Carp Fishing In The United States: Beginners Guide 2022

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Depending on who you talk with, mentioning the word carp can cause quite a few emotions and multiple viewpoints. Carp are well-known for the issues they can cause in waters all over the United States. 

However, they are a blast to target with a fishing rod. I got my start in fishing by targeting carp. I went after carp at local dams and reservoirs near my house. Their size and power were enough to keep me coming back to fish for them as much as possible. 

While we often hear that they’re overrunning local waters, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to catch. It takes quite a bit of skill to land these fish. With persistence and a few tried and true techniques, you’ll find yourself in a great position to land them. 

In this article, let us learn more about fishing for carp in the united states, how to fish for them, and where to catch them.

  • Types of Carp Found In The USA
    • Black
    • Grass
    • Bighead
    • Silver
    • Common
    • Mirror
    • Koi 
  • Types of Carp NOT Found In The USA
    • Crucian
    • Leather
  • How to Fish for Carp? 
    • Basic Gear Needed To Catch Carp?
  • What Bait Does Carp Eat?
  • Where To Find and Fish For Carp?
  • Where to Fish for Carp In The US?
    • Local Waters 
  • Finding More Information On Carp In The USA
  • Final Thoughts

Types of Carp Found In The USA

An American carp weighing 49lbs, caught in the St Lawrence River

In the United States, there are four types of Asian Carp as well as common carp that already inhabit many of the waters in the United States.

Carp are not a native species to North American waters. Carp species have been introduced in the USA since the mid-1800s, and to many ecologists, biologists, and anglers are a major impact on native fish species. Although carp eradication measures have been active for over 100 years, the four Asian carp types in particular – bighead, black, grass and silver are a concern.

The biggest fear is the damage that the carp are doing to many of the Great Lakes. You can read more about this concern by following this link to a scientific American article on the Asian carp impact.

Other than the Asian carp, the Common carp are the primary species that you’re going to find in bodies of water all over the country. The common carp is part of the Euroasian variety and there are several subspecies.

Black Carp 

Black Carp can be found all over Eastern Asia and they live up to 15 years. These fish have no natural predators and with a poor digestive system, they eat quite a bit of food.

When black carp are caught, they’re easy to identify by their dark body color and grey colors on their belly. Also, you’ll see that their fins are dark as well. 

Bighead Carp 

Bighead Carp are another type of carp you’ll find in the United States. Their lifespan is around 16 years and they can grow upwards of 40 pounds.

The Bighead Carp are found more in the Mississippi River system instead of the Great Lakes. These fish are able to eat upwards of 20 percent of their body weight each day. These fish are identified by a dark grey on top of their body and a cream color on the bottom with some black spots on each side. 

Grass Carp

Grass carp caught in the cold waters in North America – Note the long slender body compared to mirror and common carp

Grass Carp are some of the more popular carp you’ll find across the country. These can be found in the Mississippi River system as well as the Great Lakes.

The Grass Carp actually eats some of the other carp species. They often eat up to 40 percent of their body weight each day. The 40 percent consists of important plant life within the bodies of water. You’ll find them to have large scales and be dark brown with a white underbelly. 

Silver Carp

Silver Carp are the carp you see on videos that are flying through the air. Any sort of boat propeller can cause these fish to jump nine feet out of the water and potentially injure anglers as they’re traversing through rivers and lakes.

They feed continuously since they don’t have a true stomach. They’re all grey and live in the Mississippi River as well as many lakes across the midwest. 

Common Carp

Finally, anglers are going to catch the common carp. The common carp is widely respected as one of the hardest-fighting freshwater game fish in the world. It is sought after by specialist carp anglers as well as also fly fishermen.

Commons are found all through every state in the US, particularly in the Great Lakes system, and many of the surrounding rivers.

Common carp eat fish and plants and are extremely adaptable. Whatever environment they’re in, they easily survive and breed. 

Mirror carp

A fantastic mirror carp – note the scales differ from the common carp

Mirror Carp are a non-native species introduced to Delaware in 1877 by Dr. Spencer F. Baird, who at the time was the head of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. These mirror carp were part of 345 carp including common carp first brought to the United States.

A mirror carp is in fact the same as a common carp, however, due to genetic mutation, the scales are irregular in size and shape. These large scales resemble mirrors – hence the reference to a “mirror”.

Koi carp

Koi carp like mirror carp, also fall into the same category as common carp. Koi are colorful fish with multiple patterns and color combinations all over their body. In fact, they are a domesticated version of the subspecies of the common carp. Unlike the common carp, koi are selectively bred to have vibrant colors and patterns.

Koi although not spread throughout the united states, can be found in many public parks and lakes. They were likely to be introduced into these lakes by the owners releasing unwanted koi into local ponds.

Types of Carp Not Found In The USA

A 13lb Leather carp – note the lack of scales and the “leathery” look of the body

Crucian carp

Despite rumors that crucians have been located in a Texas lake in the 1990s, however, this is not verified and as such there are no known populations currently in any US states.

Leather carp

Some anglers may have some disagreement with this statement, but to be fair there are no leather carp in the USA. In 1877, an unknown quantity of leather carp was imported and placed in ponds in Baltimore, however, whilst other carp thrived the so-called leather carp did not. 

Whilst there are a few photos of leathers being caught in united states waters, it is more than likely that these are mirror carp either with no scales or very few scales. 

Perhaps some over-excited anglers could have been easily confused by the mirror carp they just caught, due to its different markings compared to their usual mirror carp. 

How to Fish for Carp?

When you’re going to fish for carp, you have to have a few things prepared. They’re a bit finicky, but there are some tactics and baits that continuously work for these fish. 

The two main methods for catching carp are:

  1. Spinning Tackle
  2. Fly fishing tackle

When using spinning tackle the setup typically uses three options:

  1. Legering 
  2. Float fishing
  3. Free lining (no float or weights)

When using flies the best options are:

  1. San Juan Worm
  2. BH Woolly Bugger
  3. The Headstand carp fly
  4. Clouser Nymph

One great tactic for catching carp is using the method feeder, you can read more on this here!

What Basic Gear Is Needed To Catch Carp?

Carp gear can get overwhelming, but the basic setup does not need to go to this extreme!

For your tackle, you’ll want a somewhat robust setup. These are strong fish that will test the limits of your gear. 

Rod For Carp Fishing 

For your rod, you’re going to want to use a medium 9 to 11-foot length rod. It’s long enough for you to make those longer casts, but also powerful enough for you to fight any of the double-digit fish that you happen to find. 

Reel For Carp Fishing

With your medium rod, you can pair it with a size 3000 or 4000 reel. It’ll have the power to help you fight the fish and be able to hold enough line that you’re not going to run out of line if the carp happens to go on an especially long run. 

If you are planning on catching large carp over 10lbs it is best to use a baitrunner of at least a size 6000. My favorite baitrunner reels are from Shimano, which cover a full range of options up to a size 10,000.

Line For Carp Fishing

Carp do not have sharp teeth near their mouths, but due to the carps strength, your line should be from 6lbs test for small fish up to 10lbs, and 12lbs test for those bigger carp of 15lbs and above.

Carp fight well and in order to keep the fish under control, and help you avoid any heavy weed or underwater structures you should only buy a good quality reputable line. 

However, carp have extremely good eyesight. Make sure you’re using monofilament coupled with a strong hook length of monofilament or a braided hook length. You’ll likely be fishing in dirtier water, so you have some of that lack of visibility on your side. 

You can read all my in-depth articles on choosing the right fishing lines here!

Hooks For Carp Fishing 

Size 10 to 12 hooks with a wide gape are the best for catching carp up to and around the 10lbs mark. For carp in the 15lbs size, you are likely to need to use sizes 4 up to 8 to ensure you can land them successfully. 

What Bait Does A Carp Eat?

Sweetcorn is an all-time favorite for carp anglers

Let us be honest, carp will eat anything! Tiger nuts will always be a big favorite for carp anglers to use.

Carp are primarily omnivores, but they are not too fussy. You will need to take a few options with you when fishing and not rely on one single bait, also what works one day may not work the following trip.

Baits like corn, meat, boilies, pellets, worms, and bread are great options! They’re easy to tie onto the hook and carp are extremely attracted to them. 

You can learn more about the best hookbaits for carp fishing, or take a look at my article on how to fish for carp with boilies for more detailed information.

Pellets and boilies make awesome bait for all types of carp

Where To Find And Fish For Carp? 

When you’ve got yourself fully rigged, and you’re ready to fish, don’t make things overly complicated. Search for structures under the water.

Carp still like cover and safety. Things like log piles, rock piles, and heavy vegetation are great spots where you’re going to find carp. Cast near the structure, let your bait fall, and wait for a carp to strike.

Unless carp are feeding off the surface (usually on hot days) make sure you get your bait to the bottom of the water column since carp often feed off of the bottom……., especially the bigger carp. 

Sight Fishing For Carp

You can often sight fish for carp. They’ll cruise the shallows looking for vegetation or any sort of crustacean. If you cast your bait ahead of the carp in its feeding path, odds are it’s going to find what you’re throwing and give it a try. 

Don’t throw your bait right into the middle of the school of fish. Anticipate their movements and you’ll have more success. If possible pick out the larger carp that are in the group and cast towards them to improve the chances of getting a big carp.

Don’t Be Afraid to Chum

Since carp can be somewhat temperamental, it’s smart to chum the water to see what they’re wanting to eat. Whether you throw bread or corn, it’s a great way to see what the fish are willing to eat. 

Where to Fish for Carp In The US

As you look to find areas to fish for carp, odds are you won’t have to search too far. These fish are almost everywhere across the United States. 

Any check with a local game warden or a Department of Natural Resources website will tell you where the population of carp is the highest. Remember, they like heavily vegetated water with a variety of depths. 

The midwest and the southern United States have healthy populations of these fish. 

Check with local regulations on what you’re supposed to do when you land carp. Some require that you not release them back into the water! This rule is state dependent, a quick check with your state regulations will tell you what you need to do. 

Finding More Information On Carp In The USA And Canada

Carp fishing in the united states is gathering momentum, especially among specialist anglers. Here are a few great resources on carp angling.

American carp society

Canadian carp society

Carp Anglers Group

USA Carp Guide

Final Thoughts

Carp fishing can be tremendously exciting, the fight and the power they have can make a great day out fishing. Whilst carp are not everyone’s favorite fish to catch, they are starting to have a growing interest in United States fishing circles.

I hope that this article was informative and gave you basic knowledge and tips on fishing for carp in the USA. You can read more on How to catch carp and the best carp baits here!