The Washington Outdoors Report: The Lake Moses Carp Classic | Characteristics
Common carp are considered trash fish here in the United States and harmful to the lakes, ponds, and reservoirs they inhabit, but it wasn’t always that way. Carp is a prized catch in Europe and considered a good table dish. In the 1800s, carp were brought from Europe to America for recreational and commercial fishing. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, they were introduced to the Pacific Northwest in 1880 when a sea captain living in Troutdale, Oregon received 35 German carp from California which he placed in his pond. The carp proliferated and within a year there were around 7,000 carp in the captain’s pond. In May 1881, the carp nursery was flooded and several thousand carp escaped into the Columbia River. Twelve years later, commercial fishermen were offering to supply carp as fertilizer to farmers for five dollars a ton.
Since that time, carp have made their way into lakes and rivers in the northwest. They are not classed as game fish but rather as food fish, and no license is required to fish them with rod and reel or bow and arrow. There is also no limit to how many you can harvest.
Ty Swartout is a member of the Moses Lake Watershed Council and is also the tournament director for the annual Moses Lake Carp Classic, a bow fishing tournament that removes a good number of these fish from the lake.
I asked Ty why carp are bad for lakes and other fish. Swartout replied, “The way they feed is to root themselves in bottom vegetation. They also spawn and thrash in shallow waters. He went on to explain that in doing so they were lifting mud and sediment from the bottom of the lake. This releases chemicals like phosphorus and nitrogen that can contribute to algae growth. Blue-green algae blooms have become a problem at Moses Lake in recent years and can be toxic to humans, wildlife and pets. The mud kicked up by the carp also coats the eggs of desirable game fish like bass and crappie which have spawning grounds in the same areas that carp congregate. This kills the eggs and gamefish populations suffer.
Swartout says there are about 400,000 to 500,000 carp at Moses Lake. They are not small fish. In the last two tournaments, the largest fish brought to the scale weighed between 25 and 26 pounds.
Swartout says he has four goals in mind when it comes to the Moses Lake Carp Classic:
1. Raise community awareness and awareness of carp damage to Moses Lake.
2. Take carp out of the lake.
3. Work with the state to update carp mitigation laws and the damage they inflict.
4. Provide a fun, safe and exciting competition with prizes provided by great sponsors.
This tournament is organized by the Washington Bowfishing Association. Last year, 100 anglers shot 26 boats, making it the state’s largest carp fishing event of 2021. They ended up harvesting 200 carp weighing around 2,200 pounds. The previous tournament in 2019 saw fewer anglers but more carp harvested (500). Swartout says the harvest could be as high as 1,000 carp if the sun is shining, the winds are light and the water is clear on tournament day.
This year, the Moses Lake Carp Classic takes place on May 21 at Connelly Park in Moses Lake. The entry fee is $60 for all award categories. The biggest fish landed will net the winning angler $1,000 plus a unique metal art plaque. There are also cash prizes for the Big 10 (the ten heaviest fish weighed by each team) and for the most fish caught. Finally, there is a bonus prize of $300 for the biggest koi brought in. Yes, people have released goldfish into the lake and they have grown over the years.
Swartout says local businesses in the community are delighted to support this event and donate a number of items which are given away in a raffle at the end of the tournament. Each angler participating in the tournament receives a raffle ticket and has a good chance of winning something.
As for the future? Ty Swartout says that with the support of the Moses Lake Watershed Council and the Grant County Conservation District, they plan to make it a two-day tournament next year, which should reduce the carp population even further.
Registration for the Moses Lake Carp Classic takes place between 6 and 6:30 a.m. on May 21 at Connelly Park. The tournament runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you have any questions about participation, would like to help, or would like to donate a prize for the raffle, contact Ty Swartout at (206) 459-2342 or by email at [email protected]