Don’t be Koi with me.

During a recent fishing trip to a small city lake, my son spied something orange in the water, suspended under a tree limb. I recalled the tell-tale sign of blue aquarium gravel at the boat ramp and suspected it was a goldfish or koi. We eased up quietly to get a better look but it scooted off.

Because of their often detrimental effects, invasive species are a major concern and precautions are taken to prevent their spread. But this was, well, someone’s pet. I’ve never targeted koi. Could they be caught on rod and reel? If so, how? And further, if I caught it, then what?

This spring, Dave Maynard, host and executive producer of TV shows “Fish the Baja” and “Fishing Across America,” was fly-fishing and hooked a 28” koi in the South Platte River near Denver, so I posed these questions to him.

“It was swimming with several carp. After 30 casts or so with a crayfish pattern, it bit,” he shared. “I fought it for 7-10 minutes. It was every bit as strong as a common carp.”

The big white fish with black and orange patches was brought back to his koi pond. If he didn’t have a koi pond, he would have released it. With plenty of similarly behaving common carp already in the system, the removal of a fish that he maybe sees 4 or 5 times in 100 fishing trips, didn’t seem necessary.

Harmless as it may seem, even if your pet koi has overgrown the tank, releasing one fish in a new system can lead to drastic changes in that fishery. Plus, it makes management even more complicated. Each state’s regulations can help answer what to do if a strange fish is caught. A fish with a “prohibited” status, such as the Asian Carp, can not be returned to the water, but koi seem to fall into the just “frowned upon” status.

Fortunately, I’ve got a big empty aquarium in case my path crosses again with something big and orange.

You Might Also Like

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.