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Monday, February 11, 2008

Carp with no fear

I have heard carp called “rabbits of the river”. I have heard they are bottom feeders. That they stir up the mud and disturb the habitat of our native fish. ‘Tis said there are too many in the River Murray. I have even caught a few and heaved them onto the river bank thinking I was making a small contribution to the local ecology. But I was unprepared for the sight that greeted me on a recent Thursday when I strolled down to the water’s edge.

I have been visiting Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island in particular for over forty years and rarely has the muddy bottom been visible like it is now. Where there is normally a meter or so of water, now there are several meters of flat gray mud along the shore line.

However, on Thursday the wind changed direction, pushing the water back creating a shallow covering a few centimeters deep. Here a dozen carp were feeding, plowing their fat lips through the mud. Most of them over forty centimeters long. Their sagging, unsupported fins and glistening scaly backs breaking the water surface. I ran for my camera.

Carp feed by sucking in the mud and filtering out the invertebrates and a little of the plant matterwhich they prefer. Here they were gorging themselves seemingly without fear of predators. Not a pelican within a hundred meters. “Are the pelican’s over fed?” I wondered.

On Friday when the waters retreated again, the evidence of their activities was exposed. If I had not been there to witness their foraging I would have been mystified at these strange thick squiggles in the mud. Here is the evidence of what a few carp can do in just a short time to disturb the riverbed.

At first I thought the Carp were gone, but as I scanned along the river I could see a several Carp breaking the surface in the distance. I had regretted not taking the opportunity to catch a few, for the benefit of the river as it were. I then tried, but the line was old and easily broke. I left frustrated but certainly intrigued by what our sadly depleted river had revealed.

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