Carp Fishing

by Sean Ward, December 09, 2019

New to carp fishing? Don’t worry! This fish is not one of the most difficult in the world to catch, and with a little bit of practice and time, you’ll be handling these fish like a seasoned professional.

This guide to carp fishing for beginners can help you get started.

Know Your Fish

The carp is one of the most exciting - yet also one of the most frustrating! - fish species to go after. There are several types of carp to be aware of, but these are the basics you need to know.

Common in both Asia and Europe, the carp was introduced to the United States and has become commonplace here over the last few decades. There are dozens of different carp you might run into depending on where you are fishing, including the silver carp, grass carp, common carp, black carp, mud carp, and more. Carp can be found in just about any body of water, from rivers to ponds, lakes to streams. With this kind of range, you might assume that all carp act exactly alike. That’s not always the case. Between individual carp species, there’s quite a bit of variation. That being said, there are some commonalities.

So what do they all have in common?

For one, all carp are generally spooked. These fish spook easier than just about any other type of fish. As a result, you must master your stalking skills, behaving in a stealthy fashion as you go after your fish. You also need to understand carp spawning behaviors. Carp are difficult to catch during spawning seasons, which can vary depending on the local climate, the water temperature, and other conditions.
Carp usually travel in groups. This is especially true in the fall, where you’re likely to see carp swimming in groups of six or so fish.
In the rivers, this effect is even more exaggerated - fall carp in the rivers often travel in packs by the hundreds!

Get The Right Carp Fishing Gear

The first piece of equipment you need when fishing for carp is an appropriate rod. While there’s no single one-size-fits-all rod that’s best for carp, you can learn more about the best types of rods for specific fish here.

Otherwise, a good general rule of thumb is to use a carp rod that is roughly 12 feet long. This will allow you the strength (and at the same time, flexibility) you need to lure in a fish that is anywhere between 5 and 30 pounds. Your rod needs to be able to detect slight vibrations, are carp often strike slow and soft. Next up is the reel. When fishing for carp, you will want a reel that is made out of durable materials. Usually, a big spool reel is best. If you’re looking for some tips on how to pick out a reel, have a look at this video for ideas. Otherwise, go for a reel that will spool outline quickly. You will be using a monofilament line that’s about a 10-12 lb weight. Fluorocarbon also works - it’s merely a matter of preference. In most cases, you will want to use 4 to 6 size hooks for fishing. Black hooks work best for carp, as these will offer better camouflaging in the dark water.

To land a carp, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy flies or other lures. All you need are a few worms, snails, cricket,s or even some corn. That being said, if you have plastic grubs or worms or even artificial flies, these can be used to land carp, too.

Finally, you will also need weights. These come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and the best choice for carp will often come down to a matter of personal preference. Pear weights are good for casting medium resistance and moderate distance, while bomb weights cast super far. Shot weights, on the other hand, are best when used for float fishing - when you don’t need very much distance.

That’s all you need! Carp fishing for beginners necessitates very few other “add-ons” or additional purchases. If you want to go all out, you may want to buy some of the following items:

A net
A mat for unloading carp
Rod and reel holders
A chair or shelter for fishing
A tackle or bait box

Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

Carp are the most active during the summer months, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t fish for them during other seasons of the year.
No matter what time of year you choose to fish, know that they are the most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon, typically in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Follow the signs - you might see bubbles in the water wherever they go. You can also keep an eye on the top of the water to find the fish. Carp know how to follow the wind. Carp tend to hang out near underwater bush, lily pads, or other structures. There are a variety of fishing and boating techniques you can use to get after them, but knowing where the carp hang out is often more important than the type of bait you use.

While fishing for carp in the summer is the recommended method, you can also fish for carp in the spring, fall, and winter months.
Fishing for carp in the spring is a good follow-up to fishing in the summer. During the spring, the carp will be hungry, ready to eat just about anything after a long winter. In the fall, you may have good luck, too. Fall carp know that winter is coming and that they need to eat as much as possible before winter. You will likely not have a hard time finding carp in the shallows or along the edges of a small body of water.

During the winter months, you can even ice fish for carp! Ice fishing for carp is a bit more difficult and therefore not a great topic for a beginner’s guide, but know that, once you gain more experience, winter carp fishing is definitely a possibility, too.

Carp Rigs for Beginner Carp Fishing

While carp don’t need a super fancy presentation, you will want to think about how you plan to present your bait. There are a few options.

The basic hair rig is one of the most common methods of fishing for carp. To do this, all you do is remove the bait from the hook by a predetermined length, which will make it easier for the fish to eat your bait and will also enable a smoother hookset.

Here’s an example of how to set one up.

You can also use a running ledger rig. This is another great option for beginners. The carp feels nothing as it chows down on your bait, helping it feel more secure in biting your hook. The chod rig, on the other hand, keeps your bait floating above the water while fishing in a specific location.

Learn How to Cast

Before you cast, watch for signs of activity. Look for signs like carp surfacing or partially surfacing or even muddy clouds in the shadows of the water. In the summer, you will have good luck fishing for carp midday in the shallows when it’s a sunny day. If you’re not sure where exactly to cast - such as if you’re unfamiliar with the body of water on which you’re fishing - the best way to find out is to ask some locals.
Get some advice from the staff of the local bait shop or even ask other anglers. OR you can just sit around and see for yourself! You don't learn to cast overnight, but it’s a good idea to practice in your backyard before you set out on the water. This will allow you to master the craft before you are out on the river and run the risk of snagging trees or destroying your line.

Hook and Reel in Your Fish

You feel that nibble, and you fill with excitement - you know what’s about to come next. You’ve caught your first carp! Now, how to reel it in? Once you feel that bite, it’s time to set the hook. Be careful trying to set the hook too early, which is a common mistake made by carp anglers. Until your carp bites your hook - and hard - you need to avoid setting the hook too soon. Jerk the rod upwards and outwards once you feel that hard bite in order to set the hook. Then, the fight begins - keep your rod high and concentrate on the fish and nothing but the fish. Be calm, using as little force as possible. Carp have thin and delicate mouths, meaning they can easily yank themselves free of the hook. Let the carp fight you and not the other way around.

Once you have your fish, unhook it carefully and get ready to take a picture - you’re going to want to document this one! Wipe the tears of joy from your eyes and smile for the camera, because you’ve just landed your first carp - and you should be proud!


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