Carp Fishing


Merrimac River

One of the best carp fisheries in Massachusetts, the Merrimac River turns out consistently good fish.

                       7 pounds                                                                      19 pounds 8 ounces                                                                      21 pounds

Beginner's Luck

Spring time 2007 finds Mar-e and I connecting to the carp world. Where would one go in Massachusetts to learn carp fishing? It turns out downtown Lowell and the Merrimac River is the place to go. What started out to be an interesting story on a unique fishery has turned into a new passion for Mar-e and me. Day one was a blast! The water was high and we had to fish from the walkway above the river. Learning about hair rigs, bolt rigs, maize , corn, and boilies had my head spinning. Worst of all was getting that damn boilie stop in the hair! Not known for having extreme patience, I soon learned to mellow my approach to the baiting issue. A couple of baiting needle sticks in the hands and fingers, teaches you to take your time. A look behind me shows the water level fairly high and we fished just over the edge of the "normal" river channel. The challenge with these big fish was to thread them thru the breaks in the trees that normally are on dry ground. Having fought a shallow water striper or two, I held the line and managed an outstanding first day.

As the water level dropped quite a bit in the next week we changed strategy and went to bread and "free Lining."  We started in the canals that crisscross downtown Lowell and ended up back on the walk way. This time we fished closer to the wall and soon had a double hookup. Mar-e  caught her first carp and she was hooked too.



Ten days later we are standing where there was 6 feet of water in the photos above.

Carp can be caught within the Massachusetts Merrimac from the New Hampshire border to the tidal interchange in Haverhill. Most of the largest carp are caught from just down stream of Lowell to Haverhill and the mouth of the Merrimac. Many quality carp above 30 pounds have come from this section of river.  Swim quality varies throughout the year with water levels sometimes dictating where the fish are stacked up.   All  carp are weighed and photographed then released to qualify them for The American Carp League.

 Most carp fishermen belong to Carp groups that promote catch and release. Carp Anglers Group and the American Carp Society websites contain a wealth of information on the subject and many share their secrets for catching these big fighting fish on the forums.

Back to the Merrimac. Many tributaries enter the river. The Concord River being the most notable. Look to see if the water is swirling where the rivers meet. Many times carp appear to "hang out" in the edges of the strongest eddies.  Whirlpools often form when the wind blows upstream from the main river back into the tributary. Below are six fish we caught in about two hours fishing a whirlpool that formed at the end of the brook. We were using bread, #6 hooks and "free Lining".  Vinny spotted the fish and within 3 minutes I had the 17 pound lump.

One of the carp fisherman's biggest problems is debris in the river. Whether shopping carts or trees washed down from upstream, they can be equally lethal to the fishing line. All carp fishermen know to bring plenty of gear with them!

High water means a net meant not to get you wet.                                                         A "hair rig" the staple of carp fishermen and women!

Called a hair rig or a bolt rig, a large sinker is attached to the line above the swivel and a short leader of Power Pro snelled to a #8 or larger hook leaving a loop in the tag end to grab with the baiting needle. Corn or boilies or other favorite bait hang below the hook. As the fish ingests the bait he feels the weight and "bolts" thus setting his own hook.

There are a variety of setups that will catch carp. Some work better in certain circumstances than the others. Listen to what the experts say, then try to apply it to your own strategy. Always have plenty of hooks, weights, and line. There are a myriad of ways to lose your gear.  Sunken trees and branches and even autos may be below the surface waiting to bite you off.

I like to use white paper where I work. It shows up the line and makes it easier for the eyes when tying knots.  A little practice at home makes it easier to not look like a "newbie". Weights of various sizes and styles are used in many fashions. Here is a sliding weight setup using an egg sinker . Others use a locked weight. At times you may not need a weight.

Pre-chumming your swim always helps. Make your own or buy one of the many available. A sugar scoop attached to a short stick will allow you to fling your chum further and easier.

Access points to the river are plentiful. You may have to travel around a bit, but parking can be found, and it is worth the effort. There are multiple parks in various river towns, and carp can be caught all along the way.

Fishin July 21, 2007  Merrimac River

The morning was perfect for fishing. Seven of us filled the pegs. The river was high and the current was swift, but fish were still in the swim. Bill Anderson had the hot # as he pulled in a number of teens to the net. The largest was 18 pounds. Scott was working fine on the net and pulled in a couple himself.

Mary had a nice 8.5 lb fish and the ducklings grew fat on Larry's errant bait throw.

Many carp "fishins" are held on the river each year.  Most times many fish are caught,  recorded and released. Most carp range from 10 -20 lbs. Quite a few can be caught between 20 - 30 lbs. Above 30 pounds the fish get fewer and those over 40 pounds, are the exception.  









As you can see the fish are plentiful and of top quality all along the Merrimac River. Mirror Carp can also be caught by the persistent angler from time to time.  From the New Hampshire border to the brackish waters in Haverhill, large carp can be found and caught on a regular basis. From free lining bread,  to the most intense method recipes, carp fishing is one of the main attractions in the "Merrimac".   Catch and release allows the same fish to be caught again and again as they are very hardy fish. As in the old countries across the pond many carp receive names and are recognized when caught. Come join the growing ranks of men and women chasing carp as a sport fish. Maybe one day there will be one named for you!


Sunday Morning Carp fishing Lowell

Mar-e and Matt show their stuff. 

The Merrimac River is a good choice to get your carp prayers answered!

The weatherman said just an outside chance of showers. Sure enough when we got outside, we had showers. As Mar-e, grandson Matt and I arrived the rain started falling. But we didn't let it dampen our spirits as we set up for the morning bite. A yelp from Vinny helped fuel the excitement as Mar-e and Matt went to net and photograph the first fish. Vinny brought a nice 15+ common to the net and Mar-e made short work of it.

 Another quick hit and run brought a second nice fish near 17 pounds and the bite was on. My poor grandson thinks you only go fishing on rainy cold days. But he soon heated up as got one on only to lose it near the net. He had three on, but none landed. I think he's hooked. Mar-e managed to sneak by both Matt and myself to grab the screamer and an 11 pound fish. The water level was still high and the current running quickly, but that enhances the chances along this stretch of the Merrimac River as a good back eddy sets up and the fish appear to hold in it.

We had 15 runs  in 3 hours and 5 landed. The biggest was 18 pounds.  I did have a nice one that was hung up in the tree. Just couldn't get it up and over.

 see the story

Fishing by foot in downtown Lowell

Boston and Maine Steam Engine along the canal.

If your a carp fisherman in Massachusetts, Lowell is on your map. The Merrimac River runs right thru the town providing ample opportunity to catch quality fish.  Along with the mighty Mac are the interconnecting canals that cross the town from west to east. These canals hold carp in good size and numbers to make it worth your while to take a tour. Vinny Jeffreys one of the areas top carp fishermen knows his  carp waters well and was an excellent tour guide. light gear was the order of the day , so armed with my best "Elmer Stick", a 5 foot ugly stick and a Penn 740ss, we were on the road.

Leaving Post Office Square on the river we headed past Lowell High School on our way to the first stop. Loaves of bread and gear in hand, we headed out into the city.  A city festival will soon be held and colorful costumes hung out across the canals and artists were putting the finishing touches on their projects.

Stop #1 brought a couple of short runs, but no fish. Old guys stopped on their way by and offered advice on where the best place was. So no fish, no problem. And off we went on our way across town to the next spot.

Here Vinny spread some of his bread on the water allowing the slight current to float the "chum" into the strike zone. Carp activity on the slick allowed Vinny to place his bait in the correct spot to hook this nice 10+ pound common. Elmer proved to be adequate on the net and fish #1 was added to Vinny's,  American Carp League total.

We tried a few more spots along the way checking for active fish and looking for some mirrors. Great Blue Herons lined the shores here and there waiting for dinner to come by.

Finally we hit the daily double. Mary reeled in her first, just under 10 pounds, and I had a nice 12 lb. 4 oz fish. It was a little confusing for a minute but soon we had both fish on the dock. Vinny did some serious coaching for Mare-E who handled her first carp well. As we were getting ready to leave I had one more run and hooked another 10 pound 12 oz fish.


So if your thinking carp, look to the city of Lowell and the Merrimac River. Find yourself a favorite spot or put on the hiking shoes and make your way across the city and find canal carp.  If your fortunate enough to run into Vinny in your travels, a few well placed questions may give you the solid advice you need to land one of the giants that lurk in range of your hook.

"Elmer Mudguaard"    photos by "Mare-E "



Elmer and Mar-e  keep up the torrid pace of large carp. Merrimac River comes through again. Mar-e out fishes both Co-chairmen of Mass. Marius nurses a vicious wound from  Mar-e's 14+ fish. Dorsal spike gets hand that unhooked it.

Vinny Jeffreys wins 2008 Carp Cup

Massachusetts Carp Anglers Group joined with Bite Me Bait Co members in a battle for the BMBC Carp Cup. The winner is the one with the largest fish. This years event was held in the tidal zone of the Merrimac River.  Vinny Jeffreys from Lowell came in first with a 22+ pound common carp. Vinny is a well known carp fisherman with many experiences fishing carp across the country.

Merrimac River 2008

22 pound fish take cup home

Bite Me Bait Co VP's Score fish too. Billy Bob caught his first carp establishing his PB at 17.5 pounds. This was the second place fish.  Jimdogg was in the right place at the right time to score a 10.5 pound fish of his own.

Billy Bob's First Carp Video

Bite Me bait Co Carp Cup 2007

see the story

Dodging Poison Ivy in pursuit of big carp.

Merrimac River = Fine Carp Fishing

Vinny shows the 22+ pound fish and the fish without pectoral fins.  Elmer sports a nice 12.

Neither poison ivy or 100 degree heat can deter a good fisherman.

The river was flat and the current meandering as we set up our gear for the day.  We baited our pegs and waited for the first alarm to go off. Schools of herring and shad snapped and popped on the surface as they made there way back to the ocean. An occasional big splash of a striped bass made our spirits soar. Ospreys came by on a regular basis searching for a lazy fish on the surface. Time kept moving and soon a few hours had gone by and the temperature was approaching 95 degrees. We hadn't seen hide nor hair of a carp or had a good run all day . That was soon to change. b"Beeeeeeeepppppp, screamed Vinny's alarm and the bite was on. We hooked 12 fish in all, Vinny lost a couple due to structure and I to OE (operator error).  The 22+ spent some time in the branches but Vinny managed to coax her out and she made the picture. Soon the carp were taunting us. Surfacing and jumping fish put on a great display. We did hook a few of the leapers and Vinny had to wade in and grab my last fish by the tail to pull it in . We had a great time and with trash bags covering my legs and a bottle of poison ivy wash, all problems were eliminated.

This dark one was leaping all around my bait and Vinny's likewise.

Carp Fishing stays hot in the big rivers. Reports from the field have many big carp from 15- 30 pounds  being caught.

Elmer and Vinny show twins and another big carp.  Thunderstorms and rain made for a shortened session. With Vinny catching 6 nice fish and Elmer with the assist when he had a double header, It was a great day. With gas prices at the pump so high, people are not getting out in their boats. So fish carp from shore in your favorite local pond or river catch big fish and have an enjoyable time.

Fishing between the raindrops.

September 6, 2008

Tropical storm Hanna sent one wave of heavy rain at us in the early morning hours of Saturday. Hearing the heavy rain on the roof, Mar-e said, "Beautiful! That means we can sleep in for another hour", which we did.  A quick call to Jimdogg got him on board and within an hour we were off to Methuen and the Merrimac River. Water levels were the lowest we had seen all summer, but there was still a good current running. We didn't know how the fishing would be with the big low pressure center heading our way and I do think it slowed down the action somewhat.

We still managed to come up with a couple of nice fish.

It wasn't long before Roger sniffed us out and set up his gear along side ours. He assisted Mar-e with her fish and showed Jimdogg the proper technique in bringing one to the net.

Shortly after this fish we packed it in as the second wave of rain came our way. And it came down hard all the way back to Rockland. Still, though we didn't break any records today, we broke the boredom of a rainy day. Remember to always practice catch and release with these game fish.

Cold weather, high winds, No Problem

Elmer and Roger Aziz Jr. show some nice Merrimac River carp. 2008

November 1, 2008     Merrimac River    Lowell, Massachusetts