Our couch-surfing host, Julio, led us to the water’s edge outside his home-town in Virginia, introducing us to the rather bizarre local attraction at Smith Mountain Lake. A number of years prior, thousands of carp began migrating to the Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge when locals and tourists began feeding the fish rather unusual treats. Where my experience fishing in Ontario, (Canada) as a little girl always involved the use of specialized equipment like fishing lines and tackle, never in my life had I thought to use salted popcorn as bate. Why did my grandfather spend all that money on expensive lures when all he needed was Orville Redenbachers?
Julio left us on the dock watching the fish beg while he meandered away to purchase a few bags of popcorn. As we waited impatiently, like a couple of kids in a candy store, we observed a local family mosey up next to us with their two small children. Their son, who couldn’t have been more than five years old, stuffed his chubby little face with a fist of popcorn then tossed a handful into the air and over the water. Karina and I gasped as a hundreds of enormous ugly fish all clamored to the surface desperately seeking their favourite treat. We watched, our mouths agape, as these very assertive sea creatures would actually piggyback over-top of their fellow fish-mates to jump out of the water like Guatemalan children leaping high to be the first to bust the piñata. The bold little boy reached his thumb down into the mouth of a ten pound fish, and then quickly clamping down his pointer finger, he pulled the entire scaly mammoth right out of the water. It was so heavy he couldn’t hold it for long so he lobbed it back at the huge school of fish, who were now becoming more and more aggressive by the minute. The fish noisily smacked their puckered lips in unison, anticipating their delectable snack. The rhythmic sloshing sounds made by the slimy sea-creatures was quite vulgar, enough to make our skin crawl. That of course didn’t stop us from jumping up and down like little kids when Julio arrived, popcorn in hand, and we finally had our chance to feed the gruesome little monsters ourselves.
It is comical for travelers like us to witness the behaviour of these absurd fish who travel far and wide to devour puffed corn and salted butter. However, one can’t help but consider the health of these creatures. ‘They’ say that movie style popcorn is one of the unhealthiest snacks a person can consume. I have no doubt that these fish are operating on shear instinct without considering cholesterol or counting calories for their Jenny Craig diet. Perhaps as a moth is drawn to a flame, carp are drawn to popcorn?
If you have the chance to pass through this neck of Virginia make sure to check out this fishy circus act. Without a doubt you will be wildly entertained.