For the past few decades, bass fishing has been without a doubt the most competitive and popular angling challenge. However, the common carp, or Cyprinus Carpio, is quickly gaining attention as a sport fish. Anglers across the United States are more commonly seeking this large catch. In this article, we’re going to tell you exactly how to catch carp and what you need to do it. We’ll also share our best carp fishing tips, so on your next angling trip, you’ll be an expert.
Carp are actually indigenous to Europe and Asia but were introduced in the US as an economical food source. Unfortunately, these freshwater fish live in the bottom of lakes and rivers, in dirty and muddy environments. This led to the general American population regarding carp as a “trash fish”, as we can’t deny it’s not the tastiest catch. For a long time, these large fish were ignored by all types of anglers as a worthless endeavor.
In recent years, sport fishermen have begun to catch on to the fantastic challenge of carp angling. You can find carp in almost every American state, in the most beautiful of habitats. These fish are large, strong, and will put up a serious fight, so it takes some skill to reel in a big one. The common carp is actually the largest member of the minnow family, all of these fish are excellent sport. Read on to discover our best angling advice on how to catch carp.
All about carp
As we’ve mentioned, carp don’t have much popularity in the US as a table fish. However, this family of game fish are definitely edible and are popular to eat in Europe. These fish can be bony and don’t have the best flavor, but can be easily prepared for a meal with proper filleting and seasoning. Carp is one of the most economical and sustainable game fish to catch, as the population is very stable.
There are several primary species of carp that are popular to fish. The common carp is found in most freshwater bodies across the country. Their omnivorous diet consists mainly of plants and small creatures like worms. An adult fish can reach a length of 40 to 80cm, weighing up to 14 kilograms. Grass carp are slightly longer than the common fish and are found in the same habitats. Some anglers prefer to fish for the mirror carp, which is much harder to find but can reach huge sizes of up to 50 pounds.
Carp of all types have a varied diet; their food can even include the fry of other large fish, including bass and bluegill. Because of their ability to survive in relatively harsh environments and eat a range of foods, you can fish for carp almost anywhere. From wild lakes and rivers to urban angling in canals, you can fish for big carp in every corner of the states. We think carp angling needs to become even more widespread, as anglers have no idea how much fun they can have fishing for this game.
Where to fish for carp
Carp can inhabit a wide range of habitats, so this hardy fish can be found in surprising locations. They can survive in a wide range of water temperatures and are also little affected by pollution. Some species of carp can even live in coastal estuaries, although they prefer fresher water. Most carp can be found in sizable lakes, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers. You can also find these fish in ditches, canals, and even small park ponds. Many of the best fishing lakes support a healthy population of carp.
This makes carp an excellent game fish for urban anglers, as you can find them wherever you live. You can fish from kayaks, boats, or directly from the shoreline; carp are never far away. Unlike fly fishing for trout or bass, there aren’t as many online resources telling you where to find carp. This might mean you need to discover your own fishery, but these carp hotspots are easy to find.
We’ve established that carp can live in a huge range of locations, but there are definitely preferences that these fish follow. When you’re looking for a new carp fishing spot, there are a few key elements you can look out for which are prime indicators for carp. If you can figure out where your body of water best fits these characteristics. This will give you the best chance of reeling in a big carp!
- Warmer temperatures: In your average lake or river, the shallower areas around the edge are generally much warmer than the deeper water. Carp can live in backwaters or side channels of lakes usually inhabited by fish who live in much colder temperatures. The same goes for the tail of the river, which can be much warmer than the general flow. If you find a body of water supporting bass or bluegill, chances are some carp are there as well.
- Murky water: If there’s one place that you’ll never catch a carp, it’s in crystal clear waters. Carp have excellent eyesight, so should they venture into these areas, they would spook very easily. Most of the time, carp prefer to live in muddy, cloudy, and silty water, where visibility is poor. Fishing dirty water gives the angler an advantage as carp are much more unsuspecting.
- Lush vegetation: As omnivorous fish, carp love to eat anything and everything. This means large patches of aquatic vegetation are prime feeding grounds for carp, as they can eat both the plants and the smaller fish who live within. Grass, weeds, or stands or cattails are all excellent fishing targets to catch carp.
- Look for prey: If you can find the natural food sources around which carp will congregate, reeling them in should be easy. Small critters including snails, shrimps, beetles, and larvae are all favorite foods for carp, so locating these feeding grounds is an ideal way to find carp. Look out for clear patches among weeds and gravel; these indicate a carp feeding zone.
The best baits for carp angling
If you’re going to be a successful carp angler, you need to select the right fishing bait. Your style of fishing largely depends on your bait selection, so choose carefully and make sure you use the correct technique. There are two options which most select as the best carp baits, and using one of these you should be able to catch some big carp!
If there’s one fact that every angler who’s targeted these game fish knows, it’s that carp love corn. This inexpensive vegetable is one of the most effective carp attractants you can use, perfect for beginners yet trusted by experts. You can use either canned sweet corn or feed corn to catch carp, each using a different method.
Canned sweet corn is the most convenient carp bait you can use; it’s cheap, available everywhere, and the fish absolutely eat it up. The only downside to using this type of corn bait is that it can attract other smaller fish. Bluegills and catfish can steal your bait before large carp have a chance, so this is why feed corn can be a better option. This hook bait is less attractive to small fish, so you can concentrate on carp!
In areas with large populations of panfish, who are likely to swim away with your canned corn, we recommend using feed corn instead. This dry grain can be bought from hardware stores or pet shops and must be soaked before use. Hard kernel corn and cracked corn both work well in this scenario, so you can use either or both to attract carp.
To prepare dried feed corn for use as a carp bait, you need to soak it in water for at least 12 hours. After that, use the same water to boil the corn for 2-4 hours. This will help the corn to soften, and when it’s ready the pieces will be easy to squish with your fingers. Using a combination of the whole kernel and cracked corn (both dried and soaked) is a great carp fishing technique, ideal for chumming the water. You can use the small cracked corn pieces to sprinkle in and attract carp to the area, while the full-size kernels go on your hook.
It’s vital that you confirm that corn chumming is allowed in your state before using it to catch carp. Rhode Island, Oregon, and California all have a ban in place for the use of any type of corn as bait or chum. In this case, you can use a different bass bait to attract your catch. Fake plastic corn pieces are an option here, but most people prefer to use boilies.
Boilies are store-bought bait designed to attract carp and are the most popular commercial option for carp baiting. You don’t need any preparation to fish with boilies; just hook them on straight out of the bag. These baits are made from nutritional ingredients that carp love and are an ideal alternative if you can’t use corn. Another benefit to using boilies is that they’re sturdier and harder to break up than corn, so smaller fish will struggle to steal it.
If you’re using boilies to fish for carp, choose a fruit or corn flavored bait. Boilies come in fishy flavors but these can attract a lot of catfish, so it’s best to stick to carp’s preferred flavors. You can buy both sinking and floating boilies to catch carp, depending on your fishing location. Floating boilies are generally used in very dirty and murky water, whereas sinking baits offer an all-purpose carp attractant.
How to catch carp: techniques you can try
There are a number of fishing techniques you can employ to catch a big carp, most of which use corn or a corn flavored bait. One great thing about carp angling is that these fish can be found in all sorts of different areas, so you can fish for them with a range of techniques. This also means carp is accessible to different levels of expertise, from beginners right up to the most advanced anglers.
Free-lining is the easiest way to catch carp and a fantastic place for beginners to start. You can easily catch fish up to 10lbs directly from the shore, without needing expensive tackle or boat rentals. Thread a few pieces or your chosen carp bait onto the hook and cast it into a potential carp feeding area. You don’t even need to add a sinker or weight if you don’t want to. This easy technique is ideal for some relaxed fishing on the river bank, as long as you’re happy with catches up to 10lbs.
Float fishing is also a successful way to catch carp and can be better for smaller lakes and ponds. Simply use the same bait on a rig with a bobber, and cast out to the center of your body of water. Try to set the length of your line so that your bait sits just on the waterbed. We recommend setting the clutch of your reel loose for carp, to give the fish a little wiggle room once hooked. As soon as you see the float disappear, grab on to your fishing line; you’re about to fight a carp out of the water!
8 carp fishing tips
Now you know the basics about carp and how to catch them, it’s time to share some more detailed knowledge on how to catch these big fish. Each of these tips and tricks can be used to give a greater chance of catching carp, and improve your overall fishing experience.
1. The colder it gets, the deeper the carp: In the summer months, carp prefer shallow feeding grounds where they can enjoy the sun. During the winter, these big fish tend to retreat to deeper areas and aren’t as active as during summer. You can fish for carp the whole year round but it’s much easier in the warmer times of the year.
2. The best time of day to catch carp is the same as most fish; early morning and evening. The fish are most active around dawn and dusk, making them more aggressive and therefore easier to tempt into a strike.
3. Because carp spook so easily, it can be a great idea to invest in some rod holders. The slightest movement in your line can scare away a catch, so keeping it absolutely still is a must. Since holding a fishing rod perfectly still in your hand is nigh on impossible, a rod holder is a vital piece of kit. You can use a simple forked stake to prop up your rod and combine the setup with a bite alarm for the ultimate fishing experience.
4. You can buy specialized fishing rods which are designed for carp anglers, but these aren’t necessary for your first trip. When fishing for carp, a rod with medium to medium-heavy power and moderate to fast action is perfect. The length of your rod should be determined by your fishery, as longer rods are for long-range casting. Small lakes and ponds require short rods for accurate casting- as the body of water grows bigger, so should your fishing rod.
5. We recommend using a spinning reel if you’re just starting out as a carp angler. A bait-feeder spinning rod would be ideal, as it allows you to operate with minimal drag while maintaining full control of your line.
6. You can use any monofilament, superline, or braided line to fish for carp, but always use the strongest you can. A line strength of 30-pounds is ideal, just make sure it matches the drag on your reel. Braided lines allow you to put more length on your reel and have a good presentation for carp, but can float and may need to be weighed down.
7. Avoid using shiny fishing hooks when baiting carp, as this can spook the fish. Carp have excellent eyesight and are very vision-driven; this makes them an ideal game fish to tempt, but also means you must be careful of external stimulus. Something as simple as a flash from your fishing hook is enough to scare away wary carp. Dull and dark-colored hooks are much better for carp fishing.
8. Measure your chumming carefully; too much will fill up the fish! Be sparing when you chum the water for carp, make sure just enough bait is used to tantalize the fish’s appetite. If you throw too much food in the water, the carp will have no incentive to bite and your fishing trip could be a failure.
We’ve covered everything you need to know about attracting, hooking, and catching carp. This fish is intensely rewarding and exciting to target and offers the same level of challenge as much more popular bass fishing. Carp are so easy to find all across the USA, you can even fish them in cities! There’s no reason not to give this game fish a try, you might just reel in a prizewinner.
Bonus tip: Check out this video on how to set up a hair rig; it’s ideal for catching carp!