Carpe Carp

The sides of the river below the dam are mostly lined with ice, except where turbulence keeps the water too angry to freeze. In some places the ice stands out more than ten feet from the bank (or wall, where development encroaches too closely). And in the midst of some of these sheets of ice are areas of open water. Some are caused by oddities in the bed of the river. Some by being insulated by heavy snowfall. Some are broken open by enterprising-yet-bored programmers. And some are caused by chemical-laden runoff from the nearby parking lots.

It was in one of the latter type that Scott and I found a carp. Nothing unusual in and of itself; the river is silty and slimy and therefore ideal for carp. But the ice surrounding the pool in question extends to the bed of the river, so the carp could not have swum here, and if it had been here before, we would certainly have noticed.

Then we noticed an odd track along the wall next to the river, as if something had been…dragged. No footprints, however; just the drag marks, extending from fifty feet or more down-river. And little clumps of snow which could have been kicked down from the walkway ten feet over our heads. Having been raised on the Hardy Boys, we immediately solved the mystery: someone, fishing from the walkway, had hooked the carp and, being unable to reel the carp up through twenty feet or more of open air, had brought the thing to land and walked it up to where the river bank was accessable from above. Then this brave sportsman had un-hooked the carp and thrown it in this pool.

Could have been worse, I suppose. He could have left it on the ice to form another carp-cicle for Scott and I to throw at one another.

For a few minutes, we contemplated this carp:

“What do you think”

“Dunno. Looks like a great place to be a carp.”

“Yeah, but it might freeze. Water isn’t deep enough to cover it.”

“Won’t freeze. The salt in the run-off will stop it.”

“Probably kill it too.”

“Takes a lot to kill a carp.”

“Yeah, but that road salt’s some nasty shit.”

“Yup.”

“Yup.”

So we decided to rescue the thing. I got the honors and Scott got the camera.

First I poked the carp with my finger. It didn’t do anything. Probably worn out from being dragged through the snow, and most certainly stoned out of its head from the parking-lot effluvium. Reassured, I very gently grabbed it around the middle, avoiding the dorsal spines, and lifted it out of the water. At that moment Scott’s foot broke through the ice and startled the carp, which immediately panicked (to the extent that a carp can panic) and flipped out of my hand and raced back and forth in the meter-square pool which was its toxic little world.

Perhaps it was having flash-backs.

After it calmed down I got it in a better grip, lifted it, and [And here I want to throw in an interjection: I do not recommend ever handling a carp bare-handed. Fish keep themselves aquadynamic, insulated and vermin-free by producing slime which coats them, and carp produce more than most fish. Coupled with the fact that a carp is basically an aquatic rat or seagull, and that the Grand River is not the freshest body of water in the Northern hemisphere, and I had a handful of “ecch yuck bleargh gack phew O God my hands!” -jw] carried it the ten feet to open water and gently set it down.

Apparently it had forgotten that it had ever lived anywhere else, so it wasn’t until my own foot broke through some ice that it panicked and swam away.

I would like to think that I have burned off some bad karma, and that I will not now return in some future incarnation as a carp which gets dragged through the snow, pickled by road salt, and rudely manhandled before I am returned to my hearth and home.

So that, O my readers, is the story behind todays photo in the River Project.

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