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updated: 6/6/2012 5:00 PM

Opinions on carp are mostly a matter of perspective

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  • Outdoors columnist Mike Jackson insists there's nothing quite like battling a Midwest carp, and he doesn't understand why more anglers in the United States don't appreciate carp as much as European fishermen do.

      Outdoors columnist Mike Jackson insists there's nothing quite like battling a Midwest carp, and he doesn't understand why more anglers in the United States don't appreciate carp as much as European fishermen do.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer/File


I'll never forget a trip to the sub-Arctic some years back when I stared at a handful of photos that made me gasp.

It was over dinner and wine when an angling duo from Europe handed me the photos after I shared how I was planning some fly rod carp expeditions back in the states.

One of the Europeans was pictured standing in a stream cradling a massive carp. The other chap then showed me a photo of himself topping his pal's catch.

"We usually get fish weighing over 35 pounds," he bragged.

Both were kind enough to convert the weights and measurements from metric to U.S. standard.

Once back in the confines of my office, I thought how sad it is that so few American fishermen hold the common carp in high regard.

And the way some angling acquaintances have talked about that species, I truly believe those detractors would rather spend a small fortune for a terrible restaurant meal than admit to their buddy they went carp fishing.

I know I've told you this in the past. When I lived in Elkhart, Ind., I often waded Christiana Creek. In the mid-1960s, this somewhat pristine stream held jumbo smallmouth bass and huge carp.

I was a big live-bait user and advocate then, and my "weapon" of choice was the Canadian night crawler.

A wispy Heddon ultralight spinning rod, a Luxor spinning reel spooled with monofilament of an unknown origin and pound test, a leaky pair of hip boots, and a pocketful of tiny hooks adorned with a small bronze spinner in the front was what I had to offer. That was my setup. There wasn't anything fancy about it. It stood up to the jumping smallmouth and raging carp that snatched my night crawler from its peaceful, lonely existence.

And then I felt the pull of stubbornness. I felt the electricity of opportunities. The aged mono line zipped off the spool, despite my adding constant pressure with turns on the drag.

In those days, I often carried a small scale called a DeLiar. I brought the carp to the net and weighed that brutish bugger. It weighed slightly over 4 pounds.

And it was one of the best battles I ever had.

But because I was hooked and hungry for bigger and more action, I carried on with Minnesota River and Lake Minnetonka battleships that ran me ragged.

There are far too many people who refuse to acknowledge the ability of a Midwest carp to turn a grown man into Jell-O after a give-and-take, seesaw fight for survival (on the fish's part).

Friend and expert bait caster and fly fishing guru Paul Melchior uses some of his free time to prowl Lake Michigan shoreline, from Chicago to Door County. He is able to spot carp cruising just off the bottom, and in more cases than not his hand-tied fly usually sparks interest from at least one big carp.

I did some fly fishing with Melchior in some exotic places, but he is quick to point out that fly rodding for big carp is truly a rewarding adventure.

Many choose to use a medium spinning rod and 10-pound test so they can claim victory.

So, I ask you: Why do Europeans hold this fish in high regard? Why are American anglers turned off by the prospect of fighting a big golden beast of this nature? I can't and probably will never attempt to answer my own questions, even though I have opinions and suspicions.

Of course, I can guess that most of my angling brethren may be embracing a touch of snobbery. Perhaps they are embarrassed to admit they had fun horsing a big carp to the net.

Whatever their reasons, fewer the anglers where I fish means a better chance of me hooking a real bruiser.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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