Common Name: Carp a.k.a. European carp, common carp, wild carp, French carp, Italian carp, German carp, Israeli carp, leather carp, mirror carp, king carp, koi, sewer bass, buglemouth.
Appearance: Golden-brown in color with reflective scales covering its entire body, the common carp is a bit sleeker than the wild European carp it is descended from.
Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio
Distribution: Found wherever there is fresh water and a temperate climate, carp are hardy, omnivorous survivors able to eat most any type of food and withstand pollution levels and temperatures that would kill other fish. Though popular among fishermen in Europe and Asia, carp have a bit of a bad rep among North American fishermen, given their ability to devastate the plant and animal forage base that other species depend on. However, carp can still make for great fishing, and their low popularity is actually a plus for those North American anglers who enjoy carp fishing.
Spawning: Carp spawn randomly in vegetated shallows, usually in spring or summer, at temperatures at or above 60ºF. Up to three males will follow a female, fertilizing her eggs as she scatters them. The eggs are left unguarded, and typically hatch within a week. Carp fry feed off their yolk sacs for a few days before moving on to algae and plankton. During this time, a high percentage of carp fry will be gobbled up by northern pike, muskie, largemouth bass, and other predators.
Angling: Carp have somewhat peculiar feeding habits compared to other game fish. Rather than stalking other creatures or lying in ambush, they roam arbitrarily in small schools, feeding on vegetation or anything else that crosses their path (mollusks, crustaceans, fish eggs, worms, algae, whatever). They will not go out of their way to strike a bait or lure (even live bait), and will be suspicious of anything that appears too suddenly in their general vicinity. However, if you have the patience and persistence necessary to hook a carp, you’ll find them to be very respectable fighters.
Any kind of organic material – meat, vegetables, fruit, candy, insects – can make effective bait for carp. You might even want to try scattering a bag of frozen peas or carrots around the area where you’re casting, to attract groups of roaming carp that ordinarily wouldn’t pay attention to a single piece of bait. As for equipment, it’s possible to boat carp using anything from a fly rod to ultralight tackle to medium gear (the lighter the equipment, the greater the challenge).
Carp tend to be smaller and more cautious in the shallows, so just head straight for deeper water, where the bigger fish swim. It may take quite awhile to trigger a strike, and the bite of a carp is often difficult to detect so be prepared to set the hook at the slightest change in tension. Once hooked, a carp will struggle hard for a long time, and will attempt to dive towards any nearby cover in an effort to escape. However, the other carp in a group will continue feeding in the area, so as soon as you boat one, try again and see if you can nab another.
Though it’s inadvisable to eat carp from polluted waters, carp caught in clean water taste good on their own or in chowder.