The lowly carp. The freshwater bonefish. The freshwater redfish. You choose. This commonly frowned-upon fish is gaining more and more prominence as a gamefish with the advent of fly-fishers popularizing the flats-style approaches akin to Bonefishing in tropical climates.
This hard-fighting and massive-bodied fish has more than likely given many of you a lesson in proper drag setting after grabbing your panfish hook and taking off to who-knows-where with it. The carp is still largely considered a nuisance fish not wanted in our lakes. It is often wrongly assumed the fish is a bottom-feeding, swimming garbage can.
You can catch carp with several baits including nymph flies, spinners, and streamers. Carp are some of the most hardy fish which makes them a prime target in the coldest and hottest weather. They will actively feed in the early spring, late fall, and warm winters.
We are pulling for you, carp. We hope you gain the acceptance you've warranted for so many years.
See Barry Reynold's, Brad Befus', and John Berryman's book on catching carp on the fly, "Carp on the Fly: A Flyfishing Guide."
Common Carp in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: Large, heavy bodied minnow with arched back small triangular head tapering to blunt snout; first ray of the dorsal and anal fins stout, serrated spine; small, subterminal and protrusible mouth contains no teeth; two pair of barbels on the upper jaw; body color brassy green on top grading to bronze or gold on sides with yellowish white belly; typically covered with large, round scales; not the problem in Florida it is reported to be in other states.
Range: Occurs only in the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee rivers; widely distributed elsewhere in North America; first introduced to the United States in the late 1800's. Native range Europe.
Habitat: Occurs throughout Apalachicola and Ochlockonee river systems in variety of habitats ranging from steep natural banks to gentle banks, dike fields, sand disposal areas, rocky outcrops, and backwater sloughs with or without submergent vegetation; not nearly as abundant in Florida as most other states, possibly due to our short and mild winters.
Behavior: Spawning Habitats: Typically spawn when water temperatures range between 65 and 75oF; small groups gather in shallow, heavily vegetated areas that warm rapidly; one or more males pursue a female as eggs and milt are released, but no parental care given; eggs sink and adhere to vegetation and debris on the bottom; egg production from 50,000 to 2 million.
Feeding Habits: Feed by sucking up bottom silt, and selectively removing insect larvae, crustaceans, snails, and other small food items; adult carp are omnivorous, consuming both plant and animal foods; organic debris may also be an important component of the diet.
Age and Growth: Few live longer than 12 years in the wild, but in captivity have lived 47 years; growth varies considerable, but generally rapid for the first few years, then slows. They commonly reach more than 10 pounds.
Sporting Quality: Not listed as a sport fish in Florida, but a powerful fighter equal to most sportfish; ranks third in popularity behind Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Europe; require heavy tackle; best baits include dough balls, canned corn, bread crusts, and worms fished on the bottom; no bag or size limits.
Edibility: Bony but if properly prepared excellent eating; boiling and smoking are the two primary methods of cooking them.
State Record: State record is 40.56 pounds caught in the Apalachicola River; IGFA world record was caught in France weighed 75 pounds, 11 ounces.