Common Carp

Carp (Cyprinus Carpio )

British Record:
65lb 14oz, Simon Bater, Conningbrook lake, Ashford, 2005

Scottish Record:
34lb 12oz (15.760kg), D McLeish, Forth & Clyde Canal, 2010


The Fish

Over many centuries the intensive cultivation of carp has resulted in a variety of sub species but all originate from the fully scaled common  carp or fast growing king carp.

Both of these species are complete covered in scales of regular size although over the years other sub species or strains have emerged with different irregular scale patterns and in some cases none at all.

All members of this carp family have one thing in common though, they have two pairs of barbels on the upper lip. For this reason the carp record covers all fish, irrespective of strain, that have these distinctive double set of barbels.

Although some Mirror carp may be fully scaled the majority are not, and instead have an irregular pattern of scales, predominately around the wrist of the tail, behind the gill plate and at the back of the head , down the flanks and along the back.

There are also Linea Mirror carp which have a continuous row of scales running along the lateral line and you may come across fish without any scales at all which are known as Leather carp.

Carp are a naturally streamlined and powerful fish which adapt quickly to their surroundings although older fish, or those in waters rich in food and nutrients may grow very deep with broad shoulders.  For this reason you sometime hear anglers refer to streamlined carp with large tails as wild carp.

It is however unlikely that any truly wild carp, or descendants of original carp introduced to the UK, still exist.  In Scotland, records of carp go back as far as the mid 18th century when they appear to have been introduced as a food source.

Carp are widespread in lakes , rivers and canals throughout England and Wales and also Scotland.  Up here they tend to be confined to Lochs, ponds, canals and commercial fisheries.  Carp are prolific feeders, particularly in the warmer summer months and will happily feed at all levels including right up on the surface.

As a general rule they prefer overgrown or marginal areas where they can forage for natural food amongst tree roots, along reed or lily beds or heavily weeded areas.

In the warmer months they become far more active and therefore need to consume more food to replace the energy they use and will often be seen feeding right up on the surface or patrolling shallow margins and particularly over gravel bars.

In winter they become more lethargic and will usually remain in deeper water only feeding for short period, often as the light fades at the end of the day.


Fishing for Carp

Carp are a bit of a cult fish with specimen anglers throughout the UK due to the size they grow to and their strength and power.  In Scotland one of the biggest clubs is the Scottish Carp Group who’s members specialise in trying to catch them.

For the specimen carp angler locating large carp, pre-baiting swims and then spending sometimes days in pursuit of a personal best fish is what it is all about.  The tackle and tactics these anglers use is often very sophisticated as are the particle mixes they introduce to attract and hold fish in an area and the baits they often prepare themselves to catch these elusive specimen fish.

They will often use up to three rods at once resting them on specialist rod pods and buzzer bars connected to electronic bite indicators.  Indeed, carp angling has seen more innovations in tackle and bait over the years than any other branch of the sport.

Specimen carp anglers normally adopt a static approach but will often take a stalking rod so that they can adopt a roving approach and target cruising or basking fish on the surface or in the margin while waiting for fish to move in and settle over their baited swims.

Carp can be caught on all methods depending on the conditions and time of year.  Pellets, luncheon meat and sweetcorn are all productive baits for carp but for specimen fish boilies are the No 1 choice.  These high protein baits can be bought commercially in a huge range of exotic flavours or easily made at home to your own recipes..

Boilies come in many sizes and colours and they is a mind boggling range of flavours and stimulants which can be added to mixes or applied to individual baits to fool wary fish into feeding.

Smaller carp up to 10 lbs will feed on conventional baits such as maggots, casters, worms, sweetcorn, luncheon meat etc  and introducing a bed of particles such as micro pellets, hemp or other seeds over which to present your hookbait is productive for fish of all sizes.

Carp have become the mainstay of most commercially stocked waters where they are stocked in high densities.  Many of these waters hold ghost carp as well as the more usual common and mirror carp.  These fish are a cross between the common carp and koi carp. They grow to low to mid double figures and have a reputation for fighting very hard for their size.