I caught my first carp in March 1974 and from that moment I was hooked!
Since then, I’ve spent my life chasing carp and it’s taken me to many wild and wonderful places around the world, but maybe our most recent expedition was the most exciting of them all. I say “our” because, for the last thirty years or more, I’ve been accompanied on all trips by my partner, Joan, and through carp fishing we’ve seen so much of the world and what it has to offer.
So, why Dale Hollow? Well, we’d fished in the USA before but only up in New York State, where the fishing was good and the people were friendly. We kept in touch with many of those we met and news started to filter through about this big lake on the Tennessee/Kentucky border that holds loads of carp, but better than that, many of those carp are what we call fully-scaled mirror carp, which are highly-prized and not particularly common, normally – but in Dale Hollow there are lots of them! We made it our aim to visit Dale Hollow as soon as we had the chance.
Flying from the UK presents its own set of problems as we are used to taking quite a bit of gear with us for a lengthy stay. Bivvies (tents) and comfortable bed chairs were normal essentials but not really an option this time, but then houseboats were mentioned and all of a sudden we had an answer to our problems. East Port Marina and Resort, https://eastport.info/, were contacted and Dream Cruzin’ was soon secured for the duration of our stay. I have to say, it was the best decision we could have ever made and although it was maybe a bit over the top for the two of us, it was nice to have a bit of luxury for a change.
Carp are very different to most other species in Dale Hollow and their habits vary, too. As a rule, finding the carp is the toughest part and once they have been located they will most likely be in groups.
Unlike bass fishing, a mobile approach isn’t generally the best way forward. What tends to work is constant baiting of one area, drawing the fish in and building up the spot. Carp are driven by a search for food and once they find it they will hang around for a while and attract other carp in too. Once that starts to happen it’s better just to stay in the one area until the carp have had enough and move on. This could be after a day or a good area could last several days.
For our trip, the first stopping place was an island we called Vulture Island due to being visited by around fifteen of them one afternoon when very little other life seemed to be around. (un-named Island Northwest of Opossum Island. 36.59948 / -85.36542)
In all those acres of water I had no real idea if carp would be there or not, I just used my experience to look for the general places that I look for on other lakes – the right depths and weed beds are among those – and either through luck or judgment it wasn’t long before we started catching carp!
I think the first one took around an hour and then for five days we didn’t have to go anywhere as the carp just came to us. A mixture of corn and what we call boilies (round balls of boiled and flavored dough) kept the fish coming back for more and for us it was fishing paradise as the fish kept coming day and night.
Only after five days did the fish finally get fed up with us and they moved away. So we moved, too, and found another island a few miles away where in the three days we had left we hooked a further 31 carp and many of those were the lovely heavily scaled mirror carp! (Un-names island South of Moore Hollow Point 36.61049/-85.33716)
Now I’m guessing a lot of people will read this and be puzzled by me even talking about carp fishing. I know that carp are not the most popular species in America and they are disliked by many people, although I can never work out why? I’ve heard the term trash fish several times, but as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and those carp just look like a pile of gold sovereigns to us.
Many Dale Hollow visitors are totally unaware that carp even live in the lake and seemed a little worried about them but don’t worry, carp are the most docile fish that live in Dale Hollow and they have no teeth in their mouths. I’ve also been asked what we do with the carp that we catch and all I can say is that we work on a strict catch and release basis, and every carp that I’ve ever caught has been returned alive to the water. We can only try to encourage everyone else to do the same.
Bass are undeniably the most popular fish in Dale Hollow, but in the UK we don’t have bass at all and carp are far and away the most popular target fish. I’ve watched the popularity spread through England and then across Europe, too.
The biggest problem is that it’s become so popular that there are often just too many carp anglers. I have fished lakes where there were more people carp fishing than there were carp in the lake! That is why we were so happy to visit Dale Hollow and be in the minority as it’s almost an untouched paradise.
Carp fishing popularity grows in America every year, but it’s a slow burner and that’s part of the appeal.We’ve met and spoken to so many American carpers during our short times in the USA and good friends of ours have a dedicated carp store in Oklahoma called Big Carp Tackle, https://www.bigcarptackle.com/. There is even an American Carp Society, https://americancarpsociety.com/, for the carp fanatics out there!
Before signing off I want to talk about the people. From our flight in to Atlanta and right through the trip until the very end, everyone we met was so friendly towards us and so helpful. We had heard about southern hospitality and we found it in abundance! We are so grateful to everyone for making us welcome, from kids working in McDonalds right through to the Dale Hollow bass anglers, who might not have known what we were doing with rods poking out from the houseboat, but they always had a friendly word for us.
And I can’t finish without thanking Richard, Wendy, Nathan DeVries, and Fred (Santa) at East Port Marina and Resort, https://eastport.info/, who handed over Dream Cruzin’ to us one morning and sent us on our way to what was one of our most enjoyable carp fishing expeditions of all time.
Since arriving back home all we’ve done is talk about and relive this trip in our minds – in fact it was so good that we’re going to have to come back and do it all again! So, if you see us out there one day, just give us a wave!
To see a YouTube video of Steve’s trip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7153V17KTWw