01.03.16

There's more to carp fishing than just catching king carp!

Mention carp and most of us immediately think of the king carp, cyprinus carpio, but there are lots of different carp species found around the world that can be targeted!

In the UK we are pretty much restricted to fishing for king carp, plus some waters hold one of the smallest species of the family, the crucian carp, along with the occasional grass carp. But other than that we don’t really get any of the other varieties, other than maybe in the ornamental fish trade.

The king carp is probably the most widespread species, and British anglers have targeted them all over Europe and have started travelling even further afield to countries such as Morocco and South Africa. But they can be found in plenty of other parts of the world as well, including the Middle East – Israel is well known for farming them – plus India, large parts of Asia, North America and Canada, and even Australia where they are considered vermin and an invasive species!

These days anglers are getting even more adventurous and going off in pursuit of some of the more unusual carp species, some of which grow to huge sizes and are found in some very interesting venues. Here we take a look at some of those that are worth targeting and where you can potentially go and catch one!


Siamese carp
During the last decade this species, which is mainly found in Thailand, has become a very popular target as it is possible to combine some fishing with a holiday in the sun! They’ve been caught to over 250lb – a renowned Thai fishing guide called Kik caught one estimated at 120kg (roughly 265lb) from Bung Sam Ran lake near Bangkok. Many of the fishing resorts, including Gillhams Fishing Resort and Top Cats, now hold numerous fish in excess of 100lb! It is almost impossible to catch one in the wild these days due to the destruction of their natural habitat – mainly in the Mekong, Chaopraya and Mae Klong rivers – through pollution, over-fishing and the building of dams. In the wild they are also found in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and historically fish to around 300kg have been reported!

Buffalo carp
Although not a direct relative of our king carp, these share many similarities with our king carp in terms of body shape, feeding habits and how you fish for them. They are found in North America, where they are fairly widespread throughout river systems and lakes all the way from northern states such as Iowa and as far south as Texas. They can be caught using similar tactics to how we fish in the UK, as they feed on the bottom and will come in and feed on a bed of bait. They used to be considered a ‘trash’ species, along with other bottom feeders, but carp fishing in general in the US has seen a large rise in the number of people going, and buffalo have been caught to over 80lb!

Black carp
These are found in China and are widespread as they are a popular source of food, but can also be caught on rod and line in lakes where they have been stocked. They were also found extensively in rivers – such as the Yangtze basin - but are less common in the wild than they once were, largely due to their value as a food fish! Potentially they grow to huge sizes, with fish of up to 2m having been caught in nets and weighing in excess of 100kg, and some very big fish have also been caught on rod and line from lakes where they have been stocked. A fish of 120lb was landed on rod and line from a municipal lake in Jessore, and that measured over 5ft in length! As yet they aren’t a species that many anglers are targeting, but China is getting more popular as a holiday destination and is becoming more open, and it offers a chance of a different freshwater species in excess of 100lb.

Catla carp
This is the largest species of carp found in India, and is also common in Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It can grow to around 100lb, although anything over 50lb would be considered a big fish. They feed on zooplankton naturally, but soon get used to anglers’ baits and are regularly caught over beds of groundbait on critically balanced hookbaits, as they filter feed – a Method feeder style of set-up can be very effective. One of the best known lakes in India for catching them from, with fish to over 30kg, is Powai Lake, which is located in Mumbai itself! They are also fairly widespread throughout India, although they are also considered a source of food which can make it hard work to track down the larger specimens.

Bighead and silver carp
Although both can grow to over 100lb, they are virtually impossible to catch as they are filter feeders and won’t readily take anglers’ baits in most venues – there are a few exceptions, such as lakes in Thailand, where they have become used to eating larger food items. The silver carp is a native of China and Siberia, whilst the bighead is found across Asia, and both have non-indigenous populations in other parts of the world – they have become a big problem in the US on rivers where they were stocked to manage algae problems, but took over to the detriment of native species and became a danger to boaters as they leap clear of the water when disturbed by an engine, leading to some serious injuries to anyone hit by one whilst travelling at speed!

Mrigal carp
This is yet another species that can be found in commercial fisheries in Thailand, where it has been introduced, but in the wild it is considered vulnerable. Also known as the Carnatic or white carp, it used to be found in a number of rivers in India, but these days the only surviving population is in the Cauvery River (best known for producing huge mahseer). Fishing is now banned on some stretches of this river, although unfortunately poaching for food is still prevalent, but there are still some areas where you can go and target one. They can potentially grow to over 40lb and are often farmed mainly for food, although there will be places where you can go and catch them still – such as around Coorg on the Cauvery. Free-lining live grasshoppers is one of the more traditional methods that anglers have used for many years!

Grass carp
This species is fairly widespread around the world, especially in Europe, including the UK, having been introduced to many waters as a way of trying to control excess weed growth. They are originally native to river systems in China and Eastern Siberia and are also known as the Amur or White Amur carp – after the Amur River. In the wild they can be hard to catch as they predominantly feed on weed, but once they get a taste for anglers’ bait they can be targeted using conventional carp tactics. Several fish over 80lb have been caught, and it is possible to go and target fish to over 60lb on plenty of venues, including some of the popular carp holiday destinations in France.

Koi carp
If you want to catch something colourful then this is definitely a species worth targeting, but it is actually the same species as our king carp! They were originally selectively bred for the ornamental fish trade but have found their way into lakes and in some countries have even caused problems in the wild – in New Zealand they are classed as a pest and have damaged eco-systems, and been detrimental to native species, as they have spread so quickly and taken over some waterways. There are plenty of them in lakes in the UK, but in Europe they can be caught to even larger size, with Korda’s Darrell Peck having caught a stunning orange specimen of 55lb from a public lake in France.

Rohu carp
This species is also known as the Indian carp and is widespread in rivers and lakes all across the country, but is also found in other parts of South East Asia. It is common in many of the commercial fisheries in Thailand, but can also be targeted and caught in the wild in India, although they are a popular food source so more remote venues away from larger populations of people will give you a better chance of catching. They have a fairly small mouth relative to their size, so smaller baits and hooks give a better chance of hooking them – in India a paste bait called ragi, made from millet flour, is a popular choice. They have been reported to well over 100lb in the wild, but fish of around 20lb are far more common and the IGFA world record is only 27lb 8oz, although bigger fish have been caught and not claimed!

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