Though they say carp are delicious in some parts of the world (the sorts of places where they also eat bats, tarantulas, and monkey brains), this species isn’t what most of us would call excellent table fare, especially when compared to our succulent school-sized late season stripers. Still, even though it may be the last fish in the world you want to eat the much-maligned carp puts up a great fight and can be a ton of fun for catch-and-release fishing.

a carp fish
Carp aren’t exactly what you’d call a glory-fish, but they’re readily available just about everywhere in the region’s freshwater lakes, rivers, and up-river tributaries. Photo by Piet Spaans

FINDING carp is often a lot easier than finding most other species. They inhabit everything from lakes to streams to rivers, in the entire continental United States. Imported from Eurasia to Europe and then America, they were firmly established on our home turf by the late 1800’s. You’ll regularly see them sunning themselves at the surface, which makes them an ideal target for bowfishermen. Also look for them in weedy areas and wherever mulberry trees overhang the water (they like eating the mulberries). You can bring the carp to you, as well, by chumming with sweet corn, Wheaties, Raisin Bran, or dog food.

CASTING at least one unweighted bait and sinking at least one other to the bottom with a split shot is a standard tactic. Carp sharpies fan-cast several rigs, and lean them up on Y-shaped sticks or place the rods in holders, then watch the rod tips for bites. If you try this tactic make sure you loosen the drag — remember, these are powerful fish and they’ll yank your rod right into the lake.

HOOKING carp is just like hooking up with any other fish, but remember that they have relatively small, soft mouths. Choose a small hook and use a light drag. Top baits include sweet corn, small worms, dough balls (crush some Wheaties and mix them with water, to form the dough) and manufactured carp dough baits, like those made by Uncle Josh or Magic Carp Bait.