In the U.S., one of the best kept secrets in the fishing world is that carp are outstanding fish, both to catch, and to eat. Carp have been prized both as a commercial food-fish, and a sport-fish in Europe for hundreds of years, but for some reason, in the U.S., they are unfairly maligned, with nicknames such as “Sewer Bass”. This is a derogatory reference to the fact that carp are incredibly tough, and can tolerate water uninhabitable to any other fish.
Carp can get quite large, oftentimes topping 60 pounds or more. On light tackle, they make screaming runs that would make a bonefish proud, leap from the water in high jumps that a tarpon would think twice about, and slug it out below the surface like a trophy bass on steroids. They have more endurance than just about any fish in freshwater, and a large carp on light tackle can easily keep you busy for a quarter-hour or more.
Carp have a firm, slightly oily flesh, similar to mackerel, with a succulent buttery-sweet taste. They have more bones than most game-fish, but filleting a carp just takes a few extra steps, easily learned with a minimum of practice. The extra trouble is more than worth it. There are few fish that taste better than smoked carp.
They are great practice for catching large bass, and bonefishing on the flats. You fish for them the same way, they fight the same, and if you lose one, there are plenty more. Just rig up and go again. Most states have very liberal creel limits on carp, and are more than happy for you to catch all you want.
There are three major species of carp in the US, the Common Carp, Grass Carp, and Bighead Carp. Grass Carp are protected through most of their range, and Bighead Carp are an invasive species making their way along the Mississippi River drainage. There are a few more minor species, but they are of little interest to anglers. Common Carp are the ones you will be targeting. Carp are super-spooky fish, with a sense of smell that a bloodhound would applaud, eyesight like a hawk, and they can hear a mosquito hiccup from 500 yards away. They are definitely a worthy adversary for any angler. You can tip the scales in your favor (slightly) by following a few carp fishing tips:
- One of the ultimate freshwater fishing experiences is fly-fishing for carp. This is identical to flats fishing for bonefish and permit. You have to sight-fish by finding carp in the shallows, carefully and very quietly moving to within casting range, and gently dropping a Clouser Swimming Nymph, Coyote Carp Fly or other suitable pattern in the carps feeding zone, all without spooking them. One false move, and the water will literally explode with large tailing fish rocketing for deeper water in an aquatic stampede. Fishing doesn't get any better than this. Make sure you keep the sun in front of you to avoid casting a shadow on the water. Be careful not to 'line' the fish by casting directly over one. If this happens, you will find out that it is possible for a large object to instantly disappear right before your eyes.
- The most common method for taking carp is by still-fishing with dough bait. You can buy commercial dough bait, or make it yourself. Carp are easy to please in that respect. Use very small hooks, ideally no larger than a #10 treble hook. Cover the hook completely with the bait so that it does not show at all. Use just enough weight to get it to the bottom, and use the lightest line possible, no larger than 6-pound. Slip-sinkers are best because if a carp picks the bait up and feels any resistance at all, it will spit it out just a shade faster than instantly. Leave the bail open on your reel. When a carp picks up the bait, wait until the fish begins to move off with it before engaging the bail and setting the hook. Then, hang on.....
By using a few carp fishing tips, you can transport yourself into a whole new world of fishing. Carp are everywhere, and there are always plenty of them.
Carp Fishing Tips