Carp on the Mighty St. Lawrence
The 3rd and final leg of my fishing adventure with Mile’s Hilton-Barber involved fishing for Carp on a section of the St. Lawrence River that is now known as St. Lawrence Lake. The Lake was formed with the construction of several dams and locks in the 1960’s to allow ships to pass between the Atlantic and the five Great Lakes. This time Alain Danis and Mark Macie were our guides, and Jeff and Marian Vaughan, owner and operators of both the Canadian Carp Club and the Long Sault Motel, were our hosts for the next three nights.
We left Ottawa at 3: a.m. in order to secure a prime swim on the banks of the St. Lawrence. The spots Alain and Mark had in mind were still available when we arrived at 5: and by the time a van and three other cars pulled up at 6: we had already landed and released our first Carp of the morning.
Our fishing technique and gear involved 12-foot Carp rods and large capacity reels equipped with bait-runners that permitted the fish to pull drag easily off the spool triggering the audible bait alarms. Each alarm was set to a different tone so Miles and I could distinguish our own rods from the others. 80lb PowerPro was used as braid is the only line capable of withstanding the countless miniature razor sharp Zebra Mussels that line the river bed.
Bait involved threading jumbo corn kernels on to a short section of line that trails just behind the #2 hooks. A large sinker (2-4 oz) positioned 6”-8” ahead of the hook, served to set the hook when a Carp would slurp up the corn, feel the prick of the hook, attempt to spit out the hook and then bolt from the seen. The tug caused by the sinker is enough to securely set the hook making hook-setting unnecessary. Once the line started peeling off the reel and the alarm was buzzing, we had only to lift the rod off the rest, disengage the bait runner on the reel, and begin playing the fish.
The morning bite that day was quite active with the majority of that day’s catch being caught by 9: a.m. This included two Carp in the teens for Miles, and a 33lb 8oz Fish for me, my new personal best.
Alain had brought his portable BBQ and camp stove which meant a hot breakfast, lunch and supper was enjoyed by all with no interruptions to the fishing. Total caught on day one equals eight Carp.
We packed up at 8: that night and headed back to the Long Sault Motel where Jeff and Marian Von were busy serving up a feast of their own on the front lawn of the motel to their 30+ guests for the weekend. They were all there for one thing – to catch Carp, and had come from across Ontario and the U.K.
Day two didn’t look very inviting with the morning weather calling for continuous heavy rain. Instead of setting up and getting soaked, we elected instead to go exploring on the U.S. side for the morning. By noon we were back and fishing, with Alain catching his new personal best, a 35lb 2 oz Carp, which was a Mirror to boot. We caught a total of ten that day.
Mirrors are Carp that for some reason never grew many scales, which are the size of apples. They will have a few, but they are mainly just shiny silver. Leathers are Carp that have no scales what so ever, and a Linear is a Carp that has a single row of scales in a line on each side of their bodies.
Jeff stopped by our swim that afternoon as usual to check if we needed anything and to find out how we were doing. He showed me a way to introduce an audible marker into my line so that I could make casts at a consistent distance.
A lot of loose corn is introduced to the fishing area throughout the day, and being able to place your casts within the chummed area is crucial for maximum action. Once a fisher has determined the area, they plan to bait up using a spodding rod, a short 6” section of braid can be tied on to the main line after the spod has been cast out.
A spod is a cylinder with an opening at one end and an air cell at the other. The spod is tied to a very stiff fishing rod, filled with loose corn and cast out. When the spod hits the water, the air cell causes the spod to flip over dumping its load of corn.
Once an area has been baited up using the spod, one need only run out the line the spod was tied to along the bank until the marker knot is reached. The fishing rod is then also run out along the bank to the same distance and a knot applied to the main line of that rod as well. Leave an inch or two of tag ends on the marker line tied to the main line, and you will hear the knot pass through the guides when you cast. Reel back in until the marker knot is spooled back on the reel and your bait should be the same distance out from shore as the corn you put out while spodding. With practice, Carp fishers can cast using their 12-foot rods as much as 120 yards.
The morning of our third and final day had us set up in the same two swims we fished the previous two days by 4:30 a.m. The bite was furious necessitating the cancelation of that morning’s hot breakfast opting instead for some of Alain’s wife’s excellent cake. By nine the bite on the swim Miles and I fished from had slowed, netting us five for the morning, and by 11: the bite on Alain and Mark’s swim had cooled as well netting them 15 for a total of 20 Carp that morning.
We packed up by noon so we could get Miles back to the airport in time for his afternoon flight to the U.K. Jeff and Marian were quite generous in letting us check out well past their posted checkout time, and of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without spending a few minutes in Jeff’s Carp tackle shop admiring all the strange and wonderful gear Jeff brings in from his tackle shop in the U.K.
A big thanks to Alain and Mark for their excellent company and knowledge of the gear and how to put it to use catching Carp.