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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fugitive Fish Swims Fancy Free

MTA Moscow sanitary official collecting a sample of water from Patriarch's Pond.
A frustrated hunt for a fugitive fish is going on in the heart of the city. Hundreds of fishermen have tried -- and failed -- for three weeks to nab the 3-kilogram carp in Patriarch's Pond.

"I bet he is right there in the middle, somewhere deep in the algae, laughing at us," said a middle-aged fisherman who gave his name as Ivan Petrovich. "You should come here at 5 a.m. or in the evening. The shores are packed with fishermen."

The search began May 30, when city authorities dumped more than a ton of carp into the shallow Patriarch's Pond for a three-day Fishermen's Fair. Among the 1,200 or so 1-kilogram carp released into the pond was the monster weighing 3 kilograms.

The fisherman who caught the carp was to also reel in the fair's grand prize, a tiny Russian-built OKA car worth $2,000.

However, the slippery carp managed to outsmart the eager fishermen. The fish was never snared during the fair, and the prize ended up being given to the man who caught the largest amount of fish in a time trial.

The competition is long over, but the big carp and many of his smaller mates are still swimming in the pond and attracting huge numbers of fishermen every day.

"They keep coming, young and old, men and women," said Sergei, a waiter at a restaurant on a floating deck on the pond. "Even the rain doesn't scare them off."

He said that when the carp were first released, there were so many of them that they could easily be seen darting about the water and splashing at the surface of the pond.

Vladimir Polunin of the local Presnya municipal district said the authorities had to stop dumping carp into the pond after passing the one-ton mark because there simply had not been enough room in the water. Some 800 kilograms of carp were sent to a fish farm.

"We are thinking now of what to do with the rest of the carp," Polunin said.

The sheer number of fish released in Patriarch's Pond raised concerns about whether the pond could sustain them and whether they would harm pond life. Experts from Mosvodostok, the city agency responsible for Patriarch's Pond, and the Moscow ecological police were called to inspect the area in early June.

Although both organizations complained that no one consulted with them before the fish were released, they conceded that they found nothing that would endanger the pond, the fish, or the fishermen.

Inspired by the success of the fair, Moscow authorities are considering releasing fish in Patriarch's Pond again and in other ponds, Polunin said.

He added that not a single ruble was spent on the fish from the city budget.

"It all came from sponsors," he said, without elaborating.

By Wednesday, there was little sign that an abundance of carp remained in Patriarch's Pond, but Ivan Petrovich was optimistic.

"There is still plenty there," he said, packing up his rod. "Do you think that it would be possible to catch all that fish that quickly?"

And chief among them is that elusive 3-kilogram carp.