Thursday, August 13, 2015

Carp on the Canal with a snakehead bonus

I got a couple hours yesterday to run out on the C&O Canal after some carp. I fished a different section than usual - from Georgetown to Fletcher's Cove. This is about a 2.5 mile stretch with minimal opportunity for true sight fishing (I'll get to what that means) outside of mulberry season, but lots of huge fish. Most of this section of the canal is too deep to see bottom, so the sight fishing here is really just finding "bank diggers," which are what I call the carp that are nosing against the banks looking for food. All you need to do is walk along the bank and keep an eye out for muddy water or slight surface disturbances emanating from the bank. The muddy water is the best indicator, but you usually can't see it as far away as the water disturbances. The water disturbances are easily seen and can be from the tail of the carp pushing water or even the back of the fish breaking the surface, but they can also be false alarms from sunfish or frogs. Either way, keep your eyes peeled even if you don't see either sign of a carp - some of them aren't mudding, but are still actively looking for food. Once you find the mud, look for the fish before doing anything. Once you locate the fish, you usually get one shot to drop your fly in front of it's mouth.

You might seen some other obvious signs of fish that are in the middle of the canal (air bubbles from when the carp takes a mouthful of silt), but that fishing gets tough since you need an indicator and have no idea how deep it is out there.

Yesterday, I saw 6 fish total, but only bagged one. I started out with the carp fly I typically use on the Potomac. I spooked the first two, then pulled the fly out of a fish's mouth. After I spooked one more with the Potomac fly, I switched to my normal, unweighted C&O special. The very next fish I saw ate and I got a good hook set. Without even slowing down, he took me out to about 25 yards of backing deep before I could turn him. After another 5 minutes or so, I brought him to the net and he weighed in at just over 9 lbs on my scale. Pardon the terrible carp selfie - no one passed by for me to get to take a picture again.

As a bonus, on the way back to my car, I saw what looked like a bait ball you would see going after pelagics, but with really small reddish-orange fish. Peering in, I saw a snakehead. I quickly switched over to a clouser minnow, dumped it into the fray, and got startled to all heck when I saw a second snakehead come out of nowhere and slam my fly. Unfortunately, the fight with what would have been my first ever snakehead was pretty short lived and my line broke after about 15 seconds. I lost sight of the second snakehead and couldn't draw one back out and elicit another strike. I later learned that what I saw wasn't actually a bait ball, but was almost certainly a snakehead "nest" of their fry. Apparently both the mother and father guard the fry and the strike on my fly was to protect the fry themselves. Pretty cool! The quality of the picture is mediocre since it was with a cell phone through my polarized glasses. Hopefully next time I'll have my big camera with the polarized lens on deck.

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