I vividly remember the first bighead carp I caught.


I had no sure idea what it was. That’s southern Illinois guide Todd Gessner holding the fish so I could later get a positive ID.

We’ll get to that story.

First I need to apologize for not catching that it was a grass carp, not a bighead carp, that Don Rego found on the Fox River near Montgomery on Saturday.

I made a post without photos Saturday night, then reposted with a photo Sunday morning.

To make a quick excuse, I was rushing off to a karate tournament with the oldest boy and just took a quick look at the photo.


I wondered about the slender body, but thought the eyes looked right. But frankly, the big scales should have stopped me.


Unlike those of a bighead.

Thanks to several readers who caught it. I am glad it is a grass carp and not a bighead that made it past the Dayton Dam.

But it reminded me of my first bighead, and how difficult it is to tell what they are if you haven’t handled or seen a bunch of them.

I didn’t realize it had been that long, but it was nearly five years ago in May, 2004.

I was at an outdoor writers conference at Rend Lake.

Todd, with whom I’ve done all kinds of things in southern Illinois over the years, suggested something different, shore fishing in the tailwaters of the Rend Lake dam on the Big Muddy.


What a spot. It was like stepping into a wilderness. Something I highly recommend if you are down there vacationing or just visiting.

While working a jig and twister through a pool in the rapids. I latched on to a monster fish. It was a tremendous battle, but I finally beached it well downstream.

Only, neither one of us knew for certain what it was.

So I took a bunch of photos

When Todd and I traipsed into Rend Lake Resort for a late lunch, I showed them to then fisheries chief Mike Conlin and biologist Mike Hooe. Both instantly said, “Bighead carp.”

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