Common name: Carp
Latin name: Cyprinus carpio
Record weight: The current record fish is affectionately known as 'two-tone' and is slowly edging towards 60lb. This lovely fish lives in a large gravelpit in Kent called Conningbrook. The current (September 2001) record weight for this fish is 59lb 7oz captured by Terry Glebioska in April 2001. The fish has since been captured by Mark Toland at 59lb 12oz and, subject to ratification, this will be the new record.
Distribution: Carp were introduced to the British Isles in the middle ages, although it was not until several centuries later that the King carp that we fish for today became widespread. The original 'wild' carp that were introduced and reared in ponds for food were long, slender scaled fish that rarely reached a weight of ten pounds. These fish were very close to the wild form of the carp found naturally in the River Danube. Today carp can be found around the globe. From New Zealand to China, carp are amongst the most widespread of all fish species. This is a far cry from their natural distribution and thanks solely to the hand of humans.
Features: Apart from their large size, which sets them apart from all other coarse fish, carp are rarely mistaken for any other species of fish in the UK. Carp have a large underslung mouth with four barbules around the lips. Colour can vary greatly from dark brown to grey.
Selective breeding to improve the bloodlines of carp has led to the king carp that we see today. King carp not only grow much larger and much faster than their wild cousins, but selective breeding has also led to the breeding-out of scaling. Whilst scaled carp still exist, mirror carp, with a few scales, and leather carp, with no scales at all, have been developed.
Diet: Thanks to their large size carp are able to take almost any kind of aquatic food. Although their underslung mouth suggests a bottom feeder, carp are quite capable of feeding on the surface and can often be seen swirling at emerging food morsels during the warmer months of the year. The largest percentage of the diet of carp is generally made up from small invertebrates. Chironomid larvae, freshwater shrimps and oligocheates are favoured. Of the larger invertebrates freshwater mussels and crayfish are taken with gusto.
Spawning: In the cooler climate of Northern Europe carp do not spawn every year. The water temperature must approach 20 centigrade for carp to begin spawning and for the eggs to develop. For this reason spawning is often quite a rare sight in the UK. Because of our short summers and cool temperatures young carp face a very stiff struggle for survival. In many fisheries natural recruitment of carp is unheard of. When they do spawn, carp prefer dense stands of soft aquatic plants, although I have also observed them spawning on the much rougher surface of rocks in the Canary Islands. Carp can suffer quite extensive damage when spawning on rocks, although they appear to recover from these injuries within a few weeks.
Growth: Carp are one of our fastest growing fish species. In good conditions, carp will reach four ounces within the first year. One pound within two years and ten pounds within four years. Carp grow for between ten to fifteen years before they no longer increase in length. Weight can vary greatly though and spawn can add twenty percent to the weight of a female carp during the Spring months.