It’s been a funny year, weather wise. After a brutal winter with over 100 inches of snow in the Northeast it’s an understatement to say I was not looking forward to the coming winter season. The Farmers’ Almanac prediction didn’t help but as November came to an end the weather stayed stable and mild. By the middle of December I found myself looking at the long term forecast to see if I could squeeze in a session in Upstate New York over the Christmas Break. As luck would have it, after consulting with my wife and finding out she was working we decided to hold the family Christmas on December 24th and I made plans for a 48 hour session on the Seneca River.
Catching a Christmas Day carp is something I had already ticked off the list so I set myself a target of catching a 20lb+ fish which I felt very confident of achieving even though the locals had informed me the area was not fishing particularly well.
After enjoying festivities on Christmas Eve I set the alarm for 5am but have to admit I turned it off and got up at 8am. After a coffee I set out on the 290 mile journey and after only a brief bathroom stop I arrived just after 1pm and began slowly setting up. A little background information on the swim I had chosen as I have fished it a few times in prior years. It is a well known area and the carp are generally fished for regularly by a mixture of both serious carpers and the more casual anglers. As such the carp know they are being fished for and in my experience do not usually feed hard during the daylight hours unless you can get them into a competitive feeding mode.
Rather than rushing to set-up and get the rods cast out I first set about baiting up my swim. My approach was two fold. Firstly I made up a ground bait mix consisting of liquidized bread, beet deer feed, canned sweetcorn and creamed corn as a binder. I initially baited a spot in 9 feet of water with a dozen ground bait balls with my intention to see if this would attract the smaller fish. On this spot I fished one rod with a 10mm white chocolate pop-up.
My second spot would be a boilie only approach with an initial 100 baits spread out in a line between my remaining two rods. With this approach the key to getting a good hit of carp is to bait consistently and regularly after every take or capture. In this case my plan was to re-bait with 10-20 baits after every fish (if I was lucky enough to capture any carp). I was hoping to pick out the bigger fish by using only 20mm+ boilies with the only extra attraction being a high attract stick mix.
After baiting up my areas I slowly set-up my rods and tied up some new hook-links. I also set-up all of my carp safety and camera equipment as if I did catch I wanted to make sure that the carp had a short stay on the bank. All of the rods were cast out and after eating a nice chicken stew I retired to my car just before dark to try and grab a short nap which may seem strange but I was confident that once darkness had descended the carp would feed and sleep may be hard to come by. I only had to wait an hour or so before one of my boilie rods absolutely ripped off. After a decent scrap the first Christmas carp was in the net and at just over 23lb’s my goal was achieved with the first capture.
After sharpening the hook to a sticky point I recast the rod and deposited another 20 boilies over the top of the area. Another 30 minutes or so passed before the same rod signaled another carp and another nice low twenty. Using 20mm+ boilies and big hook baits seemed to be attracting the larger carp and as the ground bait rod was quiet I was hopeful the smaller, more numerous carp would not make an appearance.
Over the next few hours this process was repeated with several more solid twenties and a few doubles making an appearance. After each capture I would rebait with 15-20 boilies over each spot and would also make sure to check my leader and hook-link as usually the area had weed and zebra muscles which can easily damage your end tackle and result in lost fish. I would also check the hook point of the rigs and in most cases would spend a minute or two sharpening them to a fine point. It’s easy to miss out some of these steps when you are tired or catching lots of fish but it definitely results in more fish on the bank. In this session I had a total of 19 takes and due to the durability and quality of my tackle, combined with being meticulous with the hook points I landed every one of them.
The action continued through the night and only slowed down when the temperatures dropped into the 20’s resulting in frozen nets, mats and slings. During this time I unhooked many of the fish in the net and released them without pictures or weighing them, in an attempt to get back into my sleeping bag ASAP. Any pictures were taken with a self timer and only resulted in the fish being out of the water for a minute or two which is very important as the temperatures drop as the carp’s gills can freeze once the temperatures are below zero.
During all of the action there were times when I had double takes and in once case all three rods went in succession! It was during one of these occasions while I was netting a nice upper double fish when one of my other rods signaled a take. I quickly secured the net and picked up the other rod to connect with a fish that did not want to cooperate. After several minutes I finally got it into the net and it was a very long and lean common that looked around the thirty pound mark. I quickly released the other fish and weighed the bigger carp which pleasingly went 30lb 6oz. Happy days, a Christmas Day thirty.
Once the sunlight appeared the action stopped which is not uncommon during the winter on this particular section of the river. This gave me a chance to grab a few hours sleep and gather my thoughts. Originally I had planned to fish two nights but with the hectic action of the first night and rain scheduled for the second night I decided to pack up and head home to watch some Boxing Day Soccer. It might seem strange to drive nearly 600 miles to fish for only 20 hours but the Seneca River really is worth the travel, especially when you get it right.