Firstly, carp are cold blooded creatures which means their body temperature is the same as their environment. Knowing this gives us a good clue as to what do carp eat. Warmer temperatures speed up metabolism and colder temperatures slow down metabolism (and digestion).
That means they will feed more actively when the water temperature is high.
What Do Carp Eat?
The next thing to remember is that carp eat both plant and animal material and are equipped with teeth inside their throats that can crush relatively hard objects like the shells of snails. Their diet consists of the larvae of various water borne insects, small crustaceans, worms, plants and algae.
They are quite opportunistic and will eat small, dead fish and fish eggs as well. In doing so they can pose quite a considerable threat to other fish species sharing the same environment as them.
In this article we will have a closer look at the different natural food items carp concentrate on as well as the baits, equipment, tactics and strategies needed to catch this fine angling species.
Where Do Carp Feed?
If you observe carp in their natural habitat you will notice that they sometimes operate close to the surface picking off mosquito and midge larvae as well as floating plant material and algae. They also zoom in on terrestrial insects and bugs that find themselves in the water from time to time.
Looking a bit down in the midwater area, carp may hunt water fleas, various types of insect larvae and even small fish.
However, they probably spend the majority of their feeding time shoveling through the mud and detritus on the bottom. Here they can find quite a large variety of different organisms like crustaceans, worms, snails as well as fish eggs.
The fact that carp are able to feed at all levels of a lake is a reminder that anglers should not only focus their fishing attention on the bottom, but consider these other areas as well.
How Do Carp Detect Food?
Carp has the ability to sense a wide variety of dissolved substances in the water. They are also able to see and smell any potential food that they plan to eat. If a food item is directly in front of them and below eye level they are however unable to see it.
To assist them in detecting possible food items they are equipped with appendages protruding from the mouth area called barbules. These barbules are highly sensitive and tuned in to recognize whether specific items have nutritional value or not.
It seems that carp have quite a good memory, however, and on occasion they may ignore certain items with obvious nutritional value which may be associated with similar food that disguised a fishing hook on a previous occasion. As a result they may avoid that specific type of bait in future as well.
Apart from the barbules, carp also have taste buds underneath their head, pectoral and pelvic fins and along the length of their body which allows it to more accurately pinpoint sources of food.
For example, when a carp smells a snail in the silt on the bottom, it sucks the silt and other detritus into its mouth. It has a taste organ on the top of its mouth which traps the food against the bottom of the mouth. Non-food items are expelled through the gills and larger items are spat out.
What Bait Do You Use to Catch Carp?
Looking at a carp’s diet, it seems logical that any fresh bait like maggots and earthworms (or night crawlers as they are referred to in the US) are excellent choices.
However, it is not always easy to get hold of these types of natural bait, but fortunately there are quite a variety of other alternatives that can be just as productive.
Bigger tackle shops and general sport stores normally have a section dedicated to carp angling and you will be able to find a range of baits there. Failing access to aforementioned you can, armed with the right ingredients, create your own bait.
As with most things in life, there are probably as many opinions as to what carp find tasteful as there are carp anglers! Again, this is an excellent opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and see which ones produce the best results.
As mentioned already, carp lock onto certain items with nutritional value and there are a wide variety of edible products that contain these.
A simple piece of white bread can prove a deadly bait under the right conditions and over the years various anglers have produced a myriad of exotic mixtures and additives in their quest for the ultimate carp bait.
These mixtures and concoctions include such diverse ingredients as honey, aniseed and curry powder to name just a few. Trust me, you can let your imagination run free in an effort to create some unique carp bait
A final word on bait – even corn kernels out of a tin and bought at your local store are a very effective and convenient bait and should not be underestimated.
What Tackle Do You Use for Catching Carp?
A fishing rod of between 2 to 3 metres in length will prove to be adequate for carp fishing, depending on the specific fishing location. If you fish a big lake and need to get your bait out quite a distance, then naturally a longer rod will be a better choice.
There are enough dependable brands out there so choose a rod that will fit your purpose as well as your budget. The sales personnel at any respectable retailer should be in a position to assist with the necessary information in this regard.
A fixed spool reel loaded with fishing line of around 4 kilogram of breaking strain will complete your setup.
I use fishing hooks from sizes 2 to 6 and prefer thin wired circle hooks for the simple fact that they prevent gut hooking. For sinkers you can choose weights ranging between 10 to 30 grams, depending on the length and flexibility of your rod as well as the casting distance required.
It is not a bad idea to acquire a few sinkers of different weights and test them with your setup prior to your fishing trip in order to find the right balance.
Fishing rests, keep nets and waders are also very useful items for the prospective carp angler. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and here I am also of the opinion that each individual angler should decide what exactly he or she wants.
Like most other things, these accessories are made by different companies and there are marked differences in price and quality. Rest assure that you can buy most quality equipment at a fair price and it is really not necessary to pay exorbitant prices for some basic fishing equipment.
What Strategy Works Best?
When there is a constant food supply available carp will congregate on that spot and will eventually be less skittish to take the bait.
This behaviour is very important from an angling perspective, because an angler can manipulate the carp’s feeding pattern by preparing a feeding area prior to actively starting fishing.
As mentioned above, creating a feeding area can dramatically increase one’s chances to be successful. This can be done in different ways with a variety of baits.
Any combination of minced meat, dog pellets, fish meal and corn kernels can be kneeded into a piece of white bread to create nutritious bait balls not larger than a golf ball. These bait balls should then be lobbed in the area you intend to fish at regular intervals an hour or so before commencing fishing.
How to Set up Your Tackle
For fishing on the bottom I first slide a ball sinker onto the main line. Then I attach a swivel to the end of the main line with my leader connected to the other end of the swivel.
With this free running leader, a fish can pick up the bait without noticing any resistance as in the case of a static sinker.
The weight of the sinker can vary between 10 to 30 grams, depending on the length and flexibility of your rod as well as the casting distance required to get to the fish.
If you are fishing with a float, adjust the length of the line between the hook and the float according to the depth of the water you will be covering after observing at which level the carp are feeding at that specific time.
All evidence indicates that carp are very opportunistic feeders and can be caught with a wide range of different baits fished at different levels and applying diverse tactics.
At the same token carp can be very circumspect and downright impossible to catch on certain days which adds to their allure as an angling species.
Certain strains of the carp species can therefore provide endless hours of fun and excitement to intrepid anglers by experimenting with all kinds of different bait mixtures thereby enhancing the fishing experience in general.
So, grab your mixing bowls and ingredients and start creating the ultimate carp bait!
Bonus – Carp On!