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Posted on Fri, May 27, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Heavy rains turn Ann Arbor soccer field into carp fishing hole

By Cindy Heflin


Paul Christensen works to reel in a carp he hooked at the soccer field at Fuller Park in Ann Arbor Friday afternoon.

Angela Cesere |

Paul Christensen cast his line deftly into the water. Seconds later, the line went taut and he went to work to reel in his catch.

The outcome was never in doubt, but the fish was not giving up without a fight. After a couple of minutes, Christensen showed off his catch, a carp of about 5 pounds, hooked on the soccer field at Fuller Park in Ann Arbor Friday.


Christensen and the carp he caught in Fuller Park.

Angela Cesere |

That’s right, a soccer field. “It’s sort of a making lemonade out of lemons situation,” said Dirk Fischbach of Saline, who came out with Christensen Friday to see how many carp they could catch at the park.

With the Huron River at near flood stage following heavy rains in the Ann Arbor area, water was running too fast to fish in the river itself. And the carp, always on the hunt for food, were taking advantage of the flood to feed in a new area. Christensen estimated hundreds were swimming about in the soccer fields, which were flooded with up to 3 feet of water.

It’s not the first time Christensen and Fischbach have turned to a flooded area to satisfy their fishing jones.

“Most of us get really bummed out when the river’s not safe to fish,” Christensen said.

“You can either sit around and do nothing or you can try to have some fun,” Fischbach added.

The river is not safe for wading in when it's flowing at 800 cubic feet per second, Christensen said. Today it was flowing at 3,400 cubic feet per second, he said.

Christensen, who works for Computer Professionals On-Site and is president of the Huron River Fly Fishing Club, said this has been the worst year for fishing on the river he’s seen. But for the past two or three years, he’s had to seek alternative fishing sites when the river has been swollen.

He admits the park soccer fields are an unusual place to fish, but he said it’s not all that different than fishing on the flats of Traverse City, which he said is common practice.

Both Christensen and Fischbach run their own fly-fishing guide services. Christensen said he takes about 15 to 20 people out per year through his Huron Fly Fishing Guide Service. Fischbach, 49, runs Huron River Fly Fishing Adventures and leads an estimated 30 to 40 trips per year. Fischbach also owns a marketing and communications company.

Though Christensen, 36, said most Huron River fly fishermen would rather fish for smallmouth bass, carp fishing is becoming more popular.

It’s all about the challenge of catching these fish, which can grow to 40 or more pounds and which fight on the line as hard as any fish, Christensen and Fischbach said. Christensen himself has caught a 42-pound carp in Traverse City. In Ann Arbor, the largest one he’s caught has been about 20 pounds.

Fischbach said Christensen is the “best fly-fishing carp fisherman on the river.”

So how many did he catch Friday? Just one. Christensen said the conditions weren't right. Cloudy weather made the fish hard to see. To get them to bite, you have to land the lure near the fish's mouth, and that's hard on a cloudy day.

Christensen said he likes the challenge of fooling the fish with artificial food. Friday, he was using a fly made to look like a mulberry, which he said is the carp’s favorite food. “Sometimes they’re attracted to the sound,” he said as he tried to hook fish in calf-deep water in Fuller Park. “I’m trying to imitate the sound that a berry makes when it falls out of a tree.”

Christensen and Fischbach said they generally release all the fish they catch, with the occasional exception of a trout caught up north. Though Christensen said some people like to eat carp, he’s not a fan. “I think they taste terrible.”



Sun, May 29, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

feet per second vs. cubic feet per second. Why the dispute?

tom swift jr.

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Let me add that the "not safe to fish" comment is spot on! I was walking by the huron at Hudson Mills this morning, the water is very, very fast. Areas of the river which, at normal flow have rapids with 2 foot drops are flowing flat, it's that high! You'll not get out of it well if you try and wade, and falling in from the bank is going to be difficult to survive as well.. be careful, especially if you have kids with you.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

@Bill Not only do we have a Michigan Fishing License, but I hold a license to sell hair tonic, to bald eagles.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

I trust that they had a license to fly fish?

John B.

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Um, it's a volumetric flow rate, not a linear velocity.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

I will always have fond memories of Dirk teaching me to cast decades ago... Paul, I know you love carp, but I leave them on the side of the river when I catch them. They ruin the beds of small mouth.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

I agree with both of you guys. Carp are invasive. I release them mostly because I don't have any use for them. I only urge people that if they want to remove carp, please don't leave them on the bank as it leaves a stinky mess and it is littering. I often give them away if an onlooker wants a fish. If you have a use for them and want them out of the river, go for it. They make good fertilizer, and some people like to eat them, but I don't.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

I second braggslaw's point. Carp are an exotic species that damage the quality of our freshwater habitats -- their feeding spoils the beds where bass breed, and they disturb sediments and uproot aquatic plants which lowers water quality. There were once beds of wild rice all along the Huron, and carp are part of the reason they are mostly gone now.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

It's against the law to leave them on the side of the river. If you want to keep them, make sure to take them away and use them for something, fertilizer etc.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

I'm issuing a yellow card to Mr. Christensen for bringing unauthorized accessories on to the pitch. ;)


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Wouldn't that warrant a red card?


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 5:11 a.m.

BTW: typical fly fisherman's exaggeration - that carp doesn't weigh 3 pounds, let alone FIVE.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:51 a.m.

The Huron River Fly Fishing Club has a good website, with an active forum for discussing fishing, boating, and other concerns related to the river. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:45 a.m.

June 11th and 12th is a statewide &quot;Free Fishing Weekend&quot;, you don't need a license to fish then. The County Parks and Recreation Department is offering Free Fishing programs that weekend, at Rolling Hills Park on the 11th, and Independence Lake on the 12th &quot;Children and adults alike are welcome to come and participate in Michigan's Free Fishing weekend. Poles, bait and instruction provided; bring your own poles if you'd like. No license needed! Bring sunscreen and a water bottle! Preregistration required, participation limited. Call 971-6337, X 334. Park entry fee required.&quot; Also the Huron River Watershed Council has been sponsoring fly-fishing workshops. They were so popular, they added another one, on June 18th: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Jed I Knight

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:22 a.m.



Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4 a.m.

Really, you have an entire story with paragraphs and quotes about a soccer field flooding but not a local city filled with HOMES? I get it. It's neat. Did you know Whitmore Lake is overflowing and flooding homes? It's about ten minutes away. How about a story about that?


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

@Tony and Cindy, Thanks for updating the terminology. Great article. Should be much better conditions for this kind of fishing once the sun comes out later this weekend.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 12:56 a.m.

My family used to eat a lot of carp when I was a kid, I really like it. But I have no fishing equipment and don't really know how to fish in the first place, so I won't be catching, cleaning, and eating any of these soccer carp. Interesting phenomenon!


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Daddy used to bread and fry it just like you would catfish. I don't remember him ever de-fatting it as you mention. Used a cornmeal batter or a commercial fry mix.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:46 a.m.

Got any good carp recipes?! I know only that removal of fat from the fish is important. Carp are &quot;oily&quot; and that adversely effects flavor and texture. They are also &quot;bony&quot; - so I imagine that proper deboning or filleting is part of the secret. Carp are NOT native to the U.S.: European settlers brought them here because they (evidently) knew how to cook and enjoy this fish.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

@Tony Dearing, Article should also be revised to remove the term snag and snagging. The term snagging is used by the Michigan DNR to describe the illegal activity of trying to intentionally hook fish not in the mouth. These fish were all legally hooked in the mouth. A better term would be catch, caught, or hooked. Thanks

Cindy Heflin

Sat, May 28, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

The word has been changed.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

Yeah, I agree. I read that and thought someone needed a smackdown.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

I still like the idea of fish going Mach III in the river. They would already be cooked when you caught them.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

same thing with Huron Hills GOlf course. I was there today and on i think hole 5 or 6 it was super flooded with a ton of large carp flopping around.

Tony Dearing

Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

Yes, thanks, the story has been revised to show the figure is for cubic feet per second.


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

They use a stream gauge to measure current flow rate in cfs (cubic feet per second). It has little to do with speed, it is volume.


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

Article should read &quot;3400 cubic feet per second&quot; You can see current stream flow conditions on the usgs website.


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

If the fish were going down the river at the speed of sound and they made a noise could you hear it?


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

3400 feet per second?! That's like three times the speed of sound.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:51 a.m.

Tru, yes we all know what cubic feet are, the original story said feet per second, hence the jokes.


Sat, May 28, 2011 : 4:42 a.m.

FYI: that's 3400 _cubic feet_ per second: that is, a volume of water (3400 cubic feet) passes a given point ON the river in one second. 3400 feet per second, as you know, is a linear measure of speed for an object. Blame whoever uses that term the river is probably moving 8-10 miles per hour on average as it passes those soccer fields. That's plenty fast and it is dangerous to enter water even knee deep moving at 8 mph. Back to cubic feet: a cubic foot is equal in volume to 7.84 U.S. liquid gallons. So 3400 cubic feet = 26, 656 gallons of water pass by a given point on the Huron in one second (under current conditions).


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

I don't risk wading once the water reaches Mach II, just too dangerous.

Ann English

Fri, May 27, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

I can understand releasing a fish you've caught, if you know it would taste terrible. Trout and bass are more popular in the market. That river current was traveling faster than the speed of sound, which is 1,100 feet per second.

Kai Petainen

Fri, May 27, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

wow. what a neat story!