Oswego River’s Master Chef

McGrath with a carp… they kept coming all night long.

On the water, Mike McGrath II looks like your average angler. But look close enough and you’ll see the guy’s fishing habits are anything but common. You see, the man’s favorite game is carp, and he owes his extraordinary success to his knowledge of carp cuisine.

Not cooking the brutes, mind you–hell, seafood chefs are a dime a dozen. But preparing meals that carp find so irresistible, they pack so thick into holes he chums, their wakes swamp the shoreline.

OK, that might be exaggerating things a bit. But the fact is the man knows more about the tastes of rough fish than anyone I’ve ever met. In fact, he’s so savvy about their dining habits, his firm, McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services (315-882-1549; [email protected]), is famed for providing fishing adventures dreams are made of.

While most anglers fantasize about fishing action so fast and furious their arms ache for weeks afterwards, few ever have their dreams come true. A trip with McGrath, on the other hand, leads to so many carp, you’re immediately inducted into an exclusive group of smiling anglers incapable of ever wearing a straight face again.

Now, I’ve known about the river’s fantastic rough fish populations since early childhood. Back in the 60s, me and the boys would chip in to buy a can of kernel corn, go to our favorite fishin’ hole, throw three-quarters of the can into the drink to draw the fish, sit down and wait. We caught a lot of carp…but we had to wait. And we waited a lot between hits.

Not master carp chef McGrath. He reduces the waiting time to anywhere from a few seconds to a couple minutes by chumming the area with a fragrant recipe he calls a “tending pac” or “12 pac.”

In a big bowl, he mixes crushed popcorn, crème corn, quick oats, puffed wheat, corn pops, Panko bread flakes (Japanese breadcrumbs) and millet. Adding Marukyu carp sauce or R&W Carp juice for added scent, and reconstituted calve’s milk replacement as a binder, he mashes the ingredients into a ball and squeezes it 12 times; hence the name 12 pac.

“One youngster I know spits in his bait to bind it,” says McGrath. “We call him animal.”

After lobbing several baseball-sized chunks of the stuff into the spot he wishes to fish, and scattering several handfuls of boiled feed corn around the site to whet their appetites further, he gears up.

“This fishing is so brutal, I have to re-spool at least twice a month,” he says, while winding 14-lb Stren mono onto his Alvey reel, an Australian contraption which allows the spool to be moved so it’ll cast from the front like a spinning reel, or the side like a center-pin.

Terminal tackle consists of a slip sinker on the main line, a barrel swivel and a couple snelled hooks. The hooks are tied side-by-side onto the swivel’s bottom ring.

Baiting each of the hooks with a corn pop, he encases them in an egg-sized 12 pac and casts.

A carp is usually munching on the offering before the water can dissolve the 12 pac.

I reduced the time between hits even more by fishing a single corn puff dipped in Marukyu carp sauce, enticing numerous catfish to hit before the bait could reach bottom.

Mike, being a carp purist, wasn’t as thrilled as I, a catfish enthusiast.

“We’re fishing for carp, he reminded me. “When I start getting too many catfish, I cast to a different spot.”

I spent the next hour or so catching and releasing so many fish I broke out in a sweat. It was as heavenly a fishing experience as a mortal angler could ever hope to find down here.

All made possible by a guy who looked beyond prejudice, recognized the value of the Oswego River’s incredible carp population and founded McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Associates, an affordable guide service to fishing excitement that’ll take you beyond your wildest dreams.

McGrath mixing his secret tending pac (carpspeak for chum).

Terminal rig showing hooks holding line bait (carpspeak for bait).

Baited hooks wrapped in tending pac.

McGrath with the prize.

McGrath Associate’s Darryl Storie holding a bonus catfish.