Common Carp and Suckers

carp fishingThough not considered game fish by most anglers, common carp and suckers (white, longnose, northern hog and redhorse) provide much angling enjoyment -- as well as table fare -- to many Michigan anglers. They are fair game for all manner of anglers, including those who spear and bowfish.

Suckers are among the first fish to attract attention in the spring as they begin their upriver spawning runs, often before the ice is off of inland lakes. Anglers line the banks, fishing the bottom in the deep holes below riffles with earthworms. Suckers can be found in virtually all the state's rivers, including most trout streams. In some places they can be taken with dip nets. They are often smoked or ground and made into patties or cakes for the table.

Originally from the Caspian Sea region, common carp were first introduced to ponds and springs in the U.S. in the mid-1800's by entrepreneurs supplying local fish markets. By the 1880's the U.S. Fish Commission was actively stocking rivers and streams across the country with tanker-loads of common carp imported from Germany, hoping to provide an abundant food source to rural populations. Common carp have long been considered a nuisance species in Michigan, but they should not be confused with invasive carp species, including bighead, silver and black carps. Currently, there is no evidence that bighead, silver or black carps have colonized or are present in any numbers in the Great Lakes.carp

Common carp are prized game fish in Europe and have begun to develop a following among anglers here. Traditionally, anglers have fished for common carp on the bottom using corn or dough balls for bait. Dough ball recipes can be quite elaborate with anglers adding all sorts of flavoring -- Jello, Wheaties, vanilla, you name it -- to the bait.

Widespread in Michigan, both in the Great Lakes as well as inland lakes and streams, common carp have become a prime target of fly anglers in recent years. Anglers wading the flats as they would in the Caribbean for bonefish, sight-fish for common carp using wet flies tied to resemble crawfish or nymphs. A number of guides now often charters for common carp fishing in the Great Lakes bays with fisheries in Grand Traverse Bay and Saginaw Bay of special significance. Because common carp regularly weigh into double digits -- the state record is 61 ½ pounds -- heavy rods and strong leaders are required.

Both common carp and suckers can be taken by spear or bow and arrow from the Great Lakes and non-trout inland waters.

For more information on identifying characteristics for longnose suckers see our fish ID page.

For more information on identifying characteristics for white suckers see our fish ID page.

For more information on identifying characteristics for common carp see our fish ID page.