Carp Fishing – Species Information and Facts

Exactly what is a Carp? Where do you find Carp? What is the best Carp bait? This section will answer all the general questions you might have on the Carp Species.

Known for their hard fighting and huge weights gains, carp have become a popular sport fish throughout the Uk and Europe, and the popularity is spreading around the world. Anglers are known to target these fish specifically, spending vast amounts of time and money in pursuit of catching the biggest, prettiest or most elusive of individuals.

The Carp (Cyprinus Carpio)

The carp is a hardy, deep bodied freshwater fish capable of living to over 40 years, and grow to weights of over 80lbs.

There are many variants of carp around the world, and on this page we’ll discuss the more common variants found in waters around the UK and Europe, namely the Common Carp, the Mirror Carp, and the Leather Carp. These are known as the King Carp.

These 3 types of King Carp can be characterised by their scales.

The Common Carp

The common carp is fully scaled, with the scales forming an uniformed pattern.

The Mirror Carp

The Mirror Carp is smooth, with patches of different sized ‘Mirrored’ scales around the body, though its possible for a mirror to be totally covered in these large scales (known as a fully scaled mirror)

The Leather Carp

The Leather Carp has a smooth scaleless body.

The reason behind these variants is believed to be down to the Monks who introduced these fish as a food source into Europe via Asia. Raised in ‘stew ponds’ the Monks soon worked out that through selective breeding they could grow fish with fewer scales, reducing the amount of preparation needed to de-scale the fish before cooking.

Most big fish, particularly mirrors with their individual scale patterns, or those with lumps and bumps acquired with age, are easy to identify, often leading them to be given names.

These characteristics add to their appeal.

As these fish mature, getting bigger and wiser, they become more sort after and anglers are known to target individual fish in order to catch them at their biggest weights, or if they are particularly wise and hard to catch, just to get a picture and bragging rights.

Carp are typically brown or golden brown in colour with a lighter underside, but do differ according to the time of year and the type of water they live in. In clear water, carp are generally darker in colour.

These fish all posses 4 barbules, 2 short ones aside their slightly protruding top tip, and 2 longer ones on their underslung bottom lip. These, along with the downward facing mouth indicate that the fish is built to feed on the bottom. However, it’s also possible to catch this fish on the surface in the warmer months, where they like to sun themselves in the warmer layers of water.

Average weight 5-15lbs

Average lifespan 10-30 Years

Where do Carp Live

Whilst a still water species, due to their tolerance of differing water conditions carp now populate most types of waterways around Europe, from small ponds and lakes, slow running rivers and canals, to huge reservoirs.

Due to the popularity of the sport, Carp are farmed and stocked into purpose-built man-made lakes making the sport even more accessible.

Whilst preferring still or slow-moving water, carp are happy to populate faster flowing rivers, where its common to see these fish take on a more leaner, streamlined shape.

Hardy by nature, the carp can tolerate water temperatures as low as 3°C but will thrive in warmer waters up to 30°C. Every year many anglers travel from the UK to mainland Europe in search of the huge carp that grow to record-breaking sizes in the warmer waters of the continent.

Carp, particularly in the warmer months of the year, will spend much of their time roaming about their homes which can sometimes make them hard to find, especially in low stock waters, so locating the fish is key to catching.

They love weed, reeds, islands and deep overgrown margins where they feel safer with the cover on offer.

They are adept at swimming and feeding in snaggy nooks and crannys of the lake, particularly during the bright days of the summer, where they might spend the daylight hours hidden away.

Under the cover of darkness they will venture out into the lake, patrolling the margins and underwater features such as gravel bars or gullies in the search of food.

However, there is no rules to this, and every lake and fish is different, which makes Carp fishing all the more exciting, engaging and sometimes frustrating. You need to think about the lake, the surroundings, the weather and take all these factors into consideration. This is known as watercraft, and we have prepared a handy guide for you.  Click here where you’ll find all the tips and tricks you need to find those carp.

Carp Tackle

Where do we start. Being one of the most popular fresh water species around, and growing in popularity each year, there is a huge market for carp tackle. There are all number of shops, websites and tackle manufacturers dedicated to producing and selling carp tackle.

But, taking a step back, the basics are the same in that you’ll need a rod and a reel.

Beginners guide to carp rods. Here you’ll find our great guide to carp rods, how they work and what to look our for when buying your first rod.

Beginners guide to carp reels. Our go to guide for chosing the right carp reel for you.

Beginners guide to fishing line. You’ve got your reel, now you need some line.

So, you have your rod reel and line. With a bit of end tackle and you’re ready to go catch a whacker!? Whoa there. There are a couple of essential items that all carp anglers must have.

Unhooking mat. These are a must have for all carp anglers, regardless of the size of fish you’re targeting. These fish are precious, and expensive and livelihoods are built around the sport. The fish deserve respect and should be unhooked and returned to the water quickly and unharmed.

Likewise, a decent landing net. These need to be big enough and strong enough to safely net the fish and transport it from the water to your unhooking mat.

Bite alarms. Due to the nature of carp fishing, often fishing with multiple rods for long periods of time, anglers have been using electronic bite indicators for some time. These will alert you when you have a bite and have become common place in the carp anglers tackle box.

Beginners guide to bite alarms. This is the perfect introduction into what a bite alarm is and some of the features available.

Then, of course, there are many other items of tackle that make up the carp anglers armoury. Rod pods, Bivvys, Barrows, Bedchairs, Baits boats The list can be as long as your credit card bill.

This really is a massive topic, but lucky for you we have a dedicated tackle section where you can find the latest information, reviews and must haves. Have a read of our tackle section, where you will find details of the best tackle and where to buy it.

Best Carp Baits

Again, another huge topic. Think of a bait, and the chances are a carp has been caught on it. Carp can eat a lot, and at a lake full of carp, you need a lot of bait to keep them interested. Anglers are known to pile in kilos of loose feed over the course of session. On the flip side, big carp can also be fooled into being hooked by a single grain of sweetcorn cast in the right place.

The Classics

Traditionally, carp where targeted with the staple coarse fish baits. Bread, Sweetcorn, Worm and Maggots have caught literally millions of carp over the years and still do today. Sweetcorn, the golden grain, is still as popular today as it ever was, with anglers turning to the bait to try something a little different to the now seemingly standard boilie bait. Luncheon meat, cheese, par-boiled potato, the list goes on and much of this could be brought from the local supermarket, before the days of commercial carp baits that now take up the vast majority of space in the tackle shops.

Whilst not as popular now, cheese paste, made from a mixture of soft cheese and bread was an excellent, smelly attractive bait that could be prepared ahead of time and moulded around the hook. Carp loved it and it’s not uncommon for Chub and Barbel anglers to still use it today. However, paste baits are soft and don’t stay on the hook for long, which isn’t suitable when fishing for days at a time or casting long distances. This is where adding an egg, and boiling the bait for a minute or two to create a hard skin comes in. The boilie is born.

The Boilie

Whilst there will be many old-school anglers that disagree, the boilie is now the number one carp bait. Carp have been fed these baits in huge quantities over the years and will now recognise them as a natural food source. A lot of time, effort and science go into making these baits, each claiming to be the most attractive, the most nutritious, the next big thing.

There are two main types of boilie, fishmeal based and nut based.  Fishmeals baits are normally savory in flavour, and nutbased bait tend to be sweeter, although there are no rules when its comes to boilie flavours. There are many different varieties available on the shelves, or you can make your own, creating you own flavour blend and adding to the satisfaction of catching on a bait you built.

Another huge topic, so we have prepared a guide to boilies, here.

Particle Baits

As we have discussed, carp naturally feed on the bottom sifting through the mud and silt in search of tiny grubs and snails. It’s possible to induce this natural instinct by offering small seed baits like hemp and bird seed mixes to draw the carp into your swim and entice them to feed. Maize, Groats, Tares and Maples are all examples of natural seed based baits that have proved effective when fishing for carp.

Top Tip. Particle baits MUST be prepared correctly, which means soaking and boiling before use. These baits swell in water, and if not prepared correctly can cause serious harm or even death to fish

Now widely available pre-prepared in jars or tins, its possible to buy these ready to use, many with added attractants. However, if planning on using a lot you can buy sacks of these seeds from your local pet food or farm supply shop and prepare them in bulk at home, saving a few quid and maybe adding your own little twist.

Our guide to particle baits and how to correctly prepare them can be found here Particle Bait Preperation Guide

Surface Baits

Carp are warm blooded and will look for the warmest part of the water.

In the summer, this will be in the upper layers and you’ll always see carp cruising around with their dorsal fins out the water. It’s possible to encourage feeding by offering floating baits like dog biscuits or floating bread crusts and this method is one of the most exciting ways to fish.

Dog chum mixers are available from pet shops and supermarkets and when banded or glued to the hook can be cast out with a couple of freebies, where you’ll sit, watch and watch for a big set of lips to slurp the bait down.

Similar, a big bit of crusty bread can be fished in the same way. There are also a number of different floating carp pellets now available, or a brightly coloured pop up boilie.

How to catch a Carp

Part of the popularity of carp fishing is that nothing is ever guaranteed. One session you’ll be catching a fish a cast, the next you’re sitting behind motionless rods. But, with your knowledge of bait and watercraft you can work out where you want to fish and what bait you would like to use. Once you have this knowledge, you need to pick a technique to put the bait in front of the fish and encourage them to feed.

Ledger fishing for carp

Top: Running Lead Bottom: Lead Clip

Ledgering is a method of fishing that uses a weight to present a static bait at the bottom of the lake or river bed. A lead weight is attached to the mainline, either fixed to a purpose made lead clip, or via a ring, running lead style.

It’s important to make sure that in the event of the fish getting caught up in weed or sunken branches, or if the mainline snaps, the lead can run free from the mainline.

Top Tip : Always consider fish safety when fishing

Once you have your lead set-up, you attach your rig, add the bait, and cast out to you chosen spot. Now in position, you can add extra bait around your hookbait to for added attraction and hopefully draw the fish down towards you hookbait.

Carp are powerful fish, and once hooked they bolt off taking line of the reel. Fishing with a fixed lead bolt rig style, the weight of the lead sets the hook into the fishes lip, giving you enough time to get to the rod and apply pressure for a firm hook hold.

Again, and we can’t say this enough, but a fixed lead is not actually fixed. It must come free in the event of a line break.

Surface fishing for Carp

It’s possible to target fish cruising in the upper layers of water with a floating bait and a bubble float. By attaching a large float, which can be clear for maximum sleath, or fluro coloured for bite indication, the trick is to cast over beyond where you can see fish on the surface, then slowly tease the bait back onto their noses.

Then you wait, heart in mouth, for the exact moment to strike and hook the fish.

There are so many ways to fish for carp.

Float fishing, ledger fishing, feeder fishing, and even fly fishing, and we’ll cover all of these methods in our Tips and Tricks section where you’ll find articles on every subject from the safest lead set-up to our top carp rigs.

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