15 Carp Fishing Tips

15 Carp Fishing Tips
15 Carp Fishing Tips

15 Tips for Carp Fishing Success

Carp are underappreciated by most American anglers which is a shame. Carp can grow to great sizes and are one of the strongest fish you can tie into. Here are 15 of the most effective carp fishing tips I can offer to catch more carp in any season.

Observe Carp Signs

Carp can be pretty easy to locate at the lake if you are patient. Whether they are grabbing insects off the surfaces, jumping completely out of the water, or simply kicking up mud as they root through the substrate, they make their presence known. By observing the water, you can see the best spots for your bait. 

Determine Water Column Presence

Carp will move through all levels of the water column throughout the day. For carp on the surface, fishing with bread, or a fly rod is a method. You could run a 1/0 hook through a piece of styrofoam and use a fly rod to cast it out. The styrofoam will look like a piece of bread to the fish. Floating boilies is another great topwater solution. You can make any boilies (purchased or self-made) float by nuking them in the microwave for 20 seconds. For mid-column carp, a zig-rig is your best bet. Bottom fishing with a PVA or pack bait cannot be beaten. 

Enjoy the Fight

Carp are strong slabs of muscle but make sure you enjoy the battle. Don’t try to horse them in. Carp are one of the strongest fighting fish in freshwater. Let them run if they start running. Enjoy the battle. 

Choose a Loud Bite Indicator

It is a great idea to use some type of bite indicator. I prefer to use cheap bells I got for a few bucks. You could also invest in more expensive acoustic bite alarms if you want. Some very expensive models will detect bites that occur as the fish grabs the bait and swims towards you. That is fine and great but even these bites will be picked up by the cheap bells once a carp changes direction. Don’t spend a ton of money on bite alarms unless you have excess cash to spend.


Chum the Area if Laws & Time Permit

Chumming is the best way to draw in massive numbers of carp to a location. You can chum a spot for an hour or so to bring in a few extra fish or you could chum the same spot for a few days straight to turn a spot from cold to red-hot. Be sure to check out your state and local regulations. As an example, chumming is illegal in the state of California where I fish. If you’re in a state where it is allowed, do it!

PVA or Pack Baits are Legal Chum Options

A PVA is a thin plastic membrane that dissolves rapidly in water that you can stuff with chum bait. It is very popular among European carp anglers. Pack baits are another great option where you pack the bait onto a standard method lead feeder and it essentially “chums” a small area to draw in carp to your hook. While both of these methods are technically chumming, they are legal in most states. 

Choose a Good Bait

Carp are omnivorous eating vegetation, algae, insects, and dead creatures among others. My favorite baits are pack baits consisting of Panko bread crumbs, Jello powder, and sweet corn. That is my go-to pack bait. Another effective option is Mexican masa dough balls with Kool-aid powder, water, and sweet corn. Boilies and flies (fly fishing) are great options too. More Carp Baits

Set Your Timer

During the winter, carp will congregate in huge numbers in a select few deep holes on the lake. A spot will either have no carp or all the carp now. Let your baits soak no longer than 20 minutes during the winter. With so many fish in one spot, no bites mean you picked the wrong spot and you need to move. Now during the summer, carp will be scattered throughout the entire lake so give them at least 1.5 hours before declaring a spot bad. If at the end of that timeframe you get no bites, then you can move.


Seasonality Dictates Good Spots For Carp

During the late fall and winter months, carp will congregate in deeper holes often near the mouths of feeder streams. During the spring and summer, carp move shallow and can be found cruising the flats around emergent weedlines often within easy casting range of shore. 

Emergent Weedlines In Spring & Summer

Weeds that emerge out of the water like lilies, cattails, bull rush, and even water celery can be great locations to find big carp in the late spring and summer months. 

Note the Spring Carp Spawn

Carp spawn in the spring (and sometimes in the early fall in southern waters). During this short window, carp become very hard to catch. However, the days before and the weeks immediately following the spawn can be red hot. If you see carp thrashing around in any kind of numbers in shallow water near emergent weeds, that is them engaged in their spawn.

Try Fly Fishing For Carp

Fly fishing is an overlooked way to target carp eating bugs on the surface. I recommend at least a 6-weight fly rod because you’ll need some backbone to handle the fight of a carp. Fly rods in the 6-8 weight range are best. 

Invest in a Bite-and-Run Reel or Set Drag Loose

Carp can take your rod in with them once they feel the hook. Set your drag tight enough to ensure the fish hook themselves but loose enough so they can strip drag without breaking the line. If you have more money to spend, a quality “bait-and-run” reel, also called a “bait runner” reel, can be a worthwhile investment. These types of reels feature 2 different drag settings. When a carp grabs your bait and runs, the looser drag will allow it to safely take line. With a flip of the switch, you can engage your fighting drag to battle the carp. 

Handle Carp with Care

Too many people view carp as trash fish not worthy of respect or care. But I think the poor treatment of any fish, especially ones you plan on releasing, reflects poorly on you as the angler. Carp can grow very big but they do require a good amount of care to ensure their survival after release. Do your best to keep the carp wet during the unhooking and handling process. Don’t drop the fish and protect the fish’s protective slime covering. Quickly snap some photos and then place the fish back in the water. Let the carp recover in the water for a few seconds before it is ready to swim off. 

Cover Eyes to Calm Thrashing Fish

Carp tend to thrash in the net or on the bank once out of the water. This thrashing can cause havoc to your gear and line. Furthermore, the carp thrashing about on the dry land can cause significant harm to the fish. The easiest way to calm down a flopping carp is by cupping your hands over its eyes. Don’t touch the fish’s eyeballs but just cup the eyes and the carp will relax. This will allow you to safely remove the hook and get control for a nice “grip-and-grin” photo. 

Bonus Tip: You do not need expensive electronics to find carp as long as you know the general seasonal fish patterns. That said, they sure can help. Not only can you find key features that attract carp, but you can find out which level of the water column carp are sitting which makes targeting them easier. I use a castable fish finder for my bank fishing for catfish, carp, trout, and striped bass. The model I use is the Deeper Pro Plus Castable Fish Finder I got as a gift 2 years ago. It is good for locating fish, determining water temperature, water depth, and finding underwater topographic features that attract fish. I can do that all from shore with a device that costs a couple of hundred dollars. I use it heavily for finding suitable carp habitat, especially at night when I can’t visually see the water in front of me.


Check Out Crappie Fishing at Night

About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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