Competition Bank Angling

The Carp


The Carp, Cyprinus Carpio 

The Carp, a fish which lives in freshwater lakes and some slow-moving rivers, can grow to over 60lb in this country, making it one of the biggest freshwater species in South Africa second to the Barbel. Big Carp have always been hard to catch, but it was not until Flavourants, Baits, and Doughs, boillies  had show it’s colours in our waters. Now the biggest of carp are catchable. Today, Carp fishing has got to be one of the most popular forms of angling in South Africa. The beauty and allure of these magnificent creatures has captured the minds of so many anglers in South Africa.Although many fish bear the name carp, they are not all the same species. The species that most carp anglers fish for is called 'cyprinus carpio', this includes king carp and wild carp. Other species of carp include the grass carp and the crucian carp. The different types of king carp are:




 Common Carp - Common Carp originally came from Asia. They were introduced into monastery ponds in Europe in the 12th century as a food for the monks. Many exotic varieties have been bred from them (eg. the goldfish). Common Carp have a regular scale pattern which is much like that of other freshwater fish such as the Barbel for example. Generally, Common Carp don't grow as big as Mirror Carp.



Mirror Carp - Mirror Carp are descended from Common Carp. They were bred by monks with the purpose of breeding carp with fewer scales which are easier to remove for cooking. The scales (which resemble mirrors, hence the name of the Mirror Carp) can grow in various different patterns making for some very beautiful fish. The fish on the right is almost



Leather Carp - Leather Carp are carp which have no scales on them at all. They are the same as Mirror Carp, but instead of having one or two or three scales, they have none. Leathers are very rare, like Fully-Scaled.



Grass Carp - Was originally introduced for the purpose of controlling aquatic plants of which it can consume in large quantities. It has a long, mildly flat sided body covered with large scales, colouring similar to but lighter than the Wild Carp, with a golden lustre. The Grass Carp can grow over 1metre in length and reach weights in excess of 30kg. It  can occasionally be found in ponds, lakes and medium to slow flowing rivers.






When a carp breathes, it takes oxygen from the water through its gills, which are situated at the back of the head of the fish. The gills are protected by plates of bone known as gill covers. In order to breathe the carp takes water in through its mouth, whilst its gills are closed and then closes its mouth and opens its gills. The carp will push up the base of its mouth to force the water through its gills which then takes the oxygen from the water and into the bloodstream, thus completing a breath.

To make sure that no water is passed out throught the mouth, the carp has a flap of skin at the top of its mouth (also known as the "curtain") which seals the mouth, so that the carp can complete its proper breathing function. Unfortunately, it is common place to see carp without this flap of skin, due to the carelessness of anglers, who damage this part of the mouth when hooking and unhooking them. "Please be careful".

Carp do need a lot of oxygen and therefore when fishing for carp it is essential to find parts of a water that you know is well oxygenated. This can be the difference between catching and blanking.

In the summer months if the water is very warm, and the fish are in the shallows, the water may not have alot of dissolved oxygen. Also in weedy waters, the weed itself may take all of the oxygen out of the water and replace it with carbon-dioxide. This may happen in the hours of darkness and also at first light, so therefore it may not be that the carp do not like the presentation of bait that you have laid down for them, but more that they are starved of oxygen and are reluctant to feed.

Carp Senses

Carp have a similar sensory system to humans in that they are able to hear, touch, taste and smell items around them. This is important when deciding which rig to use and how its components may put the carp on its guard as it considers the hookbait. The senses of a carp are hearing, smell, sight, touch and taste.


Carp can hear much more than we can. The carp hears by detecting sound waves passing through the water. These sound waves are converted into messages in the carp’s brain and are translated into noise. The carp’s hearing is very sensitive and the tiny bones in their ears called ossicles can detect and amplify the smallest of sound waves passing through water. So although the splash of a rig entering the water may attract the carp, the carp may identify this with danger eventually and treat the area with suspicion.


Carp can taste and smell items in the water and can do this in a number of ways. Nostrils near the eyes of the carp allow water to enter and it highly sensitive system can then pick up any substances which have been dissolved into that water. The carp will then identify this as a food source or not. When a carp takes in a bait into the mouth the lining of the mouth which contains chemically sensitive cells will send a message to the carp’s brain as to whether that food item is a good or bad food source. If this is so, the carp may then continue to feed until satisfied. However, if the carp decides that the item is not a good food item it will reject the item taken in and may bolt from the area( Known as "Spooking the carp"). Although carp will take in many food items, they also have the ability to reject them!

Sight - Carp have the ability to see through the eyes situated on either side of the head. Carp see out of the water sideways and upwards at an angle of around 49’ through each eye. Anything outside of this angle out of the water will be invisible to the carp. In water the carp’s vision will be extremely limited in certain cases and extremely effective in other cases. If the water is deep, clouded, murky, full of suspended silt particles, the carp’s vision will be fairly poor especially when light is at a minimum, but in shallow, clear water with bright sun the carp’s ability to see items will improve. Be aware of this when using crude or obvious end tackles and presentations in such circumstances!


Nerve fibres in the carp’s skin send messages to its brain so if the carp does not identify the item touched as a good food item it will reject it and may spook from the area. The carp has an ability to sense touch through its lateral line. The lateral line on a carp which runs from its head to its tail is made up of very fine fluid filled tubes which open to the outside by tiny pores. Similar to hairs they can detect very slight movements in the water which assist them when locating potential good food sources and detecting items to avoid. Carp can also touch food items with their barbules, located either side of the mouth. Once a carp has located a food item it can use the barbules to touch the food source. It may well not be able to see the item with its eyes but it can assess it with its barbules just as well, if not better. The carp may well decide to take the food item in or may decide to reject it and spook from the area if the food item is felt to be attached to a carp rig!

No matter how attractive your food item may be, to enter the carp’s mouth and to hopefully hook the carp it must pass the sensory test. Presentations of rigs may be visually unacceptable and when touched may be rejected immediately. Carp are not stupid and will use their own senses for survival and survival means avoiding the obvious and dangerous. So take note!!!!!!!!  

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