Caught Any Carp Lately?

by Craig Stark

#83, 4 December 2006

Angling for Profits in Bookland

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The biggest fish I ever caught was a carp. That's right - not a marlin, not a muskie, not anything you could ever brag about - a stupid carp. What my father called a trash fish. I was probably about 12 or so, and it took me a good half hour to land him. Since the lake we were fishing in was murky, I didn't know what kind of fish I had until I'd almost gotten him to shore. When I finally saw a flash of big silver scales rise out of the water, my heart sank along with any hope that I'd hooked a trophy bass, though I'd already suspected I hadn't because the fish on my line had almost no fight. Anyway, all that effort wasted for a trash fish - a gray, sluggish bottom feeder that ate and sort of smelled like waste matter. I threw him back.

Flash forward about 4 or 5 years. We lived on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago then, and Lake Michigan was only a few hundred yards from our apartment building. At that time, you could fish in Chicago, eat the fish you caught and, you know, not die of mercury poisoning or something, and I recall going down to the Bryn Mawr beach one day and seeing some huge fish darting in and out from under the pier. They were pink, of all things - a fish I was certain I'd never seen before. Or so I thought. When I told my father about them, told him that they were pink and so close to the surface of the water that you could almost touch them, he immediately hooked his fishing reel and arrow to his hunting bow, and we headed back to the pier.

"Those are carp," he said when I pointed them out to him.

Carp? Carp??? No carp I'd ever seen was as lively as these were. Or pink, for that matter.

My father matter-of-factly notched the arrow on his bow, drew back, and shot into the water. Zing. What had been one of many lively fish before was now, with an arrow piercing him at mid-ship, an enraged, dragon-like monster with scales, and it was at least a half hour's battle to get him onto the beach, probably more. And even then he continued to flop wildly.

Within moments, a small crowd of boys descended on us. "What are you going to do with him, Mister?" one said. "Can I have him?" another said. If anything was clear, it was that my father wasn't going to march this fish up to our apartment and ask my mother to cook him for dinner - not a carp! - so he gave the fish to the boys and asked them what they were going to do with him. "The man at the fish market will give us $5 for him!"

Huh? People pay to eat these things? Well, my education on carp fishing had taken an unexpected turn, headlong into a land opportunity I hadn't known existed. The truth is that carp, though most definitely not considered a game fish in North America, are prized and awarded this very status in some parts of the world, notably Europe, where catch-and-release fishing club owners will stock carp in lakes, sometimes paying thousands of dollars for a single large, living fish that can then be caught and re-caught by delighted fisherman, who in turn pay eye-popping amounts for the privilege.

One reason for this geographical incongruity is that carp are able to survive in water that other fish can't - and often take on flavors, savory or unsavory, depending, derived from the water they live in. After being introduced in North America in the late 19th century - in Baltimore, to be exact - carp rapidly propagated in lakes and streams over subsequent decades, and many of these fish found their way into less than clean drainage areas or other polluted bodies of water. Ultimately, they grew to become associated with filth. And bad eating.

Not to mention bad books.

Have you noticed that many booksellers refer to low-value books as carp? Of course, this had its genesis in the word "crap," and the letters were interchanged to prevent forum notes from being removed for profanity, but "carp" itself carries more than enough negative baggage to serve very well the purpose, thank you, of describing trash books.

What booksellers, especially in North America, may not know is that carp fishing books are an exceptionally profitable bookselling niche. There may be a carp fishing book that sells for under $10, but I don't know of one. Grab them all is my advice. The following list is comprised primarily of carp fishing books that sell for over $50, some for over $100 - and only a few that sell in the $20 to $50 range. Note that most of these titles have been published in the last 20 or 30 years, also that a number of authors make multiple appearances. As you might suspect, there are lots of European publishers represented.

An Introduction to Carp Fishing David Batten

Basic Carp Fishing Peter Mohan

Big Carp Bob Church, Chris Ball, Tony Gibson, and Graham Kent

Big Carp T. Paisley

Carp Amid the Storm T. Paisley

Carp and the Carp Angler George Sharman

Carp Challenge John Bailey

Carp Fishing David Batten

Carp Fishing (Fishing Skills) Tony Whieldon

Carp Fishing Avanzato Roberto Ripamonte

Carp Fishing T. Paisley

Carp Fishing: Advanced Tactics Rob Hughes, Simon Crow

Carp Fishing: Expert Advice for Beginners Tony Miles

Carp in North America Edwin Lavern Cooper

Carp Reflections: The Chronicle of Fifteen Years of Fishing for Carp Paul Selman

Carp Sense Jim Gibbinson

Carp: The Quest for the Queen J. Bailey and M. Page

Carp, Barbel and Paella: A Guide to Fishing in Andalucia Richard Willett James Clear

Carp, Fishing Step by Step Peter Mohan

Casting at the Sun: The Reflections of a Carp Fisher Christopher Yates

Catch Carp Andy Murray

Century of Carp Fishing Chris Ball

Cypry the Carp Peter Mohan

Discover Carp Fishing: A Total Guide to Carp Fishing Simon Crow, Rob Hughes

Diseases of Carp and Other Cyprinid Fishes D. Bucke, P. Burgess, I. Wellby, David Hoole

Fishing for Buffalo: A Guide to the Pursuit, Lore and Cuisine of Buffalo, Carp, Mooneye, Gar and Other "Rough Fish" Rob Buffler, Tom Dickson

Floater Fishing (Carp in Depth) Chris Ball

Go Fishing for Carp Graeme Pullen

Gravel Pit Carp: The Definitive Guide to Fishing for Gravel Pit Carp Jim Gibbinsom

History of Carp Fishing Kevin and Arbery Clifford

Let's Start Stillwater Carp Fishing Richard Willett

Mywater: The Carp Fishing Years Elliott Symak

Obsession with Carp: The Story of One Man's Quest to Catch the Biggest Fish from the UK's Hardest Waters Dave Lane

Practical Carp Fishing Julian Cundiff

Quest for Carp Jack Hilton

Strategic Carp Fishing Rob Hughes, Simon Crow

Successful Carp Fishing Julian Cundiff

The Beekay Guide to 1500 British and European Carp Waters Kevin Maddocks, Peter Mohan

The Carp: Biology and Culture R. Billard

The Complete Carp Angler Andy Little

The King Carp Waters Chris Ball

Tiger Bay: In Search of Colne Valley Carp Rob Maylin

To Catch a Carp Tim Paisley

This should be all the bookselling tackle you need to get started, and here's a good place to learn more.  

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