Reel Road Trip - Mark Melnyk Tackles Texas
WFN’s REELROADTRIP Host and producer Mark Melnyk talks carp with us here at USCARPPROmagazine. Man are his angling juices flowing after bagging his first 20lber with Jason Johonnesson. Lets hear what he has to say about carp angling in North America...
/// Mark, thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to chat to us here at USCARPPROmagazine. Let's start by saying that the growing American carp scene really appreciates any exposure it can get through WFN. What alerted you to the Lonestar Carpers and sparked these shows you've put together?///
Thanks for including WFN and the Reel Road Trip in your mag… I greatly appreciate it! I first heard about the Lonestar Carp Brigade from JP Greeson, who heads up www.texasfishingforum.com … JP is a great friend of the network and has his fingers on the pulse of all things fishing (both salt and freshwater). So when I was sent to Texas the first time, I called JP to pick his brain for unique show ideas. Carping on Lake Fork, one of Texas’ world famous big bass lakes, was a perfect story for the episode; unique and challenging. I did the feature with the founder of the brigade, Zach Van Fleet, at Jason Johonnesson’s place. The wind and weather were abysmal and we didn’t catch… but we did walk away with a great introduction piece to modern-day carping and the equipment brought here from the UK – gear I might add, which totally separates carping from anything I have ever seen before.
///Do you have plans to try and get some more carp angling onto WFN from other areas of the country, perhaps even other styles of carp angling also? I know flyfisherman have long appreciated the the prowess of the "Hillybilly Tarpon" or "Golden Bonefish" as they are some times called.///
Of course. The nature of WFN’s Reel Road Trip is to showcase fish and the people who catch them. If it’s unique, and viewers let us know they’re interested, it’ll make its way in the show. Carping is a growing North American sport and to think that people are catching carp on the fly is a great angling feat. I have yet to throw flies at carp, but most definitely will put it on my list.
///Have you been struck but the nature of the fishing style and equipment used by the hardcore carper? How might that adapt to the North American angler?///
I was amazed when I did that first equipment feature on carping. I had no idea there was such specialized gear to target such an under-utilized species here in North America. I knew it was very popular in the UK, but literally had no idea of its magnitude and technological advancements overseas. The unique equipment one can use to target carp, takes fishing as a whole to a new level. Though you don’t have to use specialized gear to fish for carp, it does maximize your “bait in the water time” which of course, results in more fish. I think the most innovative piece of equipment is the bite alarm. Using a bite alarm system literally changes fishing, not just for carp, but for other species as well.. It allows for 24/7 access to catch fish, and that has serious habit-changing implications for single anglers or groups of people. By using bite alarms, carpers (and other multi-species anglers) can effectively incorporate fishing into many recreational activities such as camping, picnics or simply a day at the park with one’s family, allowing multi-activity trips without losing valuable fishing or family time. I think you’ll see a slow addition of gear such as bite alarms to anglers' equipment arsenals as carping becomes more popular in North America. I would hope this addition will eventually bring more people into fishing, not only for carp, but for other species targeted from shore. More fishing and more time with the family? Perfect!
///Do you think carp represent a resource that might engage young anglers and maybe even become a target species for stewardship programs like "Take Me Fishing", surely nothing will hook more kids than landing a big fish? Could they be the "soccer" of the fishing world?///
ABSOLUTELEY carp have the ability to engage young or first time anglers. So many children develop their love, or lack thereof, for fishing on the first couple of outdoor experiences. First impressions are vital to keep people interested. Carping has the ability to keep kids engaged in the activity, as well as allow them to catch a remarkable specimen early in their fishing career. When the fish aren’t biting, you can be playing frisbee, having a catch or throwing a football around – keeping children occupied while waiting for the alarm to scream. I recently caught my first carp from shore, a 20 lb plus fish. As an average fish size for the body of water we were on, I can only imagine the excitement for a rookie angler hooking into such a remarkable fish their first time out!
///Now lets talk personal triumphs. We have you as our cover angler this issue. How did you find angling for your first carp? Did it live up to your expectations?///
My expectations were completely blown away the first time I fished for and caught a carp. Jason Johonnesson and I met at Lake Austin in Texas for a quick session as a feature for an upcoming episode of WFN’s Reel Road Trip. We had a basically uneventful night of fishing with our Bite Alarms going off a handful of times as catfish were messing with our baits. When we rose in the morning, I realized how much of the night I lay awake in anticipation of a screaming run. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve… I hardly got a wink of sleep. We got out of our bivy sacs, complete with bed-chairs, and started making breakfast… I had a long drive ahead of me to make it to Houston that day, and we still had interviews to conduct – so time was a bit crunched and we hadn’t caught a carp yet. Well a small feeding window happened to open up just as breakfast was being served. Beep…2 seconds pass… Beep…..1 second passes…. SCREAMER! We ran over to the rods, rolled camera and engaged the reel. Fish on! Was it a Buffalo or a carp? After a challenging test, we managed to angle the fish through some barrier weeds and landed it. Onto the carp pad for a quick weight – Just over 20lbs. We put the fish in a keeper bag for later photos. Moments later, as we were finishing breakfast, it happened again...this time there was a 10-15 second break between the first beep and the screaming of the alarm… this fish was bigger and came in at approx 23 lbs; a couple of quick photos and a well-deserved release… “Welcome to the show” we said to Jason. Jason and I were both relieved to be able to include carp in this episode of WFN’s Reel Road Trip. 1st fish – a 20lber, 2nd a 23lber… not bad for a carp rookie.
///Have you been brave enough to tell your fellow anglers you're a closet carper yet and what kind of response has that drawn?///
I think the people that know me also know that if it swims, I’ll fish for it… so the fact that I am looking forward to the spring carp season shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone… I have had a couple of close friends inquire about where to get carp gear here in the north… they see the photos from Lake Austin, Johonnesson’s 70 pound smallmouth buffalo www.texasbuffaloadventures.com and with many memories of seeing cruising carp in many local bodies of water, the boys are also fired up for the spring carp season. They literally didn’t know they were a viable sport fish until now.
///Well we're thrilled you've taken notice of what we believe is a terrific resource for North American angling. How do you see this developing and how big of a part will media play it that acceptance?///
Media is awareness. I think any exposure will help further position carp angling as a fun, entertaining, big fish adventure. Visual media works together with word of mouth from existing carpers to dispel some of the myths surrounding rough fishing in general. Visually highlighting carp fishing helps dispel any myth you need big $$$ to catch fish. If you can get to the water, especially in urban settings, you can catch lots of big fish. I think the next step is to get a noticeable presence for carp gear in tackle shops around North America. With the vast amount of anglers entering these stores, rough fishing popularity will pick up if gear is made available and made visual in these stores.
///Huge thanks Mark and I have a suspicion we’ll be talking again!!!///