Common Carp

Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio
Record Weight UK: 65lb 14oz 0dr (29kg 484gr) [‘Two Tone’ again at 67lb 14oz, Conningbrook]
Average Weight: 6 - 15 lb (2.7 kg / 6.8kg)
Average Length: 18 - 26 inches (45 cm – 65cm)
Maximum Weight (Europe): 94lb (42kg 637gr)
Maximum Length: 48 inches: (120cm)
Life Span: Between 9 – 45+ years.

Carp possess no teeth in their mouths and have two barbules on either side of a slightly protruding upper jaw, the lower barbules are longer and located at the corner of the mouths and are quite prominent. They do have powerful pharyngeal teeth to crush food items before swallowing the food and ejecting unwanted items. Carp have no scales on their head and are heavily bodied, powerful fish. The males tend to be the slimmer of the sexes, with more pointed pectoral, as opposed to the heavier built females that attain larger sizes and have rounded pectoral fins.

There original Carp are all fully scaled fish, having 35 to 40 scales along their lateral line with all the scales covering the fish being large and well defined, and are known as Common Carp. There are several variants of Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio):

  1. Mirror Carp & Leather Carp – with variations based on scale patterns are the most widespread.
  2. Ghost Carp (any of the above bred with Koi Carp), being less common in fisheries.

Although not separate species, both Mirror Carp & Leather Carp and Ghost Carp & Koi Carp are covered on separate pages for clarity.

The Common Carp may vary in colour considerably, with dark grey/brown backs giving way to flanks that may range from deep bronze through various shades through to pale brown, with some fish showing a grey through to dull silver colouration ultimately giving way to a white or cream/yellow belly. The long grey/brown dorsal fin has a concave edge and a strong front spine with serrated rear edges, whilst the lower halves of both the caudal and anal fins are often orange to red in colour.

Common Carp may have been introduced into Britain during the Roman occupation, between 43AD to 410AD, from Asia as a food source. The original Carp are thought to have originated around the area of the Caspian Sea that was located within the Persian Empire, though latterly conquered by the Romans, hence the spread of the fish to the west. The Caspian Sea itself is the largest inland body of water in the world, covering 143,000 square miles in area and being bordered on the west by Azerbaijan and Russia, on the northeast by Khazakstan, on the east by Turkmenistan and on the south by Iran, formerly Persia !

It is certain that between 1300-1600AD, carp were certainly kept by monks for food in monastery ponds, referred to as ‘stews’. Considerable debate ensues as to whether indigenous ‘Wild Carp’ ever existed in UK waters, or as to whether the longer bodied common carp known fondly as ‘Wildies’ were simply relatives of escaped carp from 1,000-years ago. The true origin of Carp within the UK is likely to remain a mystery !

Common Carp are fully covered with evenly sized scales. All Mirror Carp will generate Common Carp when bred, and it is the fully scaled fish that best represent the original strain of truly wild carp, which would undoubtedly have been longer and more streamlined like the very rare Cyprinus carpio – sazan, which still inhabit parts of The Danube in the Czech Republic.

It is widely believed that the Carp first found their way to Japan via China, who had brought them from Persia (now Iran), over 2,000 years ago.

Habitat & Location

Carp are very tolerant of most conditions and can withstand lower than usual oxygen levels. They appear to prefer ponds, lakes and slow flowing rivers, but readily colonise those rivers with a quicker current, where their body types become more streamlined when compared to those that live and breed in stillwaters.

Originating in Europe, the fish live in freshwater or slightly brackish water, with a pH between 6.5 to 9.0. They are able to withstand considerable temperature ranges, from 3°C to 35°C, with the ideal being between 23°C to 30°C. In winter their metabolism slows and they generally head for deeper, slightly warner water. Carp are able to tolerate water with very low oxygen levels, for short periods of time, by gulping air at the surface.

Carp tend to grow to their greatest weights in slightly warmer climates than England generally affords, and fish over 60lb being caught fairly regularly throughout Europe, from France to Kazakhstan. The largest recorded carp was caught by Martin Locke from Kent in January 2010 at Rainbow Lake, near Bordeaux in France, and weighed 94lb 0oz.

Carp thrive in lakes with heavy weed growth with soft silty bottoms, where they are surrounded by food, being completely omnivorous their diet is very varied and includes aquatic plants, seeds, snails, insect larvae, worms, mollusc’s and crustaceans.

Carp are sometimes referred to as ‘freshwater pigs’ owing to their habit of eating pretty much anything while grubbing around in the sediment and straining the mud for food, consequently muddying the waters. On some rivers and lakes this can occur to such an extent that the natural habitat is affected through the uprooting of plants affecting waterfowl and with the reduced clarity of the water reducing light levels that in turn affect plant growth, and subsequently the ability of other aquatic orgasms to live, ultimately significantly altering the ecology of the water bodies in which they live.

In the United States of America where European carp were first introduced in the 1830’s as a food source and in the 1850’s to Australia 1850’s as sport fish, their impact upon the rivers and lakes where near permanent turbidity arises from their feeding has led to them being treated as vermin. The Governments of these countries have tried to reduce their impact and ultimately wish to remove them to protect the native species and habitat. In some areas it is illegal to return them once caught, and ‘pest control’ is encouraged, with their active removal by hunting with crossbows and firearms.

Carp will live in small groups or 5 or more and spawn in the spring and early summer on submerged aquatic weed in shallower areas of lakes and rivers. Carp typically breed in late spring, with spawning starting when water temperature reach about 16-22 °C and can be stimulated by rainfall and may spawn more than once in a season. The larger females are pursued by small groups of smaller male fish that drive them towards the aquatic plants on which the eggs are laid.

The adhesive eggs, pale yellow in colour are between 1.0mm – 1.5mm in diameter and are deposited randomly during spawning, becoming immediately attached to submerged aquatic plants and other substrate once expelled by the female or as they fall through the water. Those that are fertilized by the males milt will hatch in a few days. The eggs hatch within 3-8 days, dependant upon temperature, with warmer weather prompting earlier hatch of the fry.

With fish maturing at 3-years old, a young 6.5lb female could produce approximately 600,000 eggs if in good condition. Although a large female Carp is able to produce more than a million eggs in a year, many will not be fertilised during the spawning process, others will become infected with bacteria or fungi. Add to this the myriad of predators that take the eggs and emerging fry, few grow to juveniles, at which point further predation will continue by Perch and Pike as well as both Herons and Cormorants.

Tackle and Tactics

Carp between 4lb to 15lb
Use carp rods with a 1.5 – 1.75lb TC (test curve); fixed spool reels loaded with 100m+ of 10lb mainline. Legering offers a vast assortment of terminal tackle rigs, but use simple bolt rigs when starting and keep things simple to reduce tangles and maintain straightforward bait presentation.

The use of electronic bite indicators is now fairly universal, if legering, and the need for a 30” landing net, medium to large, padded unhooking mat and a 30” wide weigh sling is necessary.

Specimen Fish
Stronger tackle is required to land larger specimens, with many anglers opting for 2.0 – 3.0lb TC carp rods; fixed spool reels loaded with 150m+ of 15lb mainline with a vast assortment of terminal tackle rigs available to legering anglers usually using electronic site indicators and needing 42” landing nets and large, padded unhooking mat and large weigh slings.

Stalking fish
Where conditions permit this approach, using Polaroid’s to spot fish, either locating and fishing for feeding fish or pre-baiting several swims where fish are spotted or on known feeding routes (remembering that you may lose a particular swim/s if an angler sets up in them), and then seeking to catch identified single fish, whether on their own or within a small group of fish.

This may involve surface baits, free lined or legered baits (on or off the bottom), or float fishing: all dependant upon countless factors including baits, fish, swim, weed, snags, weather conditions etc.

Floater fishing
Using floating baits, such as bread crust, dog biscuits or other, feed free samples and wait for the carp to start feeding before fishing to give them become confident. Do not cast into the middle of feeding fish as you will spook them, but cast to the edge of where they are feeding or to an area of free offerings that you think they may heading towards.

Where can I catch them?

Probably the most popular species within the Society, whilst all venues contain them, the following list of waters caters for every level of angler from the beginner to the hardened carp angler with fish ranging from singles and doubles all the way up to a few waters containing fish over the magical 40lb+. Let’s start with a brief look at the waters on offer and where to pursue them.

Badshot Lea Small Pond (Easy)
The smaller of the two lakes at the complex, it is an ideal starter venue with numerous fish up to mid-doubles with multiple catches common throughout the year. An ideal water to get a bend in the rod where all tactics will score at the right time and some fantastic floater fishing during the summer months.

Badshot Lea Big Pond (Easy-Medium)
With your confidence high, why not try the Big Pond, slightly harder, but with Commons to 36lb and Mirrors over 34lb and numerous doubles and twenty’s, where big beds of bait can account for some fantastic action in the spring and autumn

Lodge Pond (Easy-Medium)
Another one of our waters with a good head of fish that produces a few 30lb fish every year, with the average size being in the mid to upper double range: the margins can be very productive here with small beds of particle and single hook baits worth a go.

Tarn Pond & Warren Pond (Medium)
These are two very old estate lakes. The Tarn is a water that has been written about many times and became famous in the 1980s, where a lot of today’s top carp anglers began fishing. Over the last few years it has received a stocking of new fish which have started to thrive going up to high 20s now and won’t be long before they start hitting 30lb. Small PVA bags and stringers will score well here.

Warren Pond is a very silty lake with some very old fish, where rig choice is very important, light leads and long hooklinks with pop-ups and critically balanced hook baits are a must to combat the deep silt.

South Lake (Medium-Hard)
The 7.5 acre lake is one where all fishing is done at less than 4m range, so bankside noise should be kept to an absolute minimum. With three small islands and a causeway into the lake, there are plenty of features to fish to and with a good head of both Commons and Mirrors, typically between 15 – 25lb, but up to 34lb.

Stillwater (Medium-Hard)
Consisting of two lakes and probably the best looking lakes on the Farnham ticket, the Back Lake has many small islands and bays and a few sets of lily pads with large gravel areas to fish. Another water that has had a boost to its stocking in the last few years and contains a few 30lb fish.

The Front Lake’s main feature is the huge set of lily pads that covers a large part of the lake, where during the summer, fish can be seen rooting around. With a couple of islands, one of which can be fished from via a bridge and numerous marginal snags on both lakes, stalking can be worth a go.

The River Loddon at Sindlesham Mill (Hard)

This contains some good fish to 28lb + and provides an interesting opportunity for anglers wanting a different challenge.

Frensham Big Pond and Frensham Little Ponds (Hard)
The two largest lakes on the ticket and a challenge for anyone.
The Small Pond still contains a handful of the most sought after Leney carp strain and 25 + TWA carp to 40lb, plus 25+ Burton Bradstock linears/fully scaled carp to 30lb +. Trying to find out information on this place can at times be difficult, but the fish are there, and if you are lucky enough to bank one of the old Leney fish, please take the utmost care with them as they are very old having been stocked in the early 1950’s !

On the Great Pond, information is again hard to find, but with fish to 30lb, they are worth fishing for.

Both waters should respond to a baiting campaign, with location being paramount and with the two waters being large, open and shallow lakes, following the wind is a good starting point

Mill Lane (Rock-Hard)
Mill Lane is very weedy and has very clued up fish to 53lb 8oz that aren’t that hard to find, though trying to catch one is quite a different story.

A few fish is considered a very good season, making this venues one for the hardened carp angler.

Some Carp history on Farnham Angling Society waters.

Both the Frensham ponds were drained during WWII, and then both refilled in 1949. A restocking of 100 yearling ‘Galician’ carp from the Surrey Trout Farm took place in November 1952 with between 50 and 70 going into Frensham Little Pond with the balance placed into Frensham Great Pond. It is quite possible that this stocking was personally conducted by Donald Leney himself.

Burton Bradstock fish were stocked into Frensham Little Pond in October 1985, fish from the same consignment were stocked on the same day into Badshot Lea Big Pond, subsequently however the unfortunate consequence was that a great many of the older carp in both fisheries were then lost to a virus (thought to be SVC), soon after.

Farnham Angling Society has stocked a mixture of Common and Mirror Carp into the Society’s fisheries, namely Badshot Lea Big Pond and Badshot Lea Small Pond.

Fish were stocked into Tarn Pond following the tragic loss of a large number of fish in 2004 to an unknown virus.

Record Fish

National Record

lbs:ozs:drms kilo.grms Date Captor Location
65:14:00 29.484 2005 Simon Bater Conningbrook Lake, Ashford, Kent
Farnham Angling Society Record
lbs:ozs:drms kilo.grms Date Captor Location
40:03:00 18.229 September 2010 Jason Clarke Badshot Lea Big Pond

Handling fish & General Health Care

  1. Covering a Carp’s eyes will generally calm the fish before handling.
  2. Keeping the Carp in the landing net in the water until everything is set up to weigh and photograph the fish minimises the time the carp needs to be out of the water, therefore causing it less stress.
  3. Consider carrying treatments for hook wounds.
  4. Report sores on fish to bailiffs and Fishery Management.

KHV (Koi Herpes Virus) & SVC (Spring Viraemia of Carp)

KHV affects all strains of Carp, but not Grass Carp, Crucian Carp or Tench, although like Wels Catfish, they can carry the virus.
  1. KHV was first encountered in Israel in 1998 on Koi rearing farms and the first outbreak at a fishery in England was in 2003.
  2. This virus may cause between 20-100% carp mortality within a fishery.
  3. No treatment or licensed vaccines exist to prevent potential infections, although trials with such are underway in Israel, they have not been sanctioned in Europe.
  4. On 27 March 2009 KHV became a notifiable disease within the UK, prior to this fish infected with the virus were not restricted from importation into the UK, which enabled the virus to spread to fisheries with legally imported stock. The Fisheries Health Inspectorate within CEFAS deal with on establishing the best methods of screening and adapting British controls on the movement of fish into the wild.
  5. The disease typically occurs at water temperatures of between 17oC to 23oC.
  6. Typical symptoms of infected fish have included:
    1. Lethargy
    2. Erratic swimming behaviour
    3. Increased mucus production.
  7. KHV often leads to the fishes immune system being suppressed, with secondary infections widely increasing the potential range of symptoms.

SVC affects all ages of Carp (Common, Mirror, Leather, Ghost & Koi), including Grass Carp & Crucian Carp, and other coarse species such as Tench, Roach, Rudd, Pike and Wels Catfish to a lesser extent.
    1. SVC is widespread in continental Europe and western Eurasia, with the first outbreak in the UK being recorded in 1976 and whilst outbreaks are relatively infrequent, they are often associated with illegal movements of fish.
    2. The virus can cause mortalities of up to 100%.
    3. No treatment or licensed vaccines are currently available.
    4. SVC is a notifiable disease in the UK.
    5. The Outbreaks of the virus occur mainly during the Spring (hence the name), with periods of rising water temperatures, between 7°C to 17°C, and again when temperatures fall in the autumn. Whilst the highest mortalities occur between 10°C and 15°C, they usually stop at water temperatures over 17°C but may sometimes occur up to 23°C as the virus can survive in fish at this temperature.

Typical symptoms of infected fish have included:
    1. Lethargy.
    2. Dropsy, due to internal fluid retention, with fish having swollen, inflamed bodies, which in turn causes scales to lift.
    3. Regulation of buoyancy can become a problem, causing fish to swim erratically.
    4. Pop eyes and swollen anus.
    5. Pale or bleeding gills through haemorrhaging.
    6.  Increased mucus production.

As with most Herpes type virus, it is believed the virus stays with the fish throughout its life, with fish showing absolutely no signs of the disease still considered as carriers.

Photographing Your Catch

Check out our Photographic Competition for hints and tips on photographing your catch and a way to earn prizes for your captures.