Common Carp

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge photo)

Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio

Classification:  Nongame Fish

Abundance: Common throughout the state


Common carp state record - 48 lbs; from Mecklenburg County pond on 3/11/86

Additional Information

Carp are native to Eurasia but were introduced into North America during the 1800s. They can now be found in lakes and rivers throughout the United States. Carp are routinely found along the shoreline of lakes and rivers, where they feed on aquatic plants, algae, invertebrates and, on occasion, small fish. The Common Carp usually has an olive- to-green back, fading to a yellow-brown side, with a yellow belly. The fins are yellow to yellow-red. Two pairs of barbels are present on the upper jaw, which help to distinguish carp from suckers. The mouth is small and is supported by tough cartilage. 

The carp has small teeth on the back of the last gill arch near the throat. These teeth, similar to human molars, are used for crushing shells, seeds and plants. Their ability to taste and smell is very acute. They usually suck food off the bottom, along with silt and debris. Food items are strained out and chewed up, while non-food items are spit out. These feeding habits often cause muddy water and, in extreme cases, can impair aquatic plant growth and cover fish eggs with silt. Carp are very strong swimmers, and large individuals are common. As a result, they are popular among some anglers. Carp are a popular food fish in many countries, although they are bony.

Carp are classified s a nongame inland fish.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug. 1 of each year.

Nongame Fish Regulations

Fishing Techniques:

While carp occasionally will take slow-moving lures, most anglers prefer using natural baits. Dough balls, oatmeal, cheese, worms, corn and even soap fished on the bottom are popular choices. Some anglers broadcast or “chum” corn or cheese over an area prior to fishing them with the hopes of attracting carp.

Good Places to Fish:

Slow-flowing rivers and practically any lake in North Carolina hold Common Carp. Look for them in the back of sandy or muddy-bottomed coves and quiet river sections.

The Common Carp is considered a nongame fish by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.