that wins the derby, there have been years when a large pike minnow has weighed in at top spot.
The trick isn’t so much how to get a big carp to take your offering, it’s more, what to do once you’ve got it on the line. My advice for any young angler who ties into a big carp at the derby would be to just hold on and reel like mad.