“Lunker.” The dictionary simply says it means “big fish.” Catching a lunker in any species is the dream of most anglers.
In some species of fish, it might mean weight. In others, it might mean length. Still others are a combination of the two.
This applies to both freshwater fish and saltwater fish.
In many cases, catching a lunker does not mean that it is a record-breaking fish, but one that is very big for its species.
Here in our area, it is possible to catch a lunker, depending on what you are fishing for. Every once in a while an angler will catch a largemouth bass that could be called a “lunker.” There are also some trout that are in the lunker category.
Channel catfish that are now found in Black Pond, Silver Lake and Mirror Lake can also fit the lunker category, from some of the reports I have gotten.
But let’s not forget the granddaddy of Connecticut’s freshwater lunkers. I am talking, of course, about the common carp. And you don’t have to look any further than our own Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park to hook up with a carp that will make your fishing reel scream.
While the Connecticut state record for carp is a 43-pound, 12-ounce brute caught in the Connecticut River by Michael Hudak in 2012, I still think that, someday, someone is going to break that record, and it would not surprise me if it came from Mirror Lake.
Over the years, I have seen some really huge carp caught in Mirror Lake, many of them well over 30 pounds. I have hooked up with a couple in the 20-pound range and they gave me the thrill of a lifetime.
Many years ago, if someone caught a carp, they would throw it back into the water in disgust simply because it was a carp. In the worst case scenario, they would kill it and discard it to rot in the water. Not a very pleasant picture, but one that I have seen over the years.
But things have changed in the sport-fishing scene, and one of the biggest changes has been that carp are now a valued target. Many fishermen specialize in nothing but carp fishing. Some of the largest fishing tournaments feature carp fishing and these sportsmen take it seriously.
When a carp is hooked and, after a timely tussle, brought to the net, it is gently weighed and measured, and then placed unharmed back into the water with the hope it might even grow to be a bigger carp.
The carp is not native to North America or, for that matter, even Europe, where it is known as a game fish. It first came to Europe from China and then eventually found its way into North America over 100 years ago, much to the disgust of many sports fishermen at that time. Many thought we would have been better off without the arrival of carp.
But there was little they could do to prevent the spread across the United States. Carp are a prolific fish and, for the most part, are vegetarian. They feed on the bottom of the waters they inhabit and sometimes can be seen rooting and roiling the water.
Attempts to rid the waters of carp over the years have been futile, although Lake Beseck in Middlefield was reclaimed in the fall of 1954, but at the expense of some of the other species of fish in the lake.
Rotenone was used to get rid of the carp that then inhabited Lake Beseck. At that time, they figured that their efforts removed 150 pounds of carp per acre. Beseck is approximately 119.6 acres, so you can do the math.
However, in addition to the carp, more than 14,000 small calico bass (crappie), 300 largemouth bass and one chain pickerel were removed. The lake was restocked in the spring of 1955 with largemouth bass, yellow perch, golden shiners, alewives and white catfish.
Fishing then in Lake Beseck was prohibited until July 1956 and was expected to improve in the following year, which from reports I have received over the years is very true. Many fishermen catching some nice calico bass and largemouth bass. I have also heard reports and seen photos of some really nice northern pike from Lake Beseck.
Today, carp are on the sought-after list of fish and have morphed into a highly specialized sport that has even generated special rods, reels and other equipment designed especially for carp fishing.
This does not mean that you can’t use a plain old nightcrawler to catch a carp because I have caught them on crawlers in the Quinnipiac River as well as Hanover Pond.
By the way, Hanover Pond also has some huge carp in it. “The Village Barber,” my good friend Glenn Agnew, whose untimely passing shocked so many of his friends, was an avid carp fisherman and Hanover Pond was one of his favorite fishing spots for them. It was Glenn’s belief that a new Connecticut record carp would be caught in Hanover Pond.
The lower stretches of the Quinnipiac River below Hanover Dam right on down to North Haven also has some lunker carp for those who take the time to seek them out.
Many anglers think that carp are dumb and easy to catch. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are very cautious feeders and will drop a baited hook if the least little thing seems out of order.
One of the most common baits for carp fishing is kernel corn, and many carp fishermen add various flavors to some of their baits in an attempt to get them to bite. I have had good luck with white bread rolled into a dough ball and then covered with peanut butter.
Yes, you read that right. Welcome to carp fishing. I learned that trick from Skip Sauer and his twin granddaughters, who excelled at carp fishing in Mirror Lake.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our police, firemen, and special responders.