Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grass Carp

Grass Carp Alabama White Amur Photo

Relatively few fishermen have ever caught a grass carp in Alabama waters. There are several reasons for this. They are not found in all freshwater. They don't eat the same food as other freshwater fish, so they don't take the same bait. Even if they are hooked, they are extremely difficult to land with the same fishing gear that successfully bags panfish, bass, and most catfish.

The white amur (grass carp) is a member of the minnow family. It was imported to the United States from Asia in 1963. White amur are stocked in farm ponds to control aquatic vegetation. Many states have made it illegal to import these fish because of their ravenous appetites. Some environmentalists are convinced that the fish can actually eat so many weeds that they can become a threat to wildlife habitat.
Two Varieties of Grass Carp

There are two varieties of grass carp, diploid white amur and the treploid white amur. Conditions are not present in farm ponds and lakes for the diploid white amur to reproduce; however, these fish often travel to rivers and large streams where they can reproduce and become a problem. White amur will instinctively seek flowing water, so pond owners usually screen spillways and streams to prevent escape.

The triploid white amur is a genetically altered fish incapable of reproduction. Many states that have outlawed the diploid will allow the stocking of triploids, with proper permitting.

The white amur can live for up to 10 years and reach a weight of 40 lbs. They start feeding each spring when the water temperature reaches 68 degrees. These fish can consume up to 5 times their body weight every day, most of it vegetation.
Big Hook With a Heavy Line

White amur are not very hard to catch, provided they are spotted first. They swirl the water when feeding, often coming partly out of the water. Carp bait can be purchased at tackle shops and even some mass merchandisers. I buy it at my local Wal-Mart. Some fishermen catch white amur with vegetation on a treble hook. Others use kernels of corn.

Use a big hook and a heavy line because these fish are very powerful. I use a saltwater rig. Set the drag loose and leave the bail open. When the carp takes the bait, let him run for a few seconds and then set the hook. These are powerful fish, but they aren't great fighters considering their size. Once they are hooked, they generally don't make huge runs like a big bass would. Keep the line tight and reel in during the moments that the fish is not running.

Bowfishing  for grass carp is becoming more popular, but unless the fish are considered pests where you are fishing this is not a viable option. Carp can survive the trauma of being hooked, but arrows are going to be certain death. I personally wouldn't feel good about killing one of these monster fish. I always release them.
Edible, Even Tasty - But Who Eats Them?

It is usually a waste of time to fish for these fish with traditional game fish bait, but I have hooked a few with worms and a cane pole while fishing for bluegills. The few times that this has happened, I was in a 14 foot aluminum boat. I have held on for as long as 45 minutes, while being pulled from one side of the pond to the other. It is impossible to get a large one in the boat with a cane pole and a bream hook. Either the hook is going to straighten or the pole will break. I always end up with a straightened hook.

The white amur is edible, said to be even tasty, but everybody that I know releases them. In Asia, they are choice table fare.

Where to Catch Grass Carp

Unlike native freshwater fish, grass carp are not going to be found just anywhere, They are found in many small, privately owned ponds near Gulf Shores, but could show up in any body of freshwater. The best way to find grass carp is to gain access to as many privately owned lakes and ponds as you can. This is not as difficult as it sounds - sometimes all you have to do is ask. Not all pond owners are going to allow you to "mess with their pets," but others are going to let you catch and release.

In larger bodies of water near Gulf Shores, they are going to be more difficult to locate, but when you find them once, they probably will not be far away from that spot the next time you fish there.

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