Angling for the Million-Dollar Carp
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
People from around the world have gathered at the water's edge in upstate New York. This is, of course, the World Carp Championship. The competitors try to reel in giant goldfish which weigh 30 to 40 pounds. There's a top prize of $100,000, and an especially big fish could net someone $1 million. Europeans normally take the prize, but Americans are hoping to do better now that they finally have the home stream advantage. From North Country Public Radio, David Sommerstein reports.
DAVID SOMMERSTEIN reporting:
It's muggy and windy on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the mood's solemn at the Hungarian encampment.
Mr. ATTILA ODOR (Carp Fishing Contestant): Very, very ...(unintelligible). The water is clear, you know, just no fish yet.
SOMMERSTEIN: Attila Odor and his partner, Attila Horvath, have been casting for more than 24 hours without a bite. Hungarian flags fly from their car and tent. Four fishing rods sit on stands, lines in the water, and suddenly, an electric monitor beeps.
Unidentified Man: Wow! ...(Unintelligible) going to have one.
SOMMERSTEIN: One Attila sprints over, reels in hard, and then the line goes slack.
Mr. ATTILA HORVATH (Carp Fishing Contestant): The hook wasn't strong enough, but I think the fish was big.
SOMMERSTEIN: It's been that kind of day at the World Carp Championship. More than a hundred teams of two are camped along 40 miles of the St. Lawrence. They fish for almost five days straight. The team that catches the most total pounds of carp wins a hundred thousand dollars and two GM Colorado pickup trucks.
Mr. PAVEL HASTIK (Carp Fishing Contestant): I am Pavel Hastik from Czech Republic. We try catch carp.
SOMMERSTEIN: The Czech team is launching fist-sized corn and dough balls into the river with a giant slingshot. They're baiting. They're (unintelligible).
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
SOMMERSTEIN: Carp are a wily catch, but they have a bit of a sweet tooth so the bait is a big part of the strategy. Hanning Pria(ph) of South Africa sews what look like gum balls onto fishing line. These are called boilies and they come in flavors.
Mr. HANNING PRIA (Carp Fishing Contestant): Banana, pineapple, any flavor; tutti-frutti, you name it. There must be about a thousand flavors.
SOMMERSTEIN: And how--I mean, do you know which one works? I mean...
Mr. PRIA: I think more anglers are caught than fish. You know, once you get on to a flavor, you don't change over to another flavor. So you believe in that flavor, you know.
SOMMERSTEIN: Carp anglers are passionate. They handle the fish with reverence and treat any wounds it may have. Some anglers will kiss a particularly sporty carp before releasing it. This may be strange behavior to bass or trout fishermen in the US. David Moore of Oklahoma directs the American Carp Society, which is hosting the tournament. He says the event will help carp catch on in this country.
Mr. DAVID MOORE (American Carp Society): Once I got into carp fishing and started catching 20-pound fish, I know I was never going to catch a 20-pound bass, and you know, they fight so much harder, and you know, it's not going to be for everybody. You know, some people are just ingrained in that bass fishing mentality, but we see a sea change coming.
(Soundbite of water splashing)
SOMMERSTEIN: The defending carp champion is Kurt Grabmayer of Austria. Americans like Mike Dragone of Connecticut are considered underdogs. But Dragone's fished the St. Lawrence before. He says he's got home field advantage over the more practiced Europeans.
Mr. MIKE DRAGONE (Carp Fishing Contestant): Some of them we kind of idolize over here, you know. We've been reading their books and, you know, to be up to snuff with their abilities is a challenge for us, and with a little luck, team USA, we're hoping we come up with an upset win and show the rest of the world that we can compete on this level.
SOMMERSTEIN: There's a bonus prize that organizers hope will seal the region's reputation as carp capital of the world. If someone reels in a fish that breaks New York's record of 50 pounds, four ounces, they'll get a million dollars. Now that's a carp worth kissing.
For NPR News, I'm David Sommerstein in northern New York.
INSKEEP: This could only be NPR News.
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