Carp - (Cyprinus carpio)

There are several varieties of carp that are found in our waters, these are listed below:-

Common Carp - Are fully scaled along both flanks and golden in appearance.

Grass Carp - Do not resemble any of the other carp listed here, they are long lean and have no barbules around their mouths.

Leather Carp - Are almost scale less apart from a few found around the shoulders and back.

Mirror Carp -  Have a random placement of large scales across their flanks, which can sometimes be used to help identify particular fish.

Linear Mirrors - Are very similar to mirror carp, except that they have a distinct line of scales which runs along the lateral line.


Carp reach sexual maturity around 2 years of age and require water temperatures between 18 - 22 degrees lasting a number of days until they can spawn. This means spawn times can vary from year to year based on local weather conditions, although the months between May & July are usually when the spawn occurs.

During the spawning period male carp develop small white raised spots on their heads and Pectoral fins, which are called Tubercles. As the spawning season gets underway, male carp will harass the females by nudging their undersides in an attempt to induce the females into laying their eggs.

Once the females are ready to lay, they will normally find shallow weedy areas, no more than 2-3 foot deep, they will then begin to release up to a million eggs. When this occurs numerous males are in attendance and they will thrash alongside the female in an attempt to fertilise the eggs with their sperm - this is usually a boisterous affair and if lucky enough, can be witnessed a stone’s throw away from the bank.

Natural Diet & Common Baits

Carp have a varied natural diet which ranges from small insects/ larvae to seeds, snails and underwater plants. In order to deal with tough food like snails, carp have pharyngeal teeth which are located in the throat, these teeth help grind up whatever the carp eats.

With carp being the most sought after coarse fish within the UK, there is a huge market for carp baits that come in a variety of colours and flavours, finding out which works best on a particular water can be a matter of trial and error.

The most common of hook baits tend to be boillies, luncheon meat, maggots, paste, pellets, sweetcorn & worms. However, bread & dog biscuit can be great baits to use whilst surface fishing for carp in the warmer summer months.


Carp naturally gravitate towards any feature within a body of water, be it under water snags, drop offs, gravel bars, islands and natural features such as rushes, overhanging trees & lilies - Taking time to find these features before you start fishing can certainly increase your chances of locating and catching a fish.

Knowing whether fish are present in the vicinity of these features is a somewhat harder task, but it can be made simpler by looking for any tell tale signs of fish activity, the most obvious of which is carp jumping out of the water or cruising the surface layers. Movement/vibrations of rushes and lilies cannot be ignored either, as these are clear signs that sizeable fish are on the move. Some slightly more subtle indicators of feeding activity are the release of air bubbles or colouring/muddying of the water, these are both signs that fish are feeding confidently on the bottom.

When lake fishing in the cooler months, it is beneficial to check shallow areas of the lake on particularly sunny days, as carp can be found basking in the early morning warmth of an Autumn or Winter day.

Tackle & Tips

  • A strong rod is needed when fishing for carp, a minimum rod test curve of 2 1/4 pound should be used if your target carp are below 20lbs - If however your intended quarry are 20lbs and above then a rod with a test curve slightly higher is best employed.

  • A "baitrunner" type reel is certainly a handy tool to use when fishing for carp, especially when used in conjunction with an electronic alarm - It will also prevent your rod being pulled into the water by the power of a carp "run"

  • Mainline size is dictated by the size of carp you intend to catch. If you are fishing for carp of less than 10lbs then a good brand of 6-8lb monofilament will suffice. However, if you intended to target large carp then look to use a 12-15lb monofilament as a minimum for your mainline.

  • Hook size is again dependant on the size of fish you are targeting and whether the carp are confident enough to take larger hooks - It is always best to aim for a balance when selecting a hook size, always try and match the hook size with the size of bait you are using.

  • There are many ways of fishing for carp which range from using a method feeder, ledgering, float fishing and surface fishing, deciding on which method to fish will depend on local weather conditions, your tackle, and the water you are fishing.

  • A great way of attracting carp into your swim and sparking feeding activity can be achieved by using particle baits as part of your loose feed or spod mix - These small particles sink to the bottom and become lodged in any debris, this encourages carp to graze as they search out the next morsel, this can often help break down the inhibitions of the shyest of carp as they actively compete with each other for food.