Post date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 15:28
Updated date: 6/28/17
Common Carp Cyprinius carpio

The carp is the top gamefish in the world - more people rate the Carp as their most sought-after fish than any other. The Carp also exceeds all other fish in pounds eaten per year. The reasons that the Carp is the most popular fish to catch in the world are many. First and foremost, they are big, tough fish. Carp do not jump, nor are they blindingly fast. However, they are stronger, pound for pound, than any other fish, and will doggedly fight you to their last ounce of strength. In addition, Carp are found almost everywhere. Here, in the United States, most of our lakes and rivers have been stupidly polluted to the point where our prized native fishes cannot survive. The hardy carp hardly notices this, and thrives in waters where our native fishes cannot live, providing us with one of the greatest sportfishing opportunities that has ever existed. In Great Britain, Carp anglers will spend weeks stalking a single wary carp, while here in the US one can catch the fish of a lifetime (a 20-pound carp) ten times in a single day without too much effort on the part of the fisherman. Still, carp are fickle, and the techniques for catching them, refined over hundreds of years, are as varied as the habitats in which carp fluorish. To catch a specimen carp is to join the ranks of the greatest anglers who have ever lived. My largest carp to date is a 36 pound monster I took from a large walleye lake a few years back, and the memories of that battle urge me onward on my fanatical quest to conquer a 40-plus pounder. And then, the fish gods willing, a 50.


The common carp is a heavyset, thick fish with large scales and serrated, spiny dorsal and anal fins. The carp has a set of barbels, or whiskers, near the mouth, just like a catfish does. Thus it is very easy to tell if you have caught a carp - look for barbels and large scales. The body is usually ornage or yellowish in color, although certain populations tend more toward the silver or grayish end of the spectrum. Fins may have reddish overtones. The Common Carp has been bred by man into many different forms, from the colorful Japanese koi to the smooth-skinned leather carp. The Mirror Carp, a strain of carp which sports a patchwork pattern of isolated, large scales, is also found here, though rarely. Carp are found in both rivers and lakes, but are most often encountered in rivers. Lake carp are very different from their riverine brethren, and grow larger. Adult carp feed mainly on aquatic insects, but have been known to eat minnows, seeds, and crayfish as well.


Carp spawn in shallow, weedy water in the spring. After spawning time, they may be found almost anywhere. Large river systems provide excellent carp habitat, but many lakes support resident populations of trophy carp. It's easy to locate carp in the spring, when they often leap from the water in the throes of their spring spawning urges. Later in the year, look for current breaks in rivers - carp are bound to be there.


Anything goes when carp fishing. Being large fish, they are easy to spot when they are cruising in shallow water. Fishing for carp with a natural bait, directly on the bottom is deadly, in both lakes and rivers. This is the most common and most successful tactic for catching carp in North America. Typically, a worm, some kernals of canned sweet corn, or bread dough is used for bait.

Flyfishing for Carp

A more challenging alternative is fly-fishing for carp, which can be a lot more difficult than flyfishing for trout and salmon. Carp can test the fly angler's skills to the utmost. Flies to use for carp can depend on whether you are sight-fishing or blind-fishing. When blind-fishing, you can't beat a generic, drab nymph like the gold-ribbed hare's ear. When sight fishing, it is often important to be able to see your fly as the carp inhales it. Therefore, white, green, or black should figure prominently in a good sight-fishing carp fly - whichever color shows up best in the water conditions you are fishing. Carp spook easily, so when you see a carp or group of carp feeding in shallow water, be sure to keep a low profile. Approach quietly, and try to gently place the fly so that it can be pulled across the carp's field of vision. Use a slow presentation, and watch the fish carefully. If you lose sight of the fly, you can often tell the carp has taken it by the attitude in which it is moving. Generally, a carp will first position itself above the fly. Then it will tilt downwards in the water and suck in the fly. Strike quickly, and get ready for a powerful run. Carp that are taking food on the surface are called "cloopers". Heavy mayfly hatches will induce carp to roam the surface, and successfully casting a mayfly imitation to a clooping carp is one of the pinnacles of angling achievement. Carp also "tail" in shallow water in a manner similar to bonefish; in these cases one would be wise to consult a book on saltwater flats fishing as the techniques required are identical.



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