Annual Carp Derby Returns

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Most fishing tournaments are focused around catching and releasing various species of sport fish. Limits are set, rules are establish to protect the resource, and winners usually claim a prize based on weight. Around here, tournament fishermen are going after bass, crappies, or catfish. Expand the area and walleye enter the picture. In a few parts of Ohio, there might even be a muskie tournament or two on the calendar.  Also, although not as popular, I imagine there are one or two catch and release carp tournaments in Ohio’s public waters, and pay lakes, especially down south, offer big-money opportunities for carp fishermen. Big carp are released during pay-lake tournaments so they’ll be around for the next big event. To a pay-laker, a big carp is the same as cash and needs to be protected.

The “Get the Carp Outta Here” event at Grand Lake St. Marys isn’t your typical fishing tournament. Its overall purpose is to remove carp from the lake and to draw attention to the water quality problems we are facing. Consequently, the attitude of the contestants is different. They aren’t concerned about conserving their catch but eliminating it. One could compare it, I guess, to goose hunting around here. During the early season, geese are hunted as pests and rules are set for population control. During the regular fall season, the birds suddenly become a trophy species. It all depends how you want to look at it. I imagine a serious tournament fisherman would be disgusted with our carp derby. Many are catch and release fanatics. Most fishermen have met bass fishermen who look down at anyone who keeps a fish or two to eat. Besides, that fish you put in your skillet could be one that wins a tournament later in the year for someone else. It might just be semantics, but by definition, the Grand Lake carp contest isn’t even called a tournament. It’s a different type of event and calls for a different set of rules. It’s a derby, a contest open to one and all, and the contest is to see how many carp can be removed from the lake from 4 pm Friday, June 1st to noon on Sunday, June 3. It is what it is.

Regardless, the event is again being put on by the Rotary Club of St. Marys in conjunction with St. Marys Eagles (Aerie #767) and the Lake Improvement Association. The justification for the tournament is to help reduce the number of carp in the lake which in turn will help improve the water quality. Whether that’s a legitimate reason or not makes little difference. If nothing more, look at this tournament as symbolic gesture drawing attention to the problems of the lake and the multi-faceted plan to improve conditions. Getting rid of carp is one of them.

Having said all of that, let’s look at this tournament and how unique it is compared to the others. First, there’s more than $7000 in tournament and tagged carp prizes. First prize for the biggest carp is $800 with second and third getting $400 and $200 respectively. The same prize structure goes to the bow fishermen who catch the most fish and the fishermen (all legal means division) who catch the most fish. There is a youth division, 15 and under with their own separate cash awards. Also, there are a number of tagged carp swimming around carrying a $100 sponsor tag. Taking everything into consideration, that’s an excellent payout for any local fishing tournament.

The bottom line is that this carp tournament is unique in that you don’t need a fancy boat or custom tackle to compete. Catching the most carp will probably be easier than catching the biggest carp. If hook and line aren’t your specialty, you have many other options to consider using. It all depends on how badly you want to gather in the most fish and how dirty you want to get. As far as catching the biggest carp of the tournament, I’m going to place my bets on a serious carp tournament fisherman or a local who learned at a young age how exciting it was to tangle with a ten pound carp on hook and line.

Registration is $20 for adults and $15 for youth. Registration ends when the tournament starts at 4:00 pm. On-line registration is available at or pick up registration forms at the Outdoorsman, Niekamp’s Farm & Flea Market, Grand Lake St. Marys Park Office, Kosy Kamp Ground, Grand Lake Visitor’s Center, or Grand Lake Bait & Tackle. The tournament winners will be announced and payouts will take place at 2pm on Sunday, June 3, at the first shelter house on the East Bank.