Everything You Need to Know About Carp Fishing

What is a Carp?

Carp (Cyprinidae) are a family of oily, toothed, and scaly fish that’s third anterior-most pair of ribs touches the swim bladder. There are many species within this family, but the ten most common that are most often referred to colloquially just as “carp” are the silver, common (European), grass, bighead, crucian, Catla (Indian), mrigal, black, and mud carp, as well as steeplerush.

Originally native to Europe and Asia, these freshwater fish are considered invasive in North America, Africa, and Australia. They were originally stocked in these places due to their popularity for eating in Europe and Asia, as well as for their ability to be domesticated, as in common carp for goldfish and koi. However, they have not reached popularity among anglers in these areas.

They are a very hardy species, making their invasion challenging to control. They can withstand very dirty and brackish water and can tolerate very low levels of oxygen. Some species can even withstand water with essentially no oxygen by metabolizing glycogen which eventually converts into ethanol and carbon dioxide that is released back into the water through their gills.

How big do Carp get?

There is quite a lot of variance in size amongst the ten most commonly mentioned species of carp. The largest in terms of length is the bighead carp, which is averagely sized at 23 inches. The smallest is the grass carp, which only grows to an average of just over four inches.

However, carp tend to grow quicker in length than they do in width and weight. Because of this, the silver carp comes in as top dog, with reports maxing out over 100 pounds. However, the average silver carp caught is closer to 18 pounds.

What's the biggest Carp ever caught?

Although there have been reports from all over the world of carp being caught and weighed at over 200 pounds, like John Harvey’s 232 pounder caught in Thailand. The IGFA holds a different weight and species for the largest of the carp.

According to them, the carp king title is held by Jesse Hughes, who pulled the record out of the Osage River near Bonnots Hill, Missouri. It was a black carp, weighing in at 112 pounds and 5 ounces, caught on March 4th, 2021.

Where is the best place to catch Carp?

Carp can be found on every continent except Antarctica. The common carp, which is the most popularly angled species of carp, can be found in lakes, inlets, and ponds on all of these continents. They can be found in water temperatures ranging from 35 to 85 degrees but prefer over 73.4 degrees when possible.

Within these waters, they tend to stay along the bottom, coming to shallower waters during fall and spring and back to deeper water in the summer, which is about 8 to 12 feet deep.

When should I catch Carp?

Spring and fall are the best time to target carp, as that is when they come to the shallows to feed and congregate in large schools to spawn. They can still be targeted in summer and winter. However, during the summer tend to move back into deeper waters, and in the winter, they become lethargic.

During the spring and fall, early morning is the best time to fish for carp. You can usually spot them surfacing while feeding on insects. Look for muddied water and a wake on the surface caused by their movement.

How do you catch Carp?

Carp are well known for their strength, making them fun fish to test your fighting skills. Depending on the size of the carp you are targeting, be sure to use seven to ten weight on a nine-foot rod. Also, depending on the target weight are hooks, which you can vary between #4, #6, #8, and #10 circle hooks.

Be sure to avoid using anything metallic, and don't move your rod around too much as they are easily spooked. All you have to do is make a quick cast, sit down, and wait for the fish to take your bait.

Speaking of bait, there are many recommendations on what to use to catch them, including store-bought "magic" carp bait. The secret that the best carp fisherman knows is that there is a favorite bait among the carp, and it comes straight from your kitchen.

This essential bait and chum combo are simply homemade dough balls, called boilies, and boiled or canned corn. Every carp fisherman will have their own special recipe for boilies that they'll swear by. However, the most simple is to mix yellow cornmeal, quick-cook oatmeal, sugar, and water together, cook and knead it, then roll into balls and cool. Then simply pop that on your hook after chumming the water with canned corn, and you are ready to go.

Are Carp good to eat? What are the best Carp recipes?

In North America, carp are known as a trash fish. However, in areas of Europe and Asia, it is viewed as a delicacy. In China, the top three fish produced from aquaculture are grass, silver, and common carp. In fact, they hold 70% of carp production. The weight of carp produced via aquaculture exceeds all other types of fish produced worldwide, including trout and salmon.

Aquaculture-produced carp are then distributed all across Asia and Europe. In Central Europe, countries like Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Poland use carp in traditional Christmas time dishes. In Western Europe, it is viewed mainly as a sport fish. However, it is used in a common Jewish dish called gefilte fish.

Although, as I mentioned, North Americans tend to view consuming carp with disdain, many do not realize that caviar, eaten as a garnish or spread, and considered a delicacy, is commonly consisting of carp eggs.

The most commonly used recipes for carp usually include the carp prepared in one of three ways; fried, pickled, or poached. The most basic fried carp is cutlets battered in flour, breadcrumbs, seasoning, fried in oil, and served with lemon. To pickle, simply soak the carp in a brine of vinegar and water until it’s lost its pink, and then let marinate in a mixture of the brine, onions, and seasonings for at least a day. Finally, to poach, place the carp in a fish roaster with sautéed vegetables, lemon juice, seasoning, butter, wine, and fish stock, and let simmer for 30 minutes.