Carp theory still a big mystery

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 27, 2014

If the Mississippi River predictions hold up, we could see the lowest level of the year, so far, by Monday.

For the past couple of months, the big river has been dropping to about 35 feet at Natchez and rising back into the low 40-foot range, then falling back to 35 feet before rising again. We did see a level of 34 feet for a couple days in early June, but that was very short lived.

What we are anticipating and hoping for is a good summer for fishing the love oxbow lakes, the Old Rivers.

As I mentioned many times, the bluegill and chinquapin fishing usually cast off when we have a level of 38 feet and falling. Well, we did see the right river stage for this to happen, but we did not see the big bream show up.

The term bream covers the entire species of sunfish, excluding bass, which many do not know is a sunfish. The long ear bream, chinquapin and bluegill, are the most popular species of fish sought on the Old Rivers at the current level.

I heard of only one fair report on the bream fishing in the past two months. The white perch can be caught at this level, but the perch fishing is much better when the river drops below 28 feet, exposing the tops of the old dead snags and stumps that are now submerged.

I have only heard of one decent perch report in the past two months. Again, the white perch is a species of many names and it is really not a white perch.

From central Louisiana and south central Mississippi, north to south Arkansas and extremely north of Mississippi, the crappie are called white perch. Go a bit further north and these tasty fish are called by their real name, the black or white crappie.

Just about 30 miles south of Vidalia and down to the Gulf in Louisiana, the “white perch” has yet another name; sac-a-lait, which is French meaning sack full. Regardless, the perch are not showing up on the Old Rivers, yet.

Many of the veteran Old River anglers come here to Eddie’s Marine and we talk. I have really pushed my theory that the non-native, invasive Silver and Bighead carp are depleting our rivers and river lakes of game fish, but that theory does have some holes in it.

The Old Rivers rise and fall with the Mississippi River. For six months out of the year, the river is high thousands of acres of hardwood trees, and willows are flooded. The game fish spread out in this tangle mess of cover, making them very hard to locate.

I have fished the Old Rivers for 40 years, since I was a teenager. Other people that I spoke with have fished these waters for over 50 years. We all agree that we have a problem but do not agree on the cause. There were no silver and bighead carp in the river lakes when the fishing was great, leading me to my theory.

An old timer sort of threw me off this week when he asked how could these mutant fish be depleting the game fish population when the river raises the level of the Old Rivers so high the fish are in the woods? I don’t know. I do know we are about to have a low river level, and when we do, we will see how many Silver and Bighead carp are in the Old Rivers. Last year they took over these waters. We could not catch any bass until the fall when water temps cooled down a bit. Even then it was not easy. The state does not do creel studies on these waters so they don’t know what’s going on.

There are live oxbow lakes north and south of us that are in the same shape as our local river lakes. Where are the fish? We cannot find the game fish. The white bass, barred yellow bass and sea-run striped bass are doing well with the carp in our waters, but the bass, bream and perch are not. Why? They feed on the same thing as other game fish.

It is a mystery for now but I am holding to my theory about the carp. Is it pollution in the Mississippi River or is it the carp? Hopefully it is not the invasive fish or pollution, but if not, what is it? If you can answer that, let me know. Many anglers are trying to figure this out.


Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at