Carp (Cyprinus carpio) can be found in most of our canals and they often grow to an impressive size. Find out more about this fish including the best way to catch one.

Carp, courtesy of Jack Perks Carp, courtesy of Jack Perks

Canal fishing for carp is a challenge, but potentially highly rewarding.

Carl Nicholls, fisheries & angling manager

Appearance: Carp are easily recognised by their dark brown to bronze colouration. They have a large, rounded body and large powerful fins. Decades of selective breeding has resulted in three common strains. Common carp are fully scaled, mirror carp are partially scaled and leather carp have virtually no scales at all.

Size: In the UK a 50lb fish is exceptional. In canals a fish of 20lb and upwards is notable.

British record: 67lb 8oz (British record committee 2015)

Lateral line scale count: 33-40 (this is the dark row of scales along the central length of the fish's body)

Lifespan: Up to 50 years but 25-30 years is more typical

We like carp because: they are easy to catch, have a hard fighting nature and can be an impressive size

How to catch carp

Canal fishing for carp is a challenge, but potentially highly rewarding. A fish of 42lb 12oz was caught from the Grand Union Canal in 2000. Most canals hold a few carp but the skill is in locating their likely haunts. Look out for overhanging offside vegetation or reed beds. On warm and sunny days, carp can be seen basking in the warm water near the surface.

Your tackle needs to be appropriate to the circumstances. A weedy location will call for a much stronger line and a larger hook size than open water. While carp are generally bottom-feeding fish, they can often be caught off the surface with bread or dog biscuits as bait. This type of fishing is really exciting. Pellets or boilies are the current favourite bait for carp. However, carp are greedy and smaller specimens will, on occasions, eat almost anything you put on the hook.

Where to catch carp

Carp are present in most of our canals, but there are prolific numbers in the Grand Union, Oxford, Kennet & Avon and Stratford canals. Of our commercial fisheries, Blythe, Drayton, Naseby, Clattercote, Boddington and Earlswood reservoirs all have large heads of carp present.

Last date edited: 24 December 2020