updated 6/11/2007 11:57:42 AM ET 2007-06-11T15:57:42

The huge carp that populate many Arkansas lakes and rivers are scorned by American anglers as bony and inedible, but state parks and tourism officials hope the fish can help attract tourists from the United Kingdom.

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In England, the bigger they are and the harder they fight, the greater the challenge for people fishing for fun.

Arkansas officials are partnering with a British marketing firm to test whether the state can boost tourism numbers by appealing to carp lovers of the United Kingdom.

Most Americans consider carp "trash fish." The fish are bony and aren't good for eating. But the British love the sport of just catching a great big one. They follow CPR: catch, photograph and release.

Neil Stern, a board member of the North American chapter of the Carp Anglers Group, says European fishermen view carp "as a good fighting friend."

"They are very, very respectful of these fish," Stern says. "Pound for pound, it's the toughest, roughest fighting fish there is."

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism is working with The Saltmarsh Partnership, based in London, to test whether the state can successfully develop carp fishing as a tourist attraction.

Recently, the state agency brought eight British fishermen to Arkansas for a trip on various lakes, including lakes Hamilton and Ouachita near Hot Springs and Lake Dardanelle near Russellville.

The group included members of a fishing travel group, two British celebrities and four paying customers.

Christ Tarrant, host of the U.K. version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," was in the group. And John Wilson, an angler who has written books and starred on fishing shows, says he will be writing articles for British publications about the Arkansas trip.

Wilson caught a 41-pound grass carp. Tarrant caught a 30-pounder, his personal best for grass carp. Wilson says the world record for a carp approaches 100 pounds.

"We've got this thing in Britain, size matters," Wilson says.

"Size is very important," Tarrant adds.

The fishermen say the region has a lot of potential.

The record for the largest carp caught in Arkansas is a grass carp from Lake Wedington near Fayetteville that weighed 80 pounds, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Stern is planning the first official carp fishing event for Arkansas at Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs on June 23. None of the North American chapter of the Carp Anglers Group live in the state. The group has about 1,000 members.

Many carp fishermen treat any injuries to the fish that the catch caused with antibiotics to make sure the carp stays strong and healthy when it is released. There are special mats to set the fish on before gently hand-releasing them.

Wilson says Great Britain has more than 2 million carp anglers, and David Ezra of The Saltmarsh Partnership sees fishing as a big growth market for Arkansas. Three British fishing tour groups have expressed an interest in coming to Arkansas, he says.

Martin Founds of the fishing travel group Anglers World Holidays was also in the group. He says he plans to visit again in July or September. He says he and the tourism department would need to work together to find a reasonable number of fish in a number of places. Then, with the added attraction of the scenery, lodging and other amenities, the company could start to book tours. There also needs to be more bank fishing, he says.

"We're almost there, but we're not there yet," he says.

The price tag for a 10-day carp fishing trip to Arkansas would range from about $2,800 to $3,600.

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