Fact file

  • The Latin name for carp is cyprinus carpio
  • Carp come in three main strains – including common, mirror and leather.
  • Crucian carp and grass carp may share the same name but they are very different species of fish.
  • Commercial carp venues can produce staggering weights of fish and 600lb in five hours is not unheard of!
  • Despite the numbers caught every year, a 20lb carp is still a fantastic fish – and will pull back very hard!
  • The British carp record stands at 67lb 8oz and was taken by Oz Holness from a lake in Kent in 2008.
Where are they?

Carp are widespread throughout the UK, mainly populating stillwaters but increasingly found in rivers, too.

How to recognise carp

Over the last 30 years, the carp has emerged as Great Britain’s most popular coarse fish. This is mainly because the species is extremely durable, feeds almost round the year, grows to a big size and fights like stink!

There are essentially three different strains of carp you can fish for. The first is the common carp, which is covered in scale and is a golden colour. The second is the mirror carp, and this strain has a non-uniform scattering of scales over its body. These fish tend to be of a darker brown colouration. The third is the leather carp, which is lacking in any scales whatsoever.

All three strains are stout and barrel shaped and although they may look different, they each boast four barbules around their mouths that helps with identifying food.

There is another strain of carp that is often found in commercial venues. The ‘F1’ is a cross between a crucian and a common carp and has been specifically bred for managed fisheries.

The biggest carp to be caught in the UK was taken by Oz Holness in 2008. It weighed in at 67lb 8oz.

Where to look for carp

Although prevalent in most UK waters, there are still specific types of venues the would-be carper should look for.

Lakes and gravel pits are good starting points, although that’s not to say canals, drains and rivers don’t hold quality carp – they do – it’s just location will be harder.

Mature venues, those with abundant plant life, usually hold a good head of carp.

When it comes to spawning, this will depend purely on the water temperature. It needs to be between 18C and 20C (normally mid May until early July) and then female carp will lay over one million eggs. About 80 per cent hatch.

In the right conditions carp grow quickly and in a food-rich environment, close to 2lb is achievable within 12 months.

So what do carp eat?

Carp are a greedy fish with a wide and varied diet. The like to root around the mud and silt for small crustaceans, bloodworms and anything else that’s edible. Carp are able to suck up big mouthfuls from the lake or river bed, blowing out what’s not of nutritional value.

However, although they take the majority of their food source from the bottom, they also like to cruise around in the upper layers of the water, too. This is especially true in the summer months when they suck things like insects from the surface.

The carp’s metabolism slows down dramatically in the winter months and during periods of extreme cold they will lie almost motionless for prolonged periods to conserve energy. They will, though, still feed during the cooler weather, normally when there is a sharp upwards fluctuation in temperature.

How can I catch carp?

Assuming big carp are the target (anything approaching 20lb or more) sturdy tackle is required. Carp are extremely powerful creatures so big, powerful rods, freespool reels and strong line and hooks are the order of the day.

Legering is probably the most effective tactic. Carp certainly can be caught on the float in the right circumstances but it’s often a waiting game, or the fish are at distance, meaning a lead is more convenient.

A basic bolt-rig, with a boilie on the hook, is as good a place to start as any.

If you’re fishing a lake or gravel pit, look for features. The base of the marginal shelf is worth investigating, as our swims with near-side covers. Gaps in weedbeds, islands and gravel bars are also good places to begin an assault.

Carp are quite good at giving themselves away and will often crash on the surface. If this happens, cast to the spot.

In terms of the feeding spells, carp are often active during the hours of darkness – making night fishing an advantage. But dawn and dusk can be equally good times, too.

Big carp baits are numerous but by far and away the most popular are boilies. Alternatives include pellets, sweetcorn and bunches of maggots.

Go target carp now

If you are looking to catch a 20lb carp, specialist kit is required.

Beginning with rods, go for something strong enough to cast at range (when required) but also capable of taming the surging runs of a big fish.

The CK Synapse range offers quality at a great price

The rods in the Carp Kinetics Synapse range are perfect. They come in three different test curve ratings – 2.5lb, 2.75lb and 3.5lb. Unless you’re looking at casting to the horizon, the 2.5lb version will have enough backbone for most situations.

Because of the nature of carp fishing, you’ll need a reel with a freespool facility. Bites are often out-of-the-blue and ferocious and the need for your reel to give line immediately is essential.

The Shimano Medium XTA Longcast Baitrunner is a superb carp reel

The Shimano Medium XTA Longcast Baitrunner is ideal. Brilliantly made and ultra-reliable, you can engage the freespool and relax, safe in the knowledge that when you do get a run your reel will give line on demand.

On the subject of line, durability is the watchword. Go for something like CK Camo Konnection in 12lb breaking strain.

When it comes to rigs, the sheer options available can be confusing. You might prefer to buy ready-tied versions and the CK Carpers Hooklength Box contains 14 superb rigs that will cater for all scenarios. Another essential piece of kit is a tackle box to store all your rig bits – and the CK Large Complete Storage Box takes some beating. For just £10 you not only get a spacious main box, inside are two 12ins hooklength boxes and four smaller boxes for swivels, beads etc.

Get the brilliant Anoki Wireless Bite Alarm Set for just £30

Bite alarms are also a near essential item of kit. Bites are infrequent, and often occur at night, so you’ll need something like the Anoki Wireless Bite Alarm Set. This comes with a wireless receiver – a gadget that will allow you to be away from your rods but still able to hear your alarms.

As much carp activity happens overnight, a bivvy and bedchair are also important items to own.

The CK Hideout is a superb choice of bivvy. It’s easy to erect, super strong, spacious and it comes with a free winter skin for when the weather turns cold.

In terms of a bedchair, the CK Bed is brilliant value at £50 – and it comes with a free sleeping bag, too.

So, what about bait? Boilies have long been the favoured choice of hookbait, largely because they are rammed with high protien ingredients, can be cast great distances and remain attached to your rig for hours and hours.

Dynamite Baits Terry Hearn Crave are a superb boilie

The choice of flavours can be baffling but Dynamite Baits Terry Hearn’s Crave are popular, as are the same company’s White Chocolate and Coconut boilies.

You can also try using pop-ups on the hook. These are buoyant boilies and typically sit an inch or two off the bottom. Dynamite Baits Terry Hearn’s 50/50 Chocolate Malt pop-ups are proven fish-catchers.

Particles are also very good for attracting carp into your swim. Hemp, maize and tiger nuts are all very good at bringing fish in but not filling them up.

Get the CK Mega Bait Selection Buckets for just £15

One very cost-effective way of buying both boilies and particles is to invest in a Carp Kinetics Mega Bait Selection Bucket. These come in various flavours and as well as containing plenty of bait, you get £12-worth of terminal tackle completely free.



Now watch the tackle in action

*CK Synpase carp rod – the UK’s best-value big fish rod

*CK Carpers Hooklength Box – save time…and money!

*CK Large Complete Storage Box – the UK’s best value tackle box

*CK Hideout Bivvy – get yours for only £100

*CK Mega Bait Selection Bucket – plus brilliant free gift