Carp fish is one of the most commonly present types of fish. However, not every country feels the same about carp. In Asian countries, carp fish are a domesticated species that are a popular addition to garden ponds. They are much sought after for ornamental features, such as the famous koi variety. However, in the United States, carp fish tend to be considered invasive. They are damaging to exotic species that have been naturalized to the area.
However, there is a lot of excitement in carp fishing for freshwater anglers. If you are unsure about carp in terms of angling value, we’ve compiled here some information to help you recognize carp fish and become familiar with its unique features and qualities in the water and the kitchen.
What is a Carp Fish?
Common carp fish (Cyprinus carpio) tends to be described as an unattractive species. Carp fish are easy to identify in the water as they don’t look like other popular fish species such as salmon or trout. However, it’s worth mentioning that carp fish belong to the same family as catfish, with whom they could be confused at first glance. Indeed, carp and catfish share a pair of whiskers, aka protrusion coming out on each side of their mouth. It’s why most inexperienced anglers can confuse the two species. They also share the same fighting spirit, according to fishers. Carp fish count among the top fighting freshwater fish, despite their lazy appearance. However, the similarities stop here. Catfish tend to grow in proportion, while carp fish grow rounder as they get bigger. The scales are also a major difference, as carp fish scales are typically larger than catfish scales. The whiskers also develop distinctively between carp fish and catfish, staying relatively short in carp.
There’s more than one type of carp fish. Common carp is the most frequently seen, with large scales, brownish color, and small whiskers. Some carp fish species do not have whiskers, such as grass carp and crucian carp. Leather carp fish is a surprising species that does not have any scale. Mirror carp, on the other hand, tend to have spotted scales. They are among the largest carp fish ever caught. Silver carp and big head carp fish have a similar appearance with eyes set lower on the head.
Carp fish have become an invasive species in American waters as a result of their features. Omnivorous, carp fish eat anything, ranging from plants to other fish, making it hard for other species to survive in the same environment. Additionally, some carp fish can survive with very low amounts of oxygen, which means they can thrive in dirty water. Consequently, carp fish have grown rapidly and easily in American waters.
Where to Fish for Carp
Due to their adaptive nature and their unique biological advantages, carp fish can be found almost anywhere in the world. Carp fish are believed to originate from Eastern Europe and Asia. They’ve been introduced to the United States in the 1880s as a sport fishing element. Nowadays, it is estimated that common carp fish can be found in all states except for Alaska. In other words, anglers are likely to find them in most water bodies. The heavy concentration of carp fish in the U.S. revolves around the Great Lakes Basin and vast impoundments throughout the West and South regions.
Carp fish are abundant in rivers and lakes. They tend to give away their locations easily as they often breach the surface just after sunrise or just before sunset. For anglers, it’s a popular trick to spot their living areas. Another great way of narrowing down your search for carp areas is to target locations that don’t have many bluegills. Indeed, bluegills feed on carp eggs and larvae. Notoriously shy, carp fish prefer areas that provide good hiding spots, such as deeper water. They often live in lakes and pond tributaries, as they use the floating water to bring an ingoing supply of easy food.
Carp can inhabit a variety of environments. They have a preference for slow rivers and lakes. But they can also be found in brackish estuary water along the coast. Their survival abilities mean they can hide in high temperatures and in polluted water.
Carp Fun Facts
Carp fish are omnivorous, meaning they eat pretty much anything. Grass carp fish feed essentially on algae and other plants. The species, which is native to Eastern Asia, has been introduced to the United States for aquatic weed control. So, it turns out the invasive carp fish population can fulfill a purpose for environmental control too.
Despite their lazy and slow appearance, carps do not have many predators. Females lay as many as 300,000 eggs in a spawning season to ensure survival. Indeed, most predators will eat the eggs rather than the fish. The only predator that adult carp fish need to fear is the angler. As a result of their relatively peaceful existence, carp fish can get very large. The common carp reaches on average 15 to 30 inches and weighs 4.5 to 30 pounds. However, with an average lifespan of 5 to 9 years, carp fish can develop to gigantic proportions, with some adults. The official US common carp record was caught in a river system in New Jersey and weighed over 54 pounds. The official record for fly fishing carp is 29-pound and 8-ounce carp caught in Town Lake, Texas. Asian carp fish, however, can be much larger, with a record-breaking 231-pound carp fish caught in Thailand. When left undisturbed and without predators, carp fish can live as long as 20 years, which is why they are often used as ornamental pond fish in Asian cultures.
Carp fish are solitary individuals, keeping with schools of other carps. Larger adults often live alone and don’t socialize. Yet don’t assume that this behavior makes carp fish easy to catch. They can put a fight on the line. More than one angler has lost a line against stubborn carp fish.
Top Carp Fishing Lures & Tips
As carp fish are present in almost any location, it’s one of the most popular types of fishing. For amateur anglers who are not experienced with catching carp fish, it’s good news. You will find fishing gear in almost every fishing store. For beginners, we strongly recommend a medium rod action, 10 to 12-foot long, and 2.5 pounds test curves. This type of rod will be versatile enough to adapt to a variety of carp fishing environments and conditions. For short-distance fishing, you can use a shorter rod, 4 to 6 feet. Pair the rod with a targeted carp reel. Reels come in different sizes, and so do carp fish. As a rule of thumb, a 6000-10000 reel range will be strong enough against tenacious carp fish. You need a robust reel that can hold enough line and large enough to handle big carp fish.
Carp are cautious fish. So, you need to choose a fishing line they will not notice. Monofilament lines are barely visible to carp fish and can absorb impacts seamlessly. But for bigger fish, you will need to aim for a braided line, which is strong. Carp angling typically uses a line in a 15 to 50 pounds range, depending on the conditions. A size 4 to 6 rig will do for most carp fish.
Carp fish react positively to many baits, including bread, corn, and carp boilies (hard-boiled baits containing milk protein, bird food, soya flour, semolina, and fishmeal). Earthworms are also excellent bait. But you can just as well mix breakfast cereals with syrup. The omnivorous behavior gives anglers a variety of choices. Pair the lure with a hair rig to take advantage of their feeding approach.
Can you eat Carp?
Don’t listen to those who vilify carp fish in the United States. Carp is a white fish that’s filled with nutritional benefits. Carp fish are often described as having a muddy flavor, as they thrive in muddy environments. In reality, carp fish is perceived as the Queen of the Rivers by connoisseurs. Tastewise, it is not dissimilar to salmon. Carp fish is oily, making it a moist delicacy to cook. Carp are muscular, so you will get a dense and slightly flaky piece that doesn’t dry out through cooking.
However, one of the key secrets to avoid the unpleasant, muddy texture is to put the carp fish on ice immediately after reeling it. This will keep the flavor intact, reducing blood flow. You’ll also need to remove the bloodline as you prepare the fish. Fishers who intend to eat their catch also avoid polluted bodies of water that could affect the taste of the fish. We recommend removing all the bones while cutting the fish as these can be big and hard for eaters.
Carp fish have tough skin, so it’s best to deskin the fish, which will remove the scales in the same process. The dense meat can hold a variety of cooking techniques. You can safely grill carp fish without losing moisture. Pan-fried or pan-seared are some of the most popular methods. You don’t need to add much grease to the fish as carp have a naturally oily texture. You can also oven-bake carp fish wrapped in foil at a low temperature.