Having a community or group of friends that love fishing is what it’s all about to me. Yeah, I can talk hockey vs. baseball vs. mixed martial arts; yeah, I can talk music; yeah, I can talk a bit on fitness, diet, and training; but all that is gone once the subject of fishing arises.
Which brings me to this story.
A couple of years ago I met a young energetic man at a Destination Ontario meeting wherein the subject matter was the Kawartha region of the province. This fella stood out because he wasn’t the typical angler who sought Walleye, Bass, or Muskie. He was a Carp angler and a Carp guide. His name is Will Muschett.
We discussed many things that day, including where the best Carp fishing in the world is. We both agreed that (at least for numbers of wild fish) Ontario, Canada is the place to be.
We certainly discussed much more under the Carp title but, after the meeting, we exchanged contact numbers in hopes of setting up a Fish’n Canada television shoot somewhere near his home base. I’m going to say within a month or two, the date and location were set. The Otonabee River—essentially right in the City of Peterborough—would be our base of operations.
We shot that episode with fantastic success, so I knew that Will was the real deal. We were catching Carp pretty much all day long.
The Fish of a Liftetime
Fast forward to the present time. I am chatting on the phone with Will as he’s sitting on the bank of 60,000 acres of wild water (I love that description!). We’re discussing an upcoming Carp shoot, and he’s telling me about his past couple of trips—where he was fishing and what his success rate has been so far this year.
As we’re talking, he has a rip on his line and bails on our call in order to set the hook into a fish. (I can’t blame him for that one; I do it to the wife all the time, fish or not!)
He phones me back, apologetic yet excited., He’s banked, video recorded, and released a nice Common Carp. With it being springtime—and with the water temperature being so cold—catching any fish is an accomplishment.
During our second phone conversation, he spits out this coffee and excitedly says, “Holy s— Pete, it looks like a Koi, or hybrid, or something other than a Common or Mirror Carp just moseyed into my swim… Man, that would be the fish of a lifetime. Oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening. Oh pleeeease God, pleeeease God, let the fish bite—” and on and on and on. Will loves his Carp fishing, that’s very evident.
As we’re getting close to finishing up our conversation, Will sees the big brightly coloured beast rooting around in his feed area. It’s coming closer to his hook bait.
Right about now, I predict a couple of “bricks” in the back of Will’s waders—produced, of course, by his excitement. He says, “I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta go.”
I say, “Catch that big golden whatever-the-hell-it-is, buddy. Good luck.” And we hang up. (I’ve got a feeling Will hung up long before my statement was done.)
I text Will about half an hour later and ask how he did.
He says, “I’ve just had the absolute best fishing experience ever. I caught the fish of a lifetime. A wild Koi of at least twenty pounds.”
A crazy, exotic looking Carp for sure.
“Nothing short of the Holy Grail”
He fought the fish for quite some time knowing full well that he had something special on, especially for a Carp angler. Even though Carp fishing gear is considered heavy, anything can happen. The fishing line could break, the hook could pull free from the soft tissue of the Carp’s mouth, etc. To many Carpers, this fish is nothing short of the Holy Grail. I can see why, as it is one of the most exotic specimens I’ve ever seen.
Of course, Will treated his catch with extra care as all Carp anglers do. It’s kind of ironic: The people that catch one of the toughest freshwater fish species treat them as if they were their first born. I’m not kidding!
You can watch Will’s catch here, as he recorded the entire trip.
Fishing Gear for Will’s Catch:
Bait: BioFruit Pop-up by West Country Baits
Rod: 11′ 2.75 TC Streamside Predator Carp Rod
Reel: Shimano Speedmaster Custom X 5000
Line: 15 lb Berkley XT mainline
Rig: Pop-up rig: stripped back section of 25 lb semi-stiff coated braid, size six wide gape hook.
Will caught his fish on what’s called a Pop-Up Boilie. What’s a Boilie, you ask? It’s a boiled paste fishing bait shaped like a small ball, that normally combines flour, various bird foods, fishmeal, semolina, and milk proteins. It’s mixed with eggs in order to bind the ingredients together and then boiled to form a firm round bait. Normally they don’t break down once they’re in the water. There is a multitude of recipes used to concoct boilies, and the flavour list is endless.
Most casual Carp anglers in Canada use corn (maize) as bait. But anglers in the know always keep a good supply of boilies on hand. You must remember, Carp have an extremely good sense of smell and taste. So baits like boilies sitting on or close to the bottom of the lake, leaking off a sweet smell, are the perfect presentation.
Pop-Up Boilies are created to have a natural buoyancy enabling them to float slightly off the bottom, making it easier for Carp to find. If the bottom of the water you are fishing is very soft and silty or loaded with weeds, a boilie up off the bottom is often the best presentation.
SOME RULES IN ONTARIO
What happens if you catch an exotic, odd-looking fish? Well, you better know the rules.
Prohibited Species List
In Ontario, it’s illegal to import, possess, deposit, release, transport, breed/grow, buy, sell, lease, or trade these species:
- Asian Carps (Bighead, Black, Grass and Silver Carp)
- Snakeheads (All species in the family Channidae)
- stone moroko Pseudorasbora parva
- wels catfish Silurus glanis
- zander Sander lucioperca
If by chance you catch a prohibited invasive fish, invertebrate, or plant species while fishing, you must immediately destroy it so that it cannot reproduce or grow.
As you can see by the above, Koi, wild Koi, Carp/Koi are not on that list.
How did Will’s fish get there?
With the shape of Will’s fish being the exact shape of a Common Carp (pictured below), it is likely that a wild Carp found a released Koi fish and they spawned together, producing a hybrid. Or it could have been any combination thereof (two hybrids, a Carp and a hybrid, etc.). There is also the possibility of birds carrying Koi from a controlled pond and dropping it into a public body of water.
NOTE: It is illegal to release your pet Koi Fish into any lakes, rivers, or streams in Ontario under the invasive species act. For more information on stopping invasive species in Ontario, click here.
Releasing of fish for religious reasons is called Fangsheng or Life Release. There is much written about the subject, such as this interesting story. In a nutshell, religions like Buddhism very much take part in releasing live animals and fish as part of their beliefs. It may sound strange to us Canadians, but then again, they may not look at certain things we do the same way. (If you are a Canadian moving overseas, you, too, need to learn the ways of your new destination.)
Here is an interesting Question & Answer I found on the net:
Will Fish release harm the environment?
No. Fishes are non-invasive species and they are released (fang Sheng) from the region they spawn.
As you can probably surmise, many people releasing their pet or home-grown fish here in Canada are more than likely ignorant to our laws and procedures. After all, they are allowed to do it in their homeland (following the above rules in the answer) with no repercussions.
Ignorance, however, is not an excuse. We may need to spread the word with more authority. Our laws may be too well hidden.
My Experience with a Domesticated/Released Fish
Back in 2013, I had a somewhat similar experience as Will’s wherein I spotted a weird looking fish while I was Bass fishing. It freaked me out so much that I really didn’t know what to do. In fact, I was so concerned that I took the time to call the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to see if they could give me any advice. Not only did they give me advice, but they showed up the next day to investigate. Here’s my resulting blog post.
Back to Will’s Fish
To conclude this blog—and not to take away from the ultimate reason I posted this piece—the end of the story is a happy one for Will, as he indeed did catch the fish of a lifetime. However, please be cognizant of the rules written above when it comes to listed prohibited fish species. If caught, you cannot release them back and—equally or more important—you cannot release your aquarium fish into our beautiful, wild waters.