Typical Size
12-24" (1-8 lbs.)
Decent Size
24-36" (10-30 lbs.)
Nice Size
36-40" (30-50 lbs.)
52.1" (75 lbs. 11 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

20 lbs.
Genus/Species Cyprinus carpio
Common Names common carp, mirror carp, leather carp
Hot Spots Charles River, Mashpee-Wakeby Lake, Neponset River
Best Time April - November
Best Baits bread, cheese, corn
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait

Carp vary in color, but generally are golden brown to olive green dorsally, fading to silvery yellow on the belly. Carp have small eyes, thick lips with two barbels at each corner of the mouth, and strongly serrated spines in the dorsal and anal fins. It is a heavy-bodied fish with large scales. Carp that have no scales are referred to as "leather carp" and carp with only some scales are referred to as "mirror carp." These scale differences are all variations of the common carp, Cyprinus carpio.
Scale variations in common carp often are called mirror or leather.
Carp are highly adaptable and live in a variety of habitats but generally are found in larger bodies of water and large slow-moving streams. They prefer muddy roiled water and can tolerate a fair amount of pollution. Carp congregate in shallow depths of 2 to 20 feet in areas with adequate cover such as submerged timber and overhanging brush. Ideal temperature range is 50 to 70 degrees. Carp are omnivorous scavengers and eat a wide varied diet including insect larvae, fish eggs, snails, live vegetation, and decaying plant and animal matter.

Carp are not native to the U.S. at all. They were brought over here from China in the 1800s and were widely transplanted. They now occur in almost every state. On the south shore of Massachusetts, however, they can be tough to find, most likely due to the average small size of the local ponds and the clarity of the major lakes. I mention them in this web site because the south shore is basically surrounded by towns that do contain carp.

It is written that spawning takes place in the summer in shallow water depths. The spawning act begins by the segregation of carp into small groups of 4-20 individuals, led by a large female. With their backs and dorsal fins sticking above the water, the female broadcasts her eggs while swimming and splashing and several males release milt into the water. Eggs are scattered and stick to submerged objects. Carp fry stay attached to the vegetation for about two days before dropping to the bottom, where they will inhabit shallow, warm sluggish water during their first summer.

You can fish for carp with many different kinds of bait. Bread is probably the easiest bait. Rolled into medium sized balls, you'll want to cover the curve of the hook completely. You can also buy pre-made dough-baits for carp that contain sweet smelling and tasting flavors that attract carp. Some angler make their own special concoctions and swear that they are the most effective baits for carp. I used to catch numbers of carp using bread as a kid (Sunbeam "batter whipped" was the best) in the Charles River. I have also taken carp on worms and corn.

I have not heard of any reliable artificial lures used for attracting and taking carp. Since the carp is basically a scavenger and not a predator, it appears unlikely that they would take an artificial lure. One key I have found in taking more than my fair share of carp is to chum the water first. As a child this consisted of throwing out bread crusts into the area I was fishing, but works really well with cream corn and certain types of breakfast cereal too.

Fishing for carp is not an important commercial, nor recreational, fishery. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, few, if any, fishermen talk about carp fishing. Being a scavenger in murky or polluted water, I would not eat a carp caught in the waters surrounding the south shore. Although edible, I've been told the flesh of the carp is firm, dark, and has a musky taste.