Carp are one of the hardest fighting freshwater species, making them a highly sought-after challenge for many anglers. Whenever I need a break from bass fishing, I’ll pick up my carp rod and hit the water hoping to peel some drag! Here are some tips that I’ve accumulated over the past few years of targeting the elusive carp.
Carp Limits & Regulations
Here in California there are no size limits or daily bag limits for carp. These fish are usually considered a pest species around the United States, and most anglers will either terminate or release the fish. Always check regulations for your location as rules may vary.
I release all my carp, simply because I don’t feel too great about leaving a dead fish on the bank, and I only keep what I want to eat.
This part can either be extremely easy or very difficult. In a few of the lakes where I fish, the carp can usually be seen very clearly in the shallow creek areas with a muddy bottom structure.
Honestly, carp can be found anywhere on the lake, but it never hurts to do a little extra research for your personal knowledge. Always remember where the skilled carp anglers usually situate themselves, explore creeks or shallow areas that look promising, and in extreme cases you can repeatedly bait an area for a few days to establish a feeding pattern at that exact location.
Carp can be found year-round, and in my experience the spring months have made it very easy to locate the fish, as they school up by the hundreds near creek openings of my local lakes. You’ll see the huge wakes these massive carp create while they jumble around their spawning beds. Summertime also keeps them in the shallows, as they enjoy basking in the warmer waters while they look for food.
The Ideal Carp Fishing Setup
To be honest, there is no “perfect” carp setup. You can bring anything from a 8-9ft fast-action rod to an ultralight to truly challenge yourself. It truly depends on how you want to fish, and especially what kind of fight you’re looking for. Do you want to have a better chance at landing that long-awaited carp, or test your skills handling big fish on light line? It’s completely up to you, but here are a couple of setups that I usually use.
I often use my salmon/steelhead rod when I’m carp fishing. It is my beloved surf perch rod, but I love the medium-fast action it provides and the length helps me to gain leverage on those bigger fish. Overall a very well-rounded, effective rod for my bait fishing. Here are a few salmon rods that would be perfect for the job.
- Fenwick HMX 8’6” – Beautiful construction, very sensitive blank
- Lamiglas X-11 – Incredibly lightweight for the length, well-balanced rod
When I want an even lighter setup, I’ll grab my drop shot rod for bass! Nothing quite like fighting the big ones on a smaller 6’10-7’ rod.
Once again, there is no exact carp reel, but there are a few factors that will improve your carp fishing. Make sure the quality of the reel is decent as the fish do make hard runs, and a baitrunner feature is always a convenient tool. Your reel should have a decent drag system and hold enough line to avoid getting spooled. any 2500-3000 size reel is perfect. Here’s what I use, but feel free to try anything else!
- Shimano Symetre FL 3000 – One of the highest-quality reels for around $100. The “X-Ship” feature surprisingly provides more cranking power!
- Daiwa Revros 3000H – This reel shines amongst it’s mid-ranged competitors. Can’t beat the quality and smoothness for around 50 bucks…
- Shimano Baitrunner 4000OC – Simply one of the better quality baitrunners that I’ve used.
- Daiwa Emcast BR 4000A – Incredibly smooth and lightweight. The baitrunner feature works flawlessly on this reel.
Terminal Tackle for Carp
Carp fishing around my area is fairly simplistic, so I usually try to keep my whole rig as basic as possible while remaining very effective. I like using a sliding sinker setup topped off with a hair rig on the end for maximum hookup ratio. Here’s the breakdown of my tackle.
- ½-1oz. Egg Sinker – Go as light as possible as long as you’re stuck on bottom
- Small Trout Beads – Protects the knot from egg sinker impact
- Size 4 Swivel – Honestly any size is fine too!
- Size 10 Owner Mosquito Hook
- 4-8lb Seaguar InvisX Fluorocarbon for the leader
The Most Effective Bait
This is where you can get creative. Since I like being simple, I’ll go to my nearest grocery store and buy a can of sweet corn and this has worked wonders for me in the past few years. If you’re interested in making boilies, however, you can use this easy recipe.
- 1 Cup Flour
- 1 Egg
- ¼ Cup of Water
- Add corn flakes, sugar, oatmeal, shredded wheat, etc.
Keep in mind that boilies work best with hair rigs. If they are placed directly on the hook there may be issues with successfully hooking the fish.
Carp Fishing Techniques
Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to situate yourself. Focus on shallow water, overhanging structure (trees, shade), weed beds, and other areas that look promising. Carp will hold to structure and shallow areas in the warmer months and retreat to deeper water when the temperature drops.
You’ll want to chum the water before casting. This means throwing a handful of bait into a concentrated area to attract the carp. The benefits of this include:
- Bringing schools of carp closer to you
- Helping reduce “shyness.” The carp will become more confident in feeding when they realize that the food is harmless.
Chumming can be simple at short distances. Simply grab a handful of your selected bait and throw it out as far as you can, keeping the spread as tight as possible so you don’t draw the carp too far from your hook. At long distances you may need a specialized slingshot, spod, or PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) bag to disperse your chum.
After you’re done chumming, it’s important to remember exactly where you threw and cast into the middle of the spread. Now it’s simply a waiting game – it may take minutes to hours for a carp to locate your single piece of bait, you just have to wait it out.
The Hair Rig
The hair rig is crucial to a better hookup ratio when carp fishing. It’s much easier to learn how to tie and bait these visually, so roam around on YouTube to find the the best tutorial that works for you. We’ll upload our own guide shortly!