For the love of carp: Carp fishing enthusiast speaks out over herpes virus concerns and alternate uses for the pest fish

To most, they’re the bane of our waterways – ugly mud-suckers clogging up rivers and damaging native fish stocks around the country.  

To others they’re an under-utilised resource, ripe for export as well as providing fighting fun. 

It’s why, for some, government plans to release a waterborne herpes virus aimed at drastically reducing carp numbers across the country is reason for alarm. 

Michael “Mick” Graham, a keen carp fisherman, is one of those calling for a rethink on the virus.

He started the Aussie Carp Fishos Facebook group last year as a space where fisherman with a passion for catching carp could compare catches and fishing yarns, free from online criticism.

“I was sick of posting photos of carp I caught and everyone having a go at me for releasing it,” he said. 

The page now boasts hundreds of members from across the country, with a strong contingent from the Maitland, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas. 

Mick with his first catch of the day at Maitland's Telarah Lagoon.

Mick with his first catch of the day at Maitland's Telarah Lagoon.

In NSW, carp are listed as a class three noxious fish – meaning that they don’t legally have to be destroyed when caught. 

Mick acknowledged that catch and release of carp is a controversial practice, but said that he didn’t believe in killing a fish unless he could utilise it. 

“If I’m not using it for food, fertilizer or bait I don’t see the point in killing it,” he said.

Mick said being a carp-enthusiast only formed part of his concerns over the impending herpes virus release. 

“For the majority of us, it’s concerns about the environment more than anything.”

Chief among these concerns are that the virus could be so successful in killing carp that the huge number of decomposing specimens would strip oxygen from waterways, killing other fish and plant life in the process. 

Instead, he thinks that carp in Australia present a range of opportunities, including export to Asian countries where it is popularly eaten. 

“We charge higher for free range lamb or beef – why not for disease free carp?” he said. 

Mick's first catch of the day, a carp measuring nearly 70cm.

Mick's first catch of the day, a carp measuring nearly 70cm.

“I don’t see why we can’t be looking at carp here as a disease-free product.” 

Mick is currently organising a social day for the group at Lorn, where the herpes virus will be one of the issues up for discussion. 

“That’s our big thing – once they release this virus, there’s no coming back,” he said.