All photos courtesy of the American Carp Society
In the U.S., the lion’s share of the competitive fishing market is dedicated to a particular green fish. But outside this country, it’s the carp (specifically, what is known here as the common carp, or occasionally as the European carp or Eurasian carp) that is king of the tournament market. And there are plenty of carp enthusiasts in American waters who are enjoying that pursuit.
The Wild Carp Classic, sponsored by the American Carp Society (a full history of the organization is available here) will attract up to 40 fishing teams to Syracuse, New York to fish on the Onondaga Lake and the Seneca River. The 2023 Wild Carp Classic runs from Tuesday, May 9-Saturday, May 13. Prizes are awarded to the teams with the highest combined weight of their 10 largest carp caught; each carp must weigh over 15 pounds.
A year’s worth of glory and a nice cash prize are on the line. The event includes a trade show as well as a social day. It is filmed and offers a $42,000 payout. Prizes are also awarded to the anglers who catch the largest common carp as well as the largest mirror carp (a subspecies of the common carp, known for its irregular scale pattern.)
The ACS places a strong emphasis on fish capture, approach, tactics, fish care and stewardship of the carp. All tournaments are catch-and-release. (In some countries, carp are used for food; however, in the U.S., they are largely considered a game fish.) Methods of carp fishing include casting and fly fishing.
SDM sat down with Sean Manning, founder of ACS, to learn more.
Sports Destination Management: This is a team fishing event. How many people are on a team?
Sean Manning: Two to three people. Something else people should know is that these teams fish 24 hours a day for three days. It’s an endurance sport.
SDM: The sheer size of carp, 40 pounds or even more, must make them one of the most exciting freshwater fish to catch.
Manning: It’s not just their size. They are one of the most intelligent freshwater fishes around and a lot of anglers will tell you they are the hardest fish to target. Every single angler who tries to catch carp for the first time winds up getting skunked because they spooked the fish.
SDM: They won’t just go for a regular lure?
Manning: No, they are not a predator species the way bass are; predators will hit something shiny, whether they are hungry or not. With carp, you’re talking about a fish that can live 30 to 40 years, and they didn’t get that big and that old by being stupid. The bait has to be on a hair rig to catch them.
SDM: It says on your website that fly anglers like to target them.
Manning: They do. Everyone who is a fly angler who decides to try casting for carp has said that they learned a lot. Carp fishing makes you a better angler of any type. And with carp, once you catch one, it becomes an obsession; they fight like nothing else.
SDM: There has been a lot of news about mitigation efforts for invasive carp. Is there confusion between the common carp that ACS targets, and the invasive species?
Manning: There is a lot of confusion, even to the point that some natural resource websites will show a picture of the common carp and have it labelled as an example of the invasive carp. They are totally different species.
It also doesn’t help either that there’s a lot of misinformation out there about carp in general. Carp have become the scapegoat for a lot of mismanagement in forestry. Trout can’t live in water that is dirty, for example, but because carp are hardy fish and can live there, they are blamed for the turbidity of the water.
SDM: What else don’t people realize?
Manning: Carp were brought over to this country intentionally as a food source many, many years ago. They’re not really considered an eating fish here but there are places where they are consumed. And outside of the USA, carp fishing is massive, as popular as bass fishing here. They are the most popular freshwater gamefish outside the USA. There are plenty of lakes in Europe that are just full of carp.
SDM: Getting back to the tournament. Do you go to the same places every year or do you seek out different locations?
Manning: We’ll always be looking for new locations. We want a place that has the right people on the ground. There are a lot of potential venues in the U.S.A. Something a lot of people don’t realize is that if you have a lake with trophy bass, you’ll find trophy carp in there as well.
SDM: Is the Wild Carp Classic the only tournament ACS puts on?
Manning: Our three events are the Wild Carp Classic in New York in May (the name will be changed next year to the Wild Carp Championships); The Ed French Open in New York in October (the name will be changed to The American Carp Classic) and The Mill Creek Cup in Texas in November.
Editor's note: Information on all events can be found here.
Back in 2005, the United States hosted the World Carp Championship; details can be found here.
SDM: How can people find out more about the American Carp Society and its events?
Manning: They can contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SDM: Earlier, you mentioned that carp fishing can become an obsession. Why is that?
Manning: Ask any angler that pursues them and actually catches them and you’ll find their stories are all the same. They’ll tell you, “That fish just completely broke me down mentally and made me a better angler all around.”