You don’t have to kill carp
  |  First Published: August 2007

I hate to keep harping on it but it annoys me when I hear bush lawyers – blokes who wouldn't know their rear end from their elbow – repeating misleading drivel about angling matters to other anglers and to the public at large.

Probably the most common one is that which relates to the disposal of European carp. The bush lawyers would have it that you have to kill them if you catch them in NSW and the ACT; that you cannot put them back alive into the water. You hear it all the time. Well-spoken, earnest chaps, pontificating in the clubs and pubs with a demeanour that almost makes you think they know what they are talking about. It happens in the media, too.

Just recently, for example, an article in one of Australia's most prestigious fly fishing journals repeated the mantra that you have to kill a carp if you catch one in the ACT and NSW. Two real or pretend dumbos on a pathetically-bad Southern Cross Television fishing program on the ACT, shown locally and in NSW recently, earnestly faced the camera and declared that carp in Lake Burley Griffin have to be killed if they are captured.

Even the NSW Fisheries handbook, read by tens of thousands of anglers and others during the year and accepted as the fishing bible, states that carp ‘should not be returned to the water alive’, although I will accept that there is a difference between should not and must not.

Sadly, the bush lawyers are wrong and it is about time somebody took them on. The reality of carp laws in Australia is that in some states, Victoria, for example, carp are declared a noxious species. That means that if you catch one you have to kill it; you cannot return it to the water alive unless as happens during some coarse fishing competitions where you get a special licence of exemption which allows you to catch them then put them back into the water they came from, still alive.

That's not the situation in the ACT or NSW. In both of these areas you can make up your own mind as to what to do with a carp when you catch it. You can kill it if you wish, and there are no bag of size limits, or you can return it alive to the water from which you took it. You cannot, of course, translocate it, which means you can't go and put it in some other waterway.

So why is this important? Firstly, there is the point of law. Laws are made to enable government to manage things effectively and hopefully, efficiently. It works better if everybody understands and obeys the law. To facilitate this, laws should be made as simple as possible and be made as easy as possible to be understood.

The bush lawyers, convincing though they might sound, obviously do not understand the law, presumably have never read the law and do a great disservice to the general public by peddling untruths. They undermine the law and make it just that much harder for law enforcement authorities to do their job.

There are other reasons to consider, too. People who wish to or feel compelled to kill carp will do so but unfortunately do not always do the right thing in disposing of them. Commonly they chuck them into the grass or the nearest bushes where they rot, attract flies, rats and other vermin.

Around our local lakes they make a disgusting spectacle, rotting on the bankside or fouling lakeside garbage bins, reflecting badly on the whole angling fraternity. In rural NSW they are reputed to provide undesirable amounts of food and sustenance for feral cats and pigs.

Our pleas for people to make better use of carp, such as for snapper bait down at the coast or as fertiliser for the home garden, work with some people but unfortunately not on the greater masses influenced by the bush lawyers.

There are philosophical considerations, too. Anybody who thinks they are helping control carp populations by killing the ones they catch is sadly mistaken. It's all very well to feel noble about bopping one on the head (‘the only good carp is a dead carp’) but when you consider that just one carp can produce several million eggs in a year, your chances of making a significant difference to the population are zilch.

It's painful to have to accept this but unfortunately you can't argue with population laws. Consider that if 5 millions anglers killed one carp a year each. they could still be outbred by a single fat, ugly, scaly mud marlin, aquatic rabbit, goldscale rat, Burley Griffin broadbill, swamp trout, call it hat you will. A sobering thought.

I worry about raising a generation of anglers, especially youngsters in an early and impressionable learning stage, to believe that something should be killed just because we don't like it. For heaven's sake, that's how early Australia developed and look at the mistakes we made there!

We didn't like kangaroos – bang! we shot them. Emus, wallabies, koalas, magpies, kookaburras, pigeons, cockatoos, pelicans, possums, snakes, lizards – we shot them. Whales, dolphins, sharks, rays – we knocked them off.

Some went for food, skins or other uses and that may have been acceptable in those times but in modern times we surely have developed a more enlightened attitude – kill something if there is a good purpose to it, otherwise think about it and do not kill just for killing’s sake.

Having said this, I can safely predict that some readers will interpret it as a plea for some sort of protection for carp. It's not; it's simply a plea for commonsense and an understanding of the law.

Believe me, if there is a safe and effective way to manage Australia's invading carp population I will back it to the hilt. If that means invoking the use of the lethal carp spring viraemia virus, koi herpes virus or some other pathogen, or developing a genetic manipulation technique such as the daughterless carp program, let’s do it.

But until there is a tried and proven technique, let's not let the bush lawyers get away with peddling rubbish. Next time you hear someone say you have to kill a carp in the ACT or NSW, ask the purveyor of the nonsense to provide proof that that is true. Or that it is even useful. Put up or shut up, and preferably the latter.


There is a brighter side to our winter. The native fish are quiet but in another month or so they will start to move and the lay-off gives us a chance to refurbish our gear. Rod and reels are being put back into full working order, lures are sporting new trebles and rings, and we even get some daylight time to work on boats and motors.

The trout. too, are still cavorting happily in the mountain lakes.

It's pretty cold up there but the trout enjoy that. At the moment the browns have largely finished their spawning run and the rainbows are starting to move up into the same waters to spawn.

There are plenty of fish to be taken in the lakes, however, and enterprising anglers can get a feed or some fun on most days.

Fly anglers can expect a fish with sink-tip or full sinking line and weighted nymphs, cased caddis and other small wets. Polaroiding is well worth a try.

Bank anglers can expect reasonable numbers of fish on PowerBait, bardi grubs, wood grubs and scrub worms right through the day, although the nights are a bit too cold for most people.

Trollers will fare best with lead-core line or a downrigger using small minnow patterns such as those from Merlin, Attack, Deception, Min Min or Rapala. Winter fishing, providing you are well rugged up, can be an exhilarating experience.

Visitors to Lake Eucumbene, however, are warned. Your days of pilfering artefacts from the old Adaminaby township exposed by falling water levels are over. NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor has placed a 12-month interim heritage order on the town, with fines of up to $1.1 million for removing or damaging anything in the precincts. So leave things where you find them.


We have a new fishing club in town. It's called Fishing Chicks and has been formed by effervescent lady angler Angela Byron. It's for ladies only and already has attracted 30 members who like to fish, who want somebody to go fishing with, who want to learn to fish in a friendly group and who want to go on fun fishing trips.

Their first outing to Lake Burley Griffin produced some carp and redfin and other trips inland and to the coast are planned. It sounds like a great venture and it's about time the girls got a fair go in the angling world.

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