Here’s a photo of yours truly, editor of TROUT magazine, grinning over a common carp. Have I lost my mind? (A loaded question.) I don’t think so. In fact, I’m seeing more and more instances where the growing interest in carp fishing can be beneficial to trout and trout anglers.
Are there situations where habitat competition/damage pits carp against trout? Absolutely. Are some carp species threatening waterways like never before? Yes. On a personal level, would I trade my 4-weight and sell my soul to carp? Heck no.
But before we start bandying about phrases like “trash fish” and “invasive species,” consider that the common carp was just as much an invited immigrant to this country as the brown trout. Like the browns, carp were introduced in the late 1800s, primarily to serve as a sustainable food source at a time when fresh fish were hard to catch and ship. The fact that carp can proliferate and survive just about anywhere is a credit to the species, and a curse to certain others.
On a larger level, however, I cannot help but believe that all fishing is good fishing. In this day and age, the more we get people out from behind desks and television sets (and kids from behind the controllers of video games), that’s a good thing. The more anglers, the more people who care about habitat. If that starts with carp, great. I’m not saying that carp will be gateway fish for future trout anglers, but then again, I’m not ruling that out.
And there are already some solid examples of trout anglers leaning on carp for positive effect. The Denver chapter of Trout Unlimited is gearing up for yet another “South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam” to be held this August 25. I’m excited to be taking part, because proceeds from that event go right into the grassroots TU mission of cleaning up the Platte. This year’s event is sold out, but you can still donate through that link.
I also just returned from Lake Henshaw in California where a eclectic group of anglers–from offshore shark chasers to bass fishermen, and indeed, plenty of trout purists–got together for another carp tournament, and conservation was a top-of-mind topic.
I’d love to see more of these events around the country.
By the way, there’s one other reason not to completely write off carp. Learning how to catch them, especially with a fly rod, will make you a better angler.
Carp Unlimited? Not hardly. They don’t need our help anyway. But the trout we care for dearly just might benefit from a broader vision of angling that involves carp, and we’re in the right place at the right time to pull that off with effect.