The crafty carp

The crafty carp

The name carp covers a variety of species including the common, crucian and grass carp. The carp most frequently found throughout Britain is the common. But just to make things more confusing, there are three cultivated varieties of common carp — leather, mirror and ‘common’ – in addition to yet another, the wild type.

Most carp have broad, deep bodies and brown backs. Their flanks range from the deep brown and yellow of most leathers to the golden sheen of wildies.

Follow the feeding

Carp fry feed on plankton and water fleas, but adult carp, with their sensitive feelers (barbels) and vacuum-like mouths, are best suited to bottom feeding. They spend most of their time rooting around in the mud at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Nothing that lives on or in the mud is safe from the digging of carp – including snails, crayfish, bloodworms, mussels and shrimps. However, as any angler can tell you, carp also feed in mid-water and come up to the surface for floating food.

Though not strictly predators, large carp have on occasion been known to eat other fish. They have extremely sensitive taste water temperature is between 18-20°C (64-68°F), usually in late May and early June, as you would expect with a fish introduced from the warmer climes of the Continent. Very often the young carp do not have enough time to build up reserves of fat before winter sets in, and so die. This prevents them from taking over many waters. However, carp are so long-lived, surviving for 40 years or more, that even the few which do reach adulthood ensure the survival of the species.

When the water is warm enough, each female lays over one million eggs among the weeds in the shallows. The eggs, small, sticky and yellowish, hatch in three to eight days, again depending on temperature. The larvae live off their yolk sacs for a few days. After that, they begin to feed on tiny water organisms.

Growth is rapid where the water is warm and rich in food. They can reach 2 lb (0.9kg) in a year and continue to grow at that rate indefinitely, but many of the waters in Britain are too cold to encourage maximum size. and smell receptors and can distinguish one sort of shellfish from another. This is what enables them to avoid baits on which they have been caught before. They can be spooked easily, so be careful – and quiet -when approaching shallow waters.

Temperature also affects feeding. If the water is colder than 14°C (57°F), carp feed less readily. However, canny anglers have proved that carp can still be persuaded to feed even in winter. Well-aerated water -the shallows and the surface during windy weather – also encourages feeding.


The preferred habitat of carp is still water – a mature lake, rich in plant life and nutrients, is ideal. Nevertheless, they are extremely adaptable fish and are common in lowland reservoirs, many lowland rivers with a slow to moderate rate of flow and even some fast-flowing chalk streams. River-dwelling carp are slimmer and more athletic-looking than their Stillwater cousins.

Spawning, like feeding, depends upon temperature. Carp only spawn when the