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Carp Fishing North America

Updated on October 14, 2014

Carp Fishing in the USA and Canada

Carp are popular with North American anglers due to their large size and epic struggles when hooked. In addition to being popular among traditional bait fishermen, carp are also taken by anglers using bowfishing gear.

In North America, several species of carp occur, all of which were imported. They include common, grass, black, silver, and bighead carp.

Carp have been important as a food fish since ancient times, and carp, were among the first fish raised in aquaculture, with carp production occurring in China as far back as 3500 B.C.E. Carp are prized as a food fish in China, Japan, and Taiwan.

Carp are among the largest members of a group of fish which includes minnows, goldish and koi.

Common Carp in North America

Common carp are heavy built fish with deep bodies that are arched toward the dorsal fin. They have a lengthy dorsal fin which extends along the back. The body is typically brownish to bronze colored. The forked tail fin is usually reddish in color. Common carp sometimes live around 45 years and can weigh over 75 pounds.

Common carp were brought to the United States in 1877, being considered a highly valuable fish. In the later part of that century they were distributed widely throughout the country by the government as a food fish, although today they are rarely eaten.

Their introduction in North America led to negative environmental impacts and they are usually considered to be invasive species. Millions of dollars are spent each year by natural resource agencies to control common carp populations in the United States and Canada.

Common carp are believed to have been introduced into the Canadian province of British Columbia from Washington State. By the early 1900s, Canada carp populations experienced rapid growth.

Today, common carp are one of the most widely distributed fish species in North America, ranging from central Canada to central Mexico, and from coast to coast.

Common carp are easily spotted in shallow water as they often "tail". When feeding in clear water, their constant digging gives away their location, as a cloud of silt usually indicates one or more feeding carp.

While foraging on the bottom, carp uproot and devour aquatic plants, but also eat small invertebrates, fish or other food. Anglers catch carp by fishing on the bottom with cheese, fish eggs, worms or specially blended carp baits. Carp can also taken using artificial lures including small jigs, worms or plugs.

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What are Asian Carp?

The name Asian carp is a collective name for several species of carp that have been imported from Asia. Typically, when the term is applies, it refers to four species: grass, black, silver, and bighead carp. Asian carp are considered to be invasive species and pose a serious threat to waterways such as the Mississippi and Great Lakes Region.

Introduced in the 1970s by southern catfish farmers, Asian Carp traveled north through U.S. waterways as far upstream as the Illinois River. To stop the further spread of these invasive carp, regulators have installed electric barriers to prevent further progression.

Silver carp are the most well known of the Asian carp. Silver carp can grow as large as 100 pounds. They are notorious for being easily frightened by boats and personal watercraft, which causes them to leap high into the air. The fish can jump or otherwise propel themselves as much as 10 feet into the air which often results in injury to boaters. According to the EPA, "reported injuries include cuts from fins, black eyes, broken bones, back injuries, and concussions". Other species of Asian carp do not normally jump when frightened.

Common Carp Varieties

Anglers encounter at least three varieties of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in North America.

A "typical" common carp is fully scaled, similar to other wild fish.

A "mirror carp" has large, scattered scales interspersed with unscaled skin.

A "leather carp" has bare, leathery skin and is almost entirely lacking in scales.

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