For beginners just starting out, carp fishing offers an opportunity to catch really big fish in freshwater environments. However, before you can be successful in hooking these big fish, it is important that you know something about them.
In the following article we will provide you with that information, and outline a number of carp fishing tips for beginners—tips and techniques that will allow you to master the art of locating and hooking these big fish.
What Are Carp?
The fish species known as carp are members of the Cyprinidae family of fish. For the most part, carp tend to be very large and they inhabit only freshwater environments. Carp were originally native to Asia and Europe, but a number of programs over the centuries have now brought the fish to every continent on the globe.
In the United States, carp were first introduced to fresh waters in 1877. The reason for this was to boost food security, but today they are being noticed as a great sport fish for anglers.
There are many different types of carp. The most popular of these are the:
- Common carp
- Silver carp
- Bighead Carp
- Grass Carp
- Catla Carp
- Crucian Carp
- Black Carp
- Mrigal Carp
- Mud Carp
In just one year, a female carp can produce more than one million eggs. However, because these eggs are vulnerable to predators, bacteria, fungi and the like, the populations of some species of carp are dwindling, with some even close to the endangered species list.
Because carp are native to Asia and Europe, there are many countries around the world that view carp as an invasive species, largely because they feed on other types of food fish that are necessary for survival.
Carp have the potential for spreading at a rate that is deemed harmful to the environment in some regions. More specifically, they tend to promote rapid algae growth by excreting partially digested food, algae that is choking out many freshwater sources.
In the United States, carp have been classifies as a rough fish in some regions, as well as being damaging to naturalized exotic species. They do, however, have a number of sporting qualities.
Carp have long suffered from a poor reputation in the United States as undesirable for fishing or consumption, especially since they are typically an invasive species out-competing more desirable local game fish.
Nonetheless, many states’ departments of natural resources are beginning to view the carp as an angling fish instead of a maligned pest. Groups such as the Wild Carp Company, the American Carp Society, and the Carp Anglers Group promote the sport of carp fishing and work with fishery departments around the country to organize events to introduce and expose others to the unique opportunity the carp offers freshwater anglers.
On What Do Carp Primarily Feed?
A carp’s diet is very similar across all species of the fish, from the silver carp to the mud carp. Like many fish species, carp primarily feed on aquatic plants and insects.
They are can normally be found at the bottom of large lakes where they feed. In addition to aquatic plants and insects, carp also enjoy aquatic vertebrates such as crayfish and zebra mussels. With an abundant supply of food, the average carp can grow up to 6 pounds a year in the right environment.
Where to Find Carp
Knowing where to find carp will, of course, increase your chances of catching one. Carps can primarily be found in lakes and ponds where the water is still, but they also can rarely be found in places like slow-moving canals and rivers. When searching for an ideal place to cast out for carp, look for areas of thick vegetation; like most animal species, carp tend to hang out where the food is.
Carp are a warm water species, so on hot sunny days they can usually be found hanging out in the shallow waters. Colder days, such as those in the winter months, will generally send carp to the bottom to look for food. Try to look for areas in a lake or pond in which the water is very still and calm—places that are also ripe with vegetation.
When fishing for carp in a river or a canal, look for them where the food supply is most abundant. This can be in slow-moving pools or the inlets and outlets where the river meets a lake or reservoir.
Like other species of fish, carp prefer areas in which there is some type of structure that provides protection. Therefore, look for them in areas of rocks, overhanging tree branches, submerged log and weed patches. They also tend to hang around pier pylons where the food supply is abundant.
If you are fishing in a park where people are known to feed the duck and geese, you can be pretty sure that the carp are not far behind. Carp are not very selective eaters and will gladly feed on pellets or pieces of bread that are being fed to the ducks and geese.
As with most species, the best time to fish for carp is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. These are the typical times when fish are known to feed most. From an angler’s perspective, carp are most active during the summertime, but in warm weather states they can typically be had during any season if you know where to look.
Carp Fishing Tips for Beginners
Below we have covered some carp fishing tips for beginners, including the gear you will need, the best carp bait and a few fishing techniques that work best with these fish.
Carp Fishing Gear
The first thing you will need when setting out to catch carp is a fishing rod. Remember, carp can grow very big, so you want to be prepared just in case you hook into a monster. Many of the older carp fishermen elect to fish carp with bamboo poles, just as they do in Asia, but we recommend a 4-6 pound rod with medium action. The fishing rod should be made from strong materials, such as carbon fiber or e-glass, and extend about 3.5 meters in length.
The reel on your carp fishing rod should be ideal for still fishing, either with bottom rigs or sliding floats. Once hooked, carp can get really frantic and take a lot of line, and you may lose your entire rod if the drag is set too tight.
We recommend a rod in the 40-60 series with a dual drag system—a standard drag system plus a bait-runner drag setting. The reel should be loaded with tough line meant for big fish. For this we suggest a braided line of some type or a monofilament line of at least 40 pound test.
Beyond the rod, reel and fishing line, here is the other tackle you will need to set out for big carp fishing.
- Hooks—the #10 size barbed hooks are probably the most popular for carp fishing.
- Baiting needle—needed for putting bait onto hair rigs
- Landing net
- Floats or Bobbers
- Bait stops—for preventing the bait from coming off the hair rig
- Rod holders
Carp Fishing Bait
Now that you have assembled all the gear you will need for carp fishing, it’s time to purchase the bait. Here is what usually works best.
- Corn. Carp like the color, texture, and flavor of corn. They prefer sweet corn out of the can to corn off a cob. This is because of the flavors and additives found in canned corn which includes sugars, salts, and critical amino acids. The bright color of the corn is also a good attractor to carp.
- Bollies. Bollies are fishing baits made of milk proteins, fish proteins, grains and eggs.
- And more…
Fishing Techniques When Going After Carp
With your gear assembled and hook baited, you are ready to cast out for some big carp. Keep in mind that carp tend to be very skittish. Because of this, try not to cast directly into a school of carp. Instead, cast your bait out ahead of them and allow the current to take the fish to your bait.
Use a small weight near your float when casting for carp. This will help with your accuracy. Once you have casted, your float should be visible on the top of the water, with your bait suspended about 18 inches below. Carp can be very intelligent, so watch the bobber closely.
Once the carp strikes your bait you will definitely know it, as the float will disappear and your line will become very taut. If your pole is bending substantially, ease up on the drag just enough to protect your gear.
Do not try to pull the carp out of the water immediately. Instead, allow it to tire out by pulling the fish downstream. This makes it fight the current as it struggles to swim upstream. The result is a tired fish, which will be easier to get out of the water.
Congratulations. You are now on your way to becoming a master of carp fishing, one of the most challenging and rewarding forms of freshwater angling.