Although it’s considered an inferior fish in the U.S. and Australia, carp is at the top of game fish in Europe. This post is focused on how to catch common carp (Cyprinus carpio), however, most other species can be caught with about the same tackle, baits, maybe with slightly different rigs.
Where to Catch Carp
Various species of carp can be caught all over Europe and Asia, the continents of their origin. But since it’s one of the world’s most invasive species, it can be found in many rivers and lakes all over the world.
Carp can adapt to many environments, but they prefer large bodies of still or slow current water, especially with sandy or muddy bottoms, with plenty of vegetation. Although they can easily survive in bodies of water with low levels of oxygen, when the oxygen levels in a certain pond drop, they become sluggish, this influencing their feeding habits.
Carp prefer warmer waters, always looking for the warmer layers of water in a lake. The optimal water temperature to fish for carp ranges between 7°C – 20°C. On the contrary, windy or rainy weather will bring an increase in the carp feeding activity.
Carp Fishing Techniques
The most common carp fishing technique is still fishing, from the shore or river bank, with various rigs, particularly pater noster. If you’re looking for a few simple and effective carp rigs, you can find a few, here:
Traditional fishing with a floater, small sinker and one or two hooks is also popular, but in a case like this it’s usually done with an extra long rod, up to 10 meters long, sometimes without a reel, similar to the Japanese Tenkara fishing, only not with flies. It’s quite a challenge to land a large carp without a reel, and this type of carp fishing is becoming popular especially in the lower Danubian basin, in Europe.
Bait for Carp
Carp live of an omnivorous diet, of including aquatic plants, seeds, insects, worms, crawfish and crustaceans. However, in case food of animal nature becomes scarce, they can become completely herbivorous, and also feed on plankton.
The most used baits for carp are boilies and pellets, with different shapes, flavors and colors. Another bait that can bring great results in carp fishing is sweet corn. There’s actually canned corn, specifically colored and flavored for carp, and you should be able to find this type of bait in any bait and tackle shops, in areas or countries where carp fishing is popular. Dough/bread balls, imbibed in various flavors like cheese, berries, cocoa, fruit, vanilla, blood etc. also work. But carp respond better to protein-rich baits, so if you’re preparing your own dough, you should enrich it with protein powder supplements. Some anglers use powdered milk.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with earthworms, especially the black ones found in the muddy shores of lakes and canals, and carp are also interested in maggots, leeches, locusts, grasshoppers, crawfish tails and luncheon meat.
Carp fishing requires groundbaiting. There is, of course, “just-add-water” ground bait specially made for carp. However, if you want to make your own ground bait, here’s a simple recipe:
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 pack of vanilla sugar (you can dissolve it in a bit of water to mix better with the ground bait, if you want)
1 can or sweet corn
Mix well in a bowl, and once the composition is even, it should stick together. You can even make your own boilies out of it, by rolling small balls and boiling them in water. You can also add cocoa, milk powder and maggots to this groundbait recipe.
The groundbait for bream that I mentioned in one of the earlier posts also works for carp.
Rods: Your standard carp rod should be 12′, 2.5-3.5 lb t/c, for still fishing. If you’re stalking (fishing with a floater, and casting where the fish are), a 13’+ rod would be better, because it will offer you more precision when casting and a better control of the fish, if there’s a lot of vegetation on the shore or riverbank. Here are a few names to go with:
Daiwa Mad Dragon (available in 12′ length, 2.75 – 3.25 lb test curve);
Daiwa Black Widow (available in 12′ length, 2.75 – 3.25 lb test curve);
Sonik Sk3 (available in 12′-14′ lengths, 2.5 – 3.5lb test curves);
Chub Outkast (available in 12′-13′ lengths, 3.0- 3.5lb test curves);
Although most anglers use baitrunners for carp, you can still use a baitcaster, if you’re a fan of baitcasters. A few excellent choices are the Abu Garcia reels, in the 6000 series, ex: Abu Garcia 6500 C3, or Abu Garcia BCX.
Line: Depending on the carp you’re targeting, you can use various types of line, of different strengths. In general, most anglers go with line between 15-40 lb test. But in case you’re fishing in snaggy waters, with a lot of vegetation, braided line is a better choice, since it has a better abrasion resistance. Plus, it’s heavier, it’s less buoyant and thinner than monofilament, and it usually comes in dark colors. Since carp are somewhat skittish fish, it’s always a good idea to use dark colored line, brown, black or dark green. I normally go with a universal 25 lb braided.
On the other hand, monofilament has better elasticity, and it might be a better choice in clear, deep waters, with less abrasion factor.
Two great choices would be: Daiwa Sensor (mono) and Big Game (braided). You can also go with Cormoran Cortest, Fox Gravitation (braided), Shimano Technium etc.
Hooks: The ideal hooks for carp are size 6-10, curved shank, micro barb, medium or wide gap, curved/straight point, inside-curved or straight eye. Names to go with: Gamakatsu (strongest hooks I’ve seen), Korda, Gardner, Owner or Mustad.
Make sure you use dark colored hooks. In case there are only silver, shiny ones available, you can use a dark, permanent marker to color them. Carp can pe spooked by shiny hooks, especially if you use boilies, on hair rigs.