Carp Fishing in the Past

Carp Fishing in the Past

The day was one I will remember as long as I live. I was a young school teacher with a Saturday all to myself. I drove the 30 miles to Buffalo Lake (not named for the fish but for the huge mammal which once roamed the Texas Panhandle in numbers too large to count). I had heard that the crappie were biting and I was looking forward to catching enough for a meal.
After fishing with minnows for several hours with no success I began to notice the couple fishing 50 yards down the bank. They arrived, set up lawn chairs, baited their lines and were relaxing while watching their fishing poles standing in rod holders.

Every few minutes I would hear, "I got it!" and look up to see one of the couple holding on to a pole that was doubled over obviously fighting a fish. My crappie fishing was quickly becoming boring. As they were having so much fun I ambled closer to watch the action.

The couple were catching carp! Now, at the time I thought that carp fishing was beneath the dignity of a true fisherman. But, as I watched their pure joy in hooking and fighting the fish the excitement became contagious.

I finally went over to them and introduced myself. After admiring a few of the fish they were catching I asked what they were using for bait. Their answer was, "It's cottonseed meal dough bait". They graciously offered to give me some. As the sun was near setting and I had promised my wife that I would be home by dark I declined but I asked if they would mind sharing the recipe with me for their bait. They volunteered the information and I gave them the remainder of my minnows since I was headed home.

I quickly went to my car and wrote down the recipe before I forgot the ingredients and portions. The main ingredient was cottonseed meal but with other items to enhance the bait.

My first problem was to find the cottonseed meal. I went to the local feed store and found the meal but it was only sold in 50# and 100# bags. A little more than I needed!

I next went to a local grain elevator and was lucky enough to find a gentleman who volunteered that a 100# sack had busted and I could have a coffee can full--for free. I quickly hurried home and began concocting the dough bait using the meal and other ingredients commonly found in my wife's kitchen. I cannot say she was too thrilled with me using her kitchen to mix the concoction but with the promise to clean up my mess she relented and allowed the use.

The week seemed a month long. But, the next Saturday I was back at Buffalo Lake bright and early. I went to the same spot the couple had enjoyed so much the week before. Using two six foot spinning rods. six pound test line and open face spinning reels I quickly baited and cast out as far as I could. I was full of anticipation that I would soon be into the fast action I had observed a week ago. It wasn't long before I noticed that BOTH baits were being nibbled on. I managed to catch a fish or two but the action was not as fast as I had observed the week before. And, the fish were much smaller--1 to 2 pounds. Watching the couple the previous Saturday it had appeared to be so simple. Maybe there was a little more to this carp fishing than I had thought. I reeled in both lines and looked at the rigging. They were just as I had used the previous week when I had been crappie fishing. Hook attached directly to a snap swivel which was tied to the end of the line with a weight clamped on the line above the swivel. Thinking that I might need more finesse I took the weight clamped on the line and replaced it with a small oval, sliding lead weight. The line would now slide effortlessly through the oval sinker when the fish mouthed the bait. Casting back into the lake it was not long before the action began again. But, as before the action was slower than I had remembered. I had been keeping the line tight after casting and setting the rods in the rod holders. After one bite that I missed one line had a lot of slack in it. While rebaiting the other line I kept an eye on the slack line. Suddenly, I noticed that the slack line was tightening! Laying down the rod that I was rebaiting I picked up the slack line rod and watched the line. As it tightened I struck and was instantly into a fish that decided it was in the wrong part of the lake. The rod bent double and the drag complained as line was stripped from the reel. After several minutes of recovering line only to have it stripped from me I finally managed to beach a golden, glittering 7 1/2 pound carp. My largest carp to date! The action continued throughout the day. The slack line technique seemed to work best for me. There were times when I would hook a fish on one line only to see line being taken on the other rod. I would lay one rod down, hold it under the arch of my foot, hook a fish on the other line and have two fish going at the same time. Picking up both rods I would try to determine by the pull which was the larger fish and fight that one first. It was one of the most enjoyable days of fishing--for any species of fish--that I have ever had. I ended the day weighing my five biggest fish. The five weighed 55 pounds. The largest was almost 14 pounds. I caught so many in the 4 to 8 pound category that I did not bother counting. The sad part of the story is that Buffalo Lake is no longer in existence. The lake became polluted by run offs from large cattle feeding operations from upstream watersheds. The shallow lake, which had actually been a series of buffalo wallows many years ago, was allowed to stay dry after the large earthen dam was breached. But to me Buffalo Lake still exists there in my memory of that Saturday when I was catching those beautiful golden fish two at a time.

By H. D. Yarbrough

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