Fishing For The Golden Ghost

Ever think of catching a twenty or thirty pound freshwater fish on six pound test leader? Read on!

Captain David provides us a unique look into a fishery that few -- if any -- of us have ever explored; a fishery from carp that run like bonefish and weigh twice or three times as much as the biggest of the Silver Ghosts, as those who lurk the flats for bonefish love to call them. They are like silver ghosts; vanishing in a blink at the slightest shadow. These carp might not be quite so sensitive to shadows, but the people that fish for them say they're considerably stronger, easier to find, and available to local fishers without $50,000 flats boats.

Carp: Silver Ghost in Goldfish Clothing

Catching carp in Florida freshwater

I was bragging to a client about how fishing's been lately, and how I would not just target one species of fish; there are just too many different fish out there. At the time, my friend Anthony Ragano chimed in and said he was targeting and catching one species in particular. And that was giant carp.

I know Anthony pretty well; he's a good fisherman, and one I have a lot of respect for. My ears tuned in immediately to every word he spoke to determine where he was catching these fish. Briefly into the conversation I couldn't resist simply asking him the question. Would you take me to carp land and hook me up with these golden ghosts? Anthony agreed and we went out the following Thursday at around 2:30pm. My first reaction was "isn’t too hot to be fishing at 2:30pm in the middle of the summer?" Anthony assured me that the heat would not affect the bite. We met that afternoon and headed over to a lake in the Carrolwood area. Along with us were 3 spinning rods and 1 baitcaster. We also had approximately 10 loaves of bread.

Anthony explained that we were going to create a chum line -- just like we would offshore saltwater. He said we would crumble the bread and scatter it out in the water to determine which way the wind would cause it to drift. Since there was no tide or undercurrent the wind was the only 'vehicle' that could take our chum to the fish. Anthony said it would take some patience to get the carp to locate the bread. As we were chumming Anthony would scout the lake for any visual signs of the location of the carp. I had asked Anthony why we had set up in this particular spot when the fish could be anywhere.

Fishing for large carp in Florida freshwater

This is a lot of fish to catch on 6lb test line without a leader. The fish won't hit anything but bread, and this beast was caught in a chum line not much different than any of us would run for kingfish during an anchored (or slow drift) kingfish bite. When I say that it fought like a bonefish but weighed for times more, I wasn't kidding. This is my friend Anthony Ragano holding this thing. They were -- of course -- all gently released to live happily with the gators. Or not so happily. We can't imagine they're not part of that eco-chain.

Getting the fish to the chum

He advised me that based on his fishing data over the last few weeks the carp were hanging in the northeast side of the lake just to sit in the sun's warmth. So we waited and chummed. Patience was the key to being successful. Anthony spotted some carp coming into the area and after a short period the carp started responding to the chum. To my disbelief the carp started to feed on the surface of the water, popping at the floating bread like a redfish would strike a topwater. It was quite a sight.

Placing the bread on a hook I had no takers. Anthony baited my hook properly with the bread by hiding the hook inside the corner part of the bread. The key to keeping the bread on top was a light hook, so that the weight of the hook would not sink the bread. Yet the hook would have to be strong enough not to bend when putting pressure on these big fish. Circle hooks were perfect for the carp’s mouth. A # 1 or a 1/0 was Anthony’s hook of choice.

We used a medium-to-medium light rod with 6 lb test mono and no leader. Carp have soft mouths and the softer tip rod is the way to go. The reason for using monofilament was the stretch ability. Braided lines with no stretch plus the weight of the fish would cause a lot of hooks to tear out of the carp’s soft mouth. With the continuous chumming the carp started to feed more actively.

Ragano spotted a carp cruising the shoreline and placed a perfect cast just in front of the wake caused by the fish's movement. Casting weightless bread isn't the easiest method of catching fish, by the way.The carp swam right into the floating piece of bread and just inhaled it with a short loud POP! We were fishing with very light drag settings at the time -- and with good reason, as it turned out. As often happens with big fish, it didn't really realize (yet) that it had been hooked. It moved steadily, pulling drag -- and line -- steadily as it did.

My fishing buddy applied a little more pressure on the spool and the carp took off like a bonefish on a shallow flat -- except I have never seen a bonefish this big. With no leader, Anthony had to make sure that this fish did not roll over on his 6 lb test line, or the battle would be over in a flash. The carp’s mouth has nothing to cut the 6 lb test line with, so time was on our side.

Anthony stressed the point that he does try to keep the maximum pressure on the fish at all times so he can get the fish in quickly and release them without tiring them out too much. A tough line to walk with just 6 lb test. Anthony said he will lose a few but it makes it that much sweeter when you do land one. Anthony directed this beautiful fish right to the bank where I was waiting with open arms to land it. Anthony instructed me to not lift the fish out of the water unless it’s body is supported by my hand. I did what I was instructed and just supported the fish by its body. What a neat fish.

It reminds me of a freshwater version of a Tarpon. The carp was released and swam off to continue its contribution to keeping the lake's ecosystem a balanced one. It was another day in the great outdoors with a fish that earned its name the Golden Ghost. I also would like to thank Anthony for sharing this experience with me, and most of all, being a responsible angler. Our sport is better for people like my friend Anthony. And as so many, it was another day I will not forget.

Captain David M Rieumont for TheOnlineFisherman

The Online Fisherman

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