Fishing for Carp

Fish Guide Asian Carp
Fish identification guide for Asian Carp (PDF, 1mb)

What to do if you catch an Asian Carp:

About Fishing for Carp

In both Europe and Asia, Carps have been one of the most frequently sought sportfish for centuries, respected as much for their wariness as the strength of their fight. With painted faces, English, French, and Dutch anglers may pace the length of their favorite canal in sponge-soled shoes for months before landing the wise Carp that is rumored to swim there -- even then, the fish is typically returned to the water for the next round. While the sheer numbers of Carp in North America may make such measures unnecessary, they can still be remarkably challenging to land. Even in rapid water, Carp can be easily spooked by motion, such as a cast line overhead or the landing of a fly, however accurate. And when caught, "carp fight. Not the wild, leaping fight of a bass or trout, but the deep-down, pulsing, bulldozer kind of a fight that comes only from determined brute strength. You play a carp and he plays you until he's either exhausted on the beach or hands you back your tackle in your hat." (Jones)

This combination of skittishness and size makes the carp great practice for both tackle and fly anglers learning to handle large fish on light line.

One of the greatest advantages of fishing for carp and other "roughfish" is that they are not as stringently regulated as sportfish -- you can cast for them at any time year, and catch as many as you care to (special regulations do apply to spearfishing, however). Moreover, they are readily accessible, as they swim just about everywhere, and the sheer number and variety of species can not only entertain amateur anglers, but offer new challenges to the most experienced caster (as Doug Stange of "In Fisherman" magazine has been stressing since the early 1990s with his column "Those Other Fish"). Even anglers for the most humble of roughfish, however, must have a current fishing license and obey all applicable State fishing regulations. In Minnesota, for one, leaving any fish on the bank has been illegal since 1981 -- if you can't eat or otherwise use the carp you've caught, freeze it or bring it to the DNR for collection.

Secrets of the Doughball
Where sportfish anglers have their high-tech graphite and lures for every condition, carp anglers have their doughballs. Generally considered the most reliable way to catch a carp, these sticky lures are formed of ingredients as unique and varied as the anglers using them -- canned corn, children's cereal, or that mystery ingredient that your neighbor will never divulge. When wrapped around a hook and cast, the doughball sinks to the bottom, where it will hopefully be sucked up by an unwary carp. Doughball recipes and numerous tricks and tales of carp and carpfishing can be found on CarpNet.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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