Trophy fish right outside your door
For the Nevada Appeal
If you are an avid angler living in western Nevada and dream of catching a fish more than 10 pounds in the next two months, you may be in luck. My fishing buddy, Mike Phillips, from Gardnerville, called me a couple of weeks ago, excited about catching a 16 pound fish. I introduced Mike to fly fishing for carp back in 2007 and he has been hooked ever since.
He is one of many anglers who are discovering the enjoyment of fishing for big carp. Mike couldn’t tell me where he caught that big fish as he had promised not to disclose the location to a long time fishing partner. These guys are serious about their secret carp spots.
Carp have a sordid history in the Silver State. They originated in Europe and were planted in the 1880s under the direction of the Nevada State Fish Commissioner, H.G. Parker. He was quoted as saying, “So far I have only been able to distribute fish in localities immediately on the line of the Central Pacific and Virginia and Truckee railroads.”
Mr. Parker was aided in his endeavor by the U.S. Fish Commission, which distributed carp fry from the East Coast in a specially designed fish stocking railroad car. The carp stocked along the railways of America thrived.
In less than 10 years the hardy carp had become very unpopular with Nevada anglers. In waters where they became established, they muddied the water, destroyed vegetation and out competed more desirable fish like trout and bass.
Though the flesh of these fish is tasty and firm, they have many bones which make eating the fish challenging. Fishery managers still battle carp where ever they might compete with native or game fish.
In most western Nevada waters located below 5,000 feet, carp are common. Carp, like coyotes, are here to stay.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that American anglers began to show some appreciation for this beefy whiskered fish. Several national fishing publications addressed the virtues of fishing for carp. As a fisheries biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, I was aware that carp are plentiful and bigger than most fish I could chase with a fly rod or a spinning rod. These fish can be caught on many different fly patterns. The key to catching them is finding them when they are feeding. If you see a big hog carp and he is loafing along the shoreline, chances are you won’t catch him.
Feeding carp have specific behavior that is easy to identify. The most common feeding is called tailing. Carp tail in the morning when the water is calm. They feed in shallow water, sucking food off the bottom. You will see their tails near the surface. If you place your fly within a couple of feet of a tailing carp, he will investigate it. With their rubbery mouth and sensitive whiskers, the carp will pick up anything that could resemble food. The take is very soft and it helps to have an indicator. I position my indicator one and a half times the depth of the water where the carp are feeding.
A common wooly bugger or snail pattern works well for tailers. When the indicator shows the slightest movement, set the hook and hang on for a wild ride. In shallow water, these fish will run a long ways, often stripping your flyline down to the backing on your reel.
The other feeding behavior is known as cluping. This occurs when the water surface is calm. Carp will feed in groups of from three to 30 or more, sucking the surface of the water. Essentially, the fish are vacuuming food caught in the surface film. Use a small size 12 dry fly like a parachute adams with a four-inch dropper, attached to a small beadhead pattern. Cast near the carp and let the fly drift into the group. Set your hook when the dry fly disappears. If you set gently and coax your fish away from the feeding carp you may have another chance at the same group of fish.
In the sloughs and ponds along the Carson River and Truckee Rivers, carp will feed in the afternoons when the cottonwood seeds are falling on the water. This occurs in late May and early June. It is during this time when water temperatures rise above 65 degrees and carp are actively feeding. The best time to pursue carp is from mid-May through September.
Places I would recommend chasing carp include: the Truckee and Carson Rivers, Lahontan Reservoir, Sparks Marina, and the regulating reservoirs of Lahontan Valley. To learn more about flyfishing for carp check out the NDOW clinic scheduled in Fallon on June 20. Call the Department of Wildlife at 688-1559 to register.