An American Adventure

Adventure beckons as a new day dawns over the mighty St Lawrence River

Adam travels to New York State to experience the awesome carp fishing of the St Lawrence Seaway.

I love an adventure, and going slightly off piste has always appealed to me. Fighting a powerful carp of any size still excites me, and the adrenaline of exploration and then achievement is hard to beat. I’ve fished overseas a few times, but where possible I have avoided commercial waters. I say that not to critique or discredit others; it’s just that I relish the opportunity to explore and in some ways reconnect with the pioneering spirit of carp angling that is increasingly hard to find in the UK.

My wife originates from Pennsylvania, USA, so we’ve always visited once or twice a year. A number of years ago I discovered the hidden gems of carp fishing opportunities in the USA, with wild waters in abundance, virgin/uncaught carp the norm, and very few if any carp fisheries as such. Probably the best known State for carp fishing is New York, with captures from the St Lawrence River occasionally filtering through to the UK carp scene. Over the last few years I have fished for carp in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and California, but never New York, even though I have visited the State several times. In my mind I always planned to fish the St Lawrence River, but never purposed to start there. This year, however, that was about to change; the mighty St Lawrence was calling and I couldn’t wait!

The accommodation was superb
Joe Babbitt – possibly the best host I’ve met
Another boat battle – my goodness, these fish can fight!

The trip to the airport was littered with unwelcome incidents; car trouble for my angling companion, Rich (who was meant to be driving), baggage issues with BA and the less-than-straightforward conversation about why we were traveling with so many boilies! However, eventually everything fell into place and we boarded a flight destined to Montreal, Canada (because the drive south from Montreal is a good four hours less than driving across state from New York city).

Our base for the week was the aptly titled St Lawrence Experience, in the excellent company of host, Joe Babbitt. Joe has lived alongside the River all his life, and at the tender age of 80 still chops wood, hunts, fishes and comfortably carries several 25-kilo sacks of maize around the site. Joe really is a very special guy. The accommodation was superb: a log cabin with two bedrooms, modern appliances and a rustic yet incredibly hot log burner to keep the chilly New York weather at bay. Joe showed us our accommodation, gave us a vehicle for the week and showed us how to use the boat. His brief was simple: “There’s a boat, there’s the River – go explore. Give me a holler if you need anything.” Amazing! I wish some of our over-zealous bailiffs would take a leaf out of Joe’s book!

A nice brace featuring a very rare, wild American mirror

The River was truly wild. I’m used to river fishing, but the St Lawrence is something else. It’s 800 miles long, up to four miles wide, with depths to 200ft in places. There are no swims and no definitive details of stock – it’s too big to ascertain! Mystery and adventure abounds on the St Lawrence.

We had been informed that the recent arrival of autumn/fall storms had moved the fish on, with a group of anglers fishing the previous week with no success. Our first 36 hours looked like a continuation of this trend, with big storms making the water almost unfishable – and entirely unsafe to take to the water in a boat. We sat it out in the log cabin and prayed for the weather to calm before venturing out on the water the following day. The echo sounder alerted us that some fish were present at range, and we decided to bait a trail in the hope that we could gradually reduce the distances from the shore so we could fish effectively. Fortunately, this plan worked; and the slow start soon picked up pace with several bites coming our way.

The more we baited, the more we caught, and Joe’s provision of maize, combined with our Mainline Essential IB boilies kept the bites coming. Rigs were simple, yet strong. I’d soaked some maize hookbaits in Pineapple Syrup the week before I left, and we dipped our snowman boilie rigs in Hookbait Enhancement Dip before every cast. The boosted hookbaits were certainly well received, and by the end of the week the swim was alive. We finished on 94 fish, with a number of losses that would have certainly taken us to over 100 fish. That’s not bad, given that we only fished the days, went out for meals, and regularly reeled in to take to the water in the boat and feed the swim. The average weight of the fish was low twenties, with a scattering of upper doubles and a generous amount of upper twenties in the mix. Our biggest fish for the week weighed just under 32lb, and perhaps the most special capture was a beautiful and very rare wild mirror carp of just under 20lb.

Essential IB and snowman rigs caught well
I soaked some maize hookbaits the week before we left
Another long-lean common makes my acquaintance

The last night we sat by the River with a roaring fire, cooking steak and venison (that Joe shot), and hauling carp! How good is that?

The St Lawrence River is an amazing haven for carp. If you crave an adventure where you won’t be booking yourself into a known swim to fish for known carp then the St Lawrence is hard to beat. Joe will gladly fit you out with everything you need. You just need something of a pioneering spirit and strong arm muscles for the tireless fights of the long lean St Lawrence carp.

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