Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
Identifying characteristics: Light gold to dark brown in color with large scales covering entire body. Fins are often reddish and they do not have true spines. They have a triangular head with a blunt snout and thick nose plate. Average size is from 15 to 32 inches and four to 31 pounds, depending on the water. They can be distinguished from buffalo and suckers by the little barbels on the corner of their mouth.
Native to Eurasia, common carp are the most common species of carp in the United States and were introduced to Michigan in the late 1800's. They are well established across the state. They are sometimes considered a nuisance species and are a popular game fish, sometimes referred to as the freshwater bonefish. Common carp are also an important commercial fishing species in Michigan. While not native, they are not considered invasive in Michigan because of their lengthy establishment.
Common carp are native to temperate climates and tolerate a wide variety of habitats. In Michigan, they are found in the Great Lakes, large inland lakes and reservoirs, large and small rivers, swamps, canals and drains. They generally prefer shallow, muddy habitats with aquatic vegetation and they spawn during spring. They are a schooling fish and are often found in groups of five or more. Common carp eat a variety of foods including plants, insects, crustaceans and other benthic species. The spawning and feeding behaviors of common carp increase the water turbidity by disturbing the bottom sediments.
Common carp are a popular game species for all fishing gear types including bow fishing. Since these fish can grow to large sizes, a medium heavy rod with 15 to 20 pound test line or a seven or eight weight fly rod is recommended. Bait such as corn and dough balls work well and various flies imitating crayfish or benthic insects can also be effective. Common carp will spook easily so anglers are encouraged to look for carp before fishing. A soft presentation of your lure, fly or bait is preferred and carp often take the bait very gently. Common carp fishing can be very technical and simple internet search will produce many websites dedicated to this type of angling.
Common carp graphic courtesy of Joseph R. Tomelleri and copyrighted.