The St. Lawrence River is one of the finest carp waters in North America. Those who know it gauge their success by numbers of fish over 30 pounds, and 40- to 50-pound fish can be expected. Still, the fishery goes unnoticed by most local anglers. Mark Jarvis is one exception.
"During May and June, overseas anglers compete for the best shoreline spots, largely outnumbering resident anglers," he says. "My wife Julie and I run a tackle store in Long Sault, Ontario, called Carpins, where we cater largely to carp anglers. The business is popular with overseas anglers looking to replenish boilie supplies and stay in touch with the latest big-fish gossip. We're also catching on with anglers in North America looking for specialty carp supplies.
"May and part of June are prime for most carp waters adjacent to the Great Lakes," he says. "Big fish are drawn shallow by warmer water, bringing them within reach of shore anglers. The carp are hungry after having eaten little throughout winter."
On the St. Lawrence, the Prespawn Period lasts into the second or third week of June. At that time, fish become preoccupied with spawning and show less interest in feeding. After spawning, the fish disperse, many of them moving out to deeper channel areas.
During summer on lakes Erie and Ontario, big fish wander in pods along the shorelines, while some smaller fish still inhabit back bays. The biggest carp apparently tolerate or even seek cooler, deeper water, exploiting different food sources than the smaller fish, such as the vast supply of zebra and quagga mussels.
"Getting at big fish on big waters can be a challenge for shore anglers during Prespawn and especially after fish largely leave the shallows," Jarvis says. "Long-range tactics are required, beginning with a heavy-power and medium-action rod measuring 12 or 13 feet. The rod usually has a 3-pound test-curve and can deliver a 4-ounce lead 125 yards. (Test-curve is the weight it takes a rod tip to make a 90-degree arc toward the butt of the rod.) The higher the test-curve, the heavier the weight that can be cast.
"A large-capacity reel filled with 50-pound braid (protection against sharp mussels) is used. Typically, it has a freespool feature that allows fish to pull line off the reel while it's in a rod stand. This prevents big carp from pulling the outfit into the water. Once fish are hooked, play them with a lightly set drag to prevent the hook from tearing out of their soft mouths.
"After making a long cast, reel the rig back towards you a bit," Jarvis says. "This removes slack and ensures that the lead isn't stuck in the mud. The heavy lead combined with braided line also transmits to the angler information about bottom type. You don't want your bait in a weed clump, making it difficult for fish to find."
Rod Spod — Strategic chumming enables anglers to attract and hold fish within an area. A rocket-shaped spod is packed with boilies, maize, hemp seed, or other loose chum particles. Once the spod hits the water, flotation at its end tips it up and spills the contents. When the spod's deployed, it becomes a target for casting baits near the chum.
Marker Floats — If multiple spods are required to chum an area, a marker float may be a better option: Cast out on a separate rod, it becomes the target. The idea is to keep the chum in a limited area. Once the chum's in place, the marker's moved so it isn't in the way while fighting a fish.
Another marker option, if you have a boat, is to drive a PVC pipe into the bottom so it sticks out of the water. The pipe is smooth and flexible, allowing the line to slide up and over during a battle with a fish.
PVA — PVA is short for polyvinyl alcohol, a water-soluble material in the form of thread, bags, or a sock-like mesh called a funnel-web. PVA products work only when chumming with dry materials such as boilies or tiger nuts.
Fill a piece of funnel-web, or use a baiting needle to thread a bunch of boilies onto PVA thread, and attach it to your hook. Once the PVA dissolves, a tight pattern of bait is lying beside your hook and bait. If one strand of PVA thread dissolves too quickly to cast, double up the thread. Also leave space between each boilie, or the water might not reach the thread to break the boilies apart.
When using a funnel-web, once you've tied off your bait, tie a second knot right away before cutting the PVA. The second knot is the start of the next funnel bag and prevents wasting thread.
Throwing Sticks — This is a tool for shooting boilies a greater distance with accuracy. Curved models tend to be easier to master; in skilled hands, straight models cast farther.
Long-Range Rig — Slight modification is required to the standard bolt rig to improve its performance at long range. Aerodynamic sinkers offer greater casting distance. A small piece of silicone tubing slipped over the knot on the tail-end of the barrel swivel protects it from being damaged during impact with the bottom.
Boilies — Few other fish show interest in this commerical bait, but carp have no trouble sucking them up and breaking them apart with the pharyngeal teeth located at the entrance to their throats. Boilies don't resemble anything that carp find in the environment, so it often takes time before they recognize them as food; yet boilies are made from healthy ingredients, which explains the carp's affinity for them.
Boiled Maize — Field corn boiled for an hour to soften it also is a popular bait for chumming. Probably because of its amino acid content, carp recognize it immediately as food, even though it doesn't have much nutritional value. Many anglers offer both bait choices, then gradually increase the boilie-to-corn ratio over time, as carp become familiar with boilies.
*Lonnie King is a fishery biologist and multispecies angler from Ontario, Canada.
Contacts: Carpins (Canada), 613/537-2248, carpins.ca; Wacker Baits (U.S.), 708/660-0866, wackerbaits.com.