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PVA Bags & Mesh with Carp Fishing

Blog by: JOHN FINNEY , Colorado 3/11/2014
PVA  Bags & Mesh and Carp Fishing

PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) bags were first used in the medical field for the one time handling of heavily soiled contaminated items. These bags were then placed into the laundry where they would dissolve in an environmentally safe solution. Today PVA is also used in packaging, label making, embroidery underlay and many other applications, fishing being one of them.

PVA is "eco friendly"
It is verified by micro-organism tests that PVA is non-toxic and doesn't restrain from the growth of micro-organism and will biodegraded completely. 

PVA has good resistance to oil and organic solvents
PVA film resists animal oils, vegetable oils, mineral oils, fats, organic solvents and hydrocarbons and is excellent packaging for organic solvents and oily products. This property is well worth noting when it comes to fishing applications and the types of baits that we can use in PVA without the mesh dissolving. Consequently addition of certain oils to baits has the potential to make them more PVA friendly.

Dissolve Temperatures
The PVA bags & mesh we use in carp fishing today are typically designed to dissolve in water temperatures in as little as 40F. The warmer the water the quicker the bag will dissolve. Conversely the colder the water, the longer is will take to break down. When fishing deeper water it may be necessary to double bag, or mesh, the bait to enable it to reach the bottom without dissolving first. If fishing in water near freezing temperature then it is possible that the PVA would take considerable time, if at all, to dissolve completely.

Applications in carp fishing
The most common form of PVA used in carp fishing will be the PVA Bag. The bags come in various sizes and have wide range of application. Typically an amount of bait will be placed into the bag along with the sinker and hook & hook link. The bag is sealed tightly with corners folded into to compress further. This forms a very aerodynamic bait package than can be cast well in excess of 125 yards.

Next would be a PVA mesh. The mesh is placed upon a tube, tied at one end. Bait is placed within the tube and forced via a plunger down and out into the mesh. When the desired amount of bait is within the mesh it is tied off. PVA mesh is more typically used with larger particle baits and allows different size "sicks" of bait to be prepared. The PVA stick is then threaded onto the hook link, above the hook, using a long baiting needle. 

Lastly would be PVA tape, foam and string. Tape or string can be used to tie or pin baits to the hook, to assist in sealing the tops of bags. Foam can be placed upon a hook point before casting out to ensure it does not become contaminated with bait reducing, or negating hook efficiency. PVA string is particularly useful for attaching a small stringer of bait to the hook for distribution around the hook bait.

PVA bags, mesh and string for carp fishing are available from online tackle vendors here in the USA. Caution should be used when obtaining PVA used for medical or other purposes due to the potential for increased water temperatures required for dissolution. Make sure the PVA you are buying, be it bag, string or otherwise, is designed and labelled for fishing use. 

When using PVA in the Field
Be very careful that your PVA does not come into contact with any water whilst you are out fishing. Protect the PVA in a water tight container. Take it out of the container when you are going to use it, return it again afterwards. It would be a costly mistake for your backpack to become wet and the unprotected PVA within dissolve into a mess inside.

When using PVA make sure that your hands are dry. 

Be mindful of the baits you are trying to use within the PVA as water content within the baits can quickly cause your bag to dissolve. For example, the last time I tried to use PVA mesh with sweet corn out of the can, it didn't end well!

It is legal in Colorado to use PVA bags and mesh attached to your line. However you *cannot* catapult, spod, use bait throwing sticks, throw, toss, use bait boats, drop or otherwise place PVA encased baits into the water without them being *attached* to the line you are fishing with.

I would also caution against casting out with huge softball or sausage dog sized tubes into the water. Not only due to run the risk of snapping your rod you could find yourself being ticketed for littering. Please use your common sense and remember, that less is often more!

PVA is not a cheap. Depending upon size and brand it can cost anywhere from $0.15 to $0.50 cents each for bags. PVA mesh can run $2-5 a meter.

I would strongly suggest that you perform some tests for PVA suitability with the baits you are intending to use before you turn up at the bank. This will save you time, and money!

PVA can be a highly useful addition to your tackle box for certain fishing applications.

Tight Lines,

Blog content © JOHN FINNEY
Blog Comments
anglerwannabe, CO   3/11/2014 12:27:05 PM
great info John
nlwreeds, CO   3/11/2014 12:49:50 PM
Terrific article, John. Thank you. I have been interested in using PVA bags for some time, but I was concerned if, here in Colorado, it would be considered "Chumming". So I wrote an E-mail to the DPAW asking that question. The answer I received said that the use of PVA bags, was, per the regs, in fact chumming and therefore illegal. I just spoke to another gentleman this weekend who had checked with another person with DPAW, higher up the chain of command, and that gentleman said that it was legal. Now I have two conflicting answers from two different officers of the Colorado DPAW. How difficult would it be to have this issue addressed in the regs as an exception to the definition of Chumming? Or could we get a post on this blog from a high enough official of DPAW to answer this question? A quote that I could then print out and keep in my tackle box would be ideal. Thank you again, John.
JOHN FINNEY (JOHN_COSprings), CO   3/11/2014 3:28:34 PM
nlwreeds, perhaps we can find out who Chad spoke with before that carp Fishful Thinker TV episode (he may already have something in writing we can refer to - or reach out to contact, to provide us with this in writing). I suspect the grey coming out of this topic is one of interpretation and some foot soldiers are being left to interpret the matter individually - thus the conflicting information. As the "higher up's" have indicated already that PVA bags are not chumming, then a simple internal memo to their troops should stop the confusion. Yes, as for getting something written into their regs for 2015 and onward, that is a great idea! Do we have some DPAW/CPW officers frequenting this forum that could work with us to make this happen ?
opencage, CO   3/12/2014 9:04:39 AM
Good write-up John. I'm sure it's not considered chumming, but I'll email Ben Swigle to ask for some kind of official statement for certainty. Thanks.
FishDr, CO   3/12/2014 9:08:46 AM
I was also intrigued by the possibility of using PVA bags and sent a query to CPW - the reply I got also stated that because it was chumming (the additional bait in the bag is NOT attached to the hook), it wouldn't be legal. If you do receive some kind of official pronouncement from high up in CPW (say from the director, or head of law enforcement), it would definitely be worth sharing.
nlwreeds, CO   3/12/2014 9:26:15 AM
I have spoken to Chad on several occasions and I know he did due diligence before airing the episode. I trust him completely. It's just frustrating that when I inquired two weeks ago directly to CPW, I got the opposite answer.
anglerwannabe, CO   3/12/2014 9:46:29 AM
I believe he did that episode with Nate Z. Maybe he could answer the question also?
Fishful Thinker, CO   3/12/2014 12:17:22 PM
I was told by CPW that as long as the bags were attached to the line which is cast, PVA bags were legal. This is consistent with what the gentleman that introduced me to the techniques was told by the agency. I agree with FishDr...perhaps someone farther up the chain of command at CPW needs to clarify, because I have since been told by two folks who also contacted CPW that the bags are not legal. I did not get a name from the person I contacted...they were quick and confident in their definition of chumming and gave me no suspicion to second-guess the info. Nate and Bob, who hosted me on the carp show, have both been told they are legal. CL
JOHN FINNEY (JOHN_COSprings), CO   3/12/2014 12:58:14 PM
From our own fishing regulations: "BAIT: means any hand-moldable material designed to attrack fish by sense of taste of smell"...." ... "including, but not limited to, worms grubs, crickets, leeches, dough baits or stink baits, .. human food ..."..."and traditional organic baits"... Packbaits, method mixes, are basically dough or organic baits. These types of bait application are allowed under the baits seciton for the regulations - there can be no argument there. PVA bags are attached to the line & hook as typically the hook and sinker are inserted into the bag. PVA sticks are attached to the line. To adhere to a statement of "must be attached to a hook" you can simply stick your hook into the bottom of the stick - now it's also attached. Again, there should be no argument as it's attached. The use of PVA just ensures that your bait is being delivered to the desired fishing spot safely and accurately. It does not fly off on the cast to place the bait elsewhere from your desired location. For this reason, I would think that we would prefer anglers to use PVA with these types of bait application. All dough/method/stink baits will dissolve in water, eventually - some much faster than others. As the use of techniques and baits applications becomes more widespread, and popular, we do need to ensure we are all fishing within the regs and that that regs are updated to reflect changing situations and modern fishing techniques. If we take a look at a few other States that have restricted regulations regarding "chum". AK does not allow "chum" in catch & release only streams/rivers that also restrict non-artificial lures and scents. MN limits the amount of "chum" that can enter the water - otherwise it's littering, NY just bans the use of "fish eggs" as "chum", RI bans the use of corn in specified trout only waters, PA makes a note that anglers should not get "carried away" with their use of "chum", WY prohibits the use of corn. NO state that I can find has banned the use of PVA bags or mesh as a delivery method. It appears more important on what bait is used within the bag, than the bag itself. Far more states still dislike the use of corn as a bait - another topic perhaps for a different day!
nlwreeds, CO   3/12/2014 3:08:16 PM
Copy and paste of the answer I received: The method you have described below is considered chumming. Chumming is an illegal method of take in Colorado. See WCR Ch. 1, Article 1, #100: ""Chumming" means placing fish, parts of fish, or other material upon which fish might feed in the waters of this state for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they might be taken, but such term shall not include fishing with baited hooks or live traps." I think we must admit that we are "placing material in the waters for the purpose of attracting fish....", but this material is not broadcast over a large area, rather it is just one component of a contained fishing system.
shiverfix, CO   3/12/2014 3:23:52 PM
Key part of that is "which fish might feed ." This means, for example, throwing a handful of corn around your baited hook. In John's description of the use of PVA, I don't see how it could be argued it is something on which fish might feed. And if you want to use that argument, than I would argue anything that dissolves off of a hook, like doughballs, stinkbait, or even powerbait would be considered chumming.
JOHN FINNEY (JOHN_COSprings), CO   3/12/2014 6:59:33 PM
Shiverfix has hit the nail on the head. If we were to take the wording as literal then we should not be using any baits that disperse in the water, this would include all scented baits, stink baits, rotting fish carcasses, anything alive or now dead, that may fall, wriggle or otherwise become detached from the hook. This basically leaves us fishing with but unscented plastics and flies! I appreciate this is an exhageration and over simplification of the situation. This is obviously not the intent of the regulations. My interpretation is that the intent of the wording is such as to prohibit individuals from dumping can hand fulls of corn, loafs of bread, bags of decaying matter into our waterways. Nobody wants to see a boat, upon our favorite reservoir, barrel on board, angler with scoop in hand, chumming a slick of red gore as if they were Quincy from the Jaws film! If we were to consider a small bag of PVA containing organic matter, a tennis ball sized lump of stinkbait, a couple of huge dead shad dangling from a couple of 0/1 hooks on a line, all are introducing oganic matter into the water with the intent of attracting fish to the bait. All should be legal within the current regulations. What we need is common sense to apply to the regulations, especially when new methods or techniques are being used. There is obviously confusion and/or disagreement between our local officials whom have been contacted by anglers. Some are simply reading the letter of the regs (as above), others are thinking about the scenario and offering a differing opinion. It's all a matter of interpretation. One of the reasons for posting this controversial blog was to get our community talking and thinking on the topic. To get the information out there for each to apply their own judgement and share there thoughts on the matter. That is how we develop our sport and communicate our thoughts on the topic with the governing authorities. Dialogue is good.
FISHRANGLER, CO   3/13/2014 7:37:07 AM
As long as the bag has the hook attached to it some way it's legal. The regulations would have to be rewitten to change that. Its pretty clear. One thing to keep in mind is some people will eat the carp and if people have a better understanding of how to catch carp, the DOW will have to less work in getting rid of carp. I think its a Win Win. The only thing I dislike is its use for other species, But the way the reegulations are written, its legal. The DOW could make a regulation change and only allow this form of UK style fishing for Carp only.
shiverfix, CO   3/13/2014 8:39:26 AM
We can take it from a different angle regarding the wording "which fish might feed." I could argue that punching some very small holes in a can of catfood or tuna and tossing it out into a lake is not chumming, by this definition, since there would be only scent and nothing on "which fish might feed." I realize I am stretching it and going over the top, but the wording, while trying to be clear, is actually vague. I don't think there is anyone here that would argue that doing this wouldn't be chumming. Anything that is put in the water without being attached to a means of catching a fish with the intent of attracting fish would be chumming. In the case of PVA, it is attached to a means of catching a fish. If you argue that there isn't a hook attached directly to the bait, then you would have to argue that a hair rig isn't legal for the same reason.
FISHRANGLER, CO   3/13/2014 9:10:41 AM
shiverfix I think if the can of corn was on a hook it would be legal. You left that out. As far as the hair rig, yeah you may have something there.
JOHN FINNEY (JOHN_COSprings), CO   3/13/2014 9:22:42 AM
"""One thing to keep in mind is some people will eat the carp and if people have a better understanding of how to catch carp, the DOW will have to less work in getting rid of carp""" - this is also an excellent point Daris, thanks ! As fo rthe hair-rig - sheesh, I think i'm going to need more coffee now, I can feel my blood pressure rising ... 8-)
shiverfix, CO   3/13/2014 9:29:50 AM
That's awesome Rangler, I'm so going to attach hooks to a can of corn! I'm not chumming, there are hooks attached! (:
FXA0, CO   3/13/2014 1:21:08 PM
Nice write up! It almost makes me want to take up carp fishing. Almost. Here is an easy solution to the legal clutter: don't fish for carp : )
FISHRANGLER, CO   3/13/2014 6:10:43 PM
shiverfix and Sir john Finney I was just making my silly contribution to all this. I like the fact were all talking about it though.
shiverfix, CO   3/13/2014 9:12:37 PM
Rangler, I hope you didn't take that as anything but the good nature that was intended. I laughed when read your post because I was totally thinking about a can of corn with hooks wired to it.
FISHRANGLER, CO   3/13/2014 9:16:25 PM
I knew what you meant. I'm worried about John though, we may have given him and the DOW a head ache.
JOHN FINNEY (JOHN_COSprings), CO   3/13/2014 9:30:51 PM
Daris, it's all good, I have a full bottle of Tylenol to deal with any headaches. This topic needs to be discussed, out in the open, and I am glad we have a good dialogue going - no matter where it leads. GIven that we have splattered this out on TV and Youtube, we certainly aren't hiding things from the powers that be at the DOW. Also given all the other things for the DOW to deal with, I doubt this topic is really high on their agenda to address.
opencage, CO   3/18/2014 12:38:34 PM
Yep, this is a good topic. The response from CPW follows what others have said. From Larry Rongstad, CPW Area Wildlife Manager: "Sounds like a variant on the doughballs we used to catch catfish growing up. As long as there's a hook attached to the bag it seems to me that it's legit." Thanks guys and fun fishing.