Carp fishing is a massively popular sport and hobby in the UK, with millions of anglers heading to their local waters to try and put some fish in the net every year.
The catching of carp as a sport is thought to have begun in the 18th century, and from then it has gone from strength to strength, with new anglers joining the craze every year.
There is nothing like the rush of pure adrenaline when your quiver tip bends, the float dips, your bait alarms sound or the line rips from your hands.
The absolute euphoria of putting fish in the net after patience, waves of frustration, quiet and close proximity to nature is unbeatable and why carp fishing has become so popular.
Are Carp Native to the UK?
Many people believe that carp have always been swimming in UK waters, but this is not the case.
There are a few factors that have led to this conclusion that carp have not always been swimming in our waters from the start without being introduced from other areas of the world.
The first is, that carp are warm water fish that only grow and reproduce in warmer waters, more specifically around 15 degrees Celsius.
Water temperatures in the UK drop below this in winter, so it would be highly unlikely for these fish to have always been here.
Some also think that carp were imported by Romans, but this is also thought to be highly unlikely as the Romans would of had plenty of opportunity for edible fish with native fish species and also the abundance of saltwater fish in the sea.
There is something that we do know about when carp were first documented in the UK.
In a book written in the 15th century, there is the first mention of carp in British literature that speaks about the fish as if they are relatively new to the country.
It is thought that these carp in the UK in the 15th century were farmed in ponds by monks as a high-value food source that the masses had no access to.
Over the years, escapees and transfers into rivers and lakes marked the first steps into the population of carp in public waters across the UK.
This marked the beginning of the carp population in the UK, but the real angling side started in the 18th century when new variations of these fish were imported from Europe. This started with the importation of mirror carp from Holland and Germany.
Thomas Ford, who owned “Manor Fisheries” was the first man to kick start carp angling in the UK.
These imported fish were stocked in his pond and were often over 10lbs which dwarfed the native fish such as the perch and roach that anglers were used to catching.
Due to their sheer size and reputation for being hard to catch, the carp fishing craze started, and anglers came from far and wide to try to catch some of these fish.
Donald Leany was the next big name to start importing carp into the UK. He imported hundreds of thousands of these fish which were used to stock some of the most famous fisheries in the UK today.
The selective breeding from breeders across Europe and the UK is why carp are massively different in sizes and shapes today.
Originally fish from Holland had the ability to grow to unimaginable sizes through sustained bone growth for longer than usual.
On the other hand, fish imported from Italy would reach impressive weights but not grow as long as the Dutch fish. This meant that these large fish were nearly as deep as they were long.
As the carp angling buzz spread across the UK and fisheries within the country started to breed ,these fish actively fisheries began to open up across the country.
Where to Find Carp in The UK?
Nowadays, due to the popularity of carp fishing. There are hundreds, if not thousands of carp fishing venues across the country that are stocked and managed for anglers’ pleasure.
In these waters, carp can reach unimaginable sizes compared to the fish that swam in our waters centuries ago.
If you want to fish commercial carp water then you’ll need to buy a day ticket or membership, and you will need to follow strict catch and release policies and rules.
Carp species can also be found in nearly all freshwater bodies of water, including lakes, lochs, rivers, canals and even small streams.
The population will be greater in some places that in others ,so if you’re planning a bit of carp fishing in public waters, make sure you do a bit of research or ask around.
If you plan to fish for carp in lakes, rivers, lochs or canals, then make sure you have the required permits and licenses to fish there.
What Types of Carp Are in The UK?
There are now many types of carp in the UK. I’ll give you a quick rundown of them below. Some are more common than others in the wild, but all can at least be found easily swimming in stock commercial venues.
Although the common carp has “common” in it’s name, it is actually not the most common type of carp found in fisheries across the country.
Commercial fisheries often stock mirror carp due to their potential to grow quicker and larger than their predecessor common carp.
The common carp is native to some parts of Europe and Asia and has now been introduced into near enough every part of the world.
“Native” carp are currently marked as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union of Conservation of Nature but the domesticated version of this fish is extremely common and even classed as invasive in some countries.
So how do you know if you’ve caught a common carp? Well, it’s easy. Common carp are covered with regular scales ranging from grey to bronze in colour.
Common carp have four barbels and a large elongated dorsal fin which can be seen in the picture above.
“Domestic” carp grow a lot larger than native carp and are much larger with deeper bodies. The current common carp world record stands at 64lbs, but I can almost guarantee this number will continue to be broken over the years.
These carps have large mouths, perfect for gulping down large boilies.
Mirror carp was the first mutation of the common carp and biologically are almost identical to common carp. The only difference is that they were selectively bred to produce more scales on their bodies.
As well as breeding these fish for less sales, when mirror carp spend less energy in growing full bodies of scales this extra energy goes towards growing the fish in overall size.
Due to this, it’s more common to across truly massive mirror carp than common carp.
Mirror carp are visually different from common carp as they have irregular and patchy scales shown in the picture above.
All mirror carp’s scale patterns are different giving them a sense of character.
Mirror carp tend to have a rounder appearance than common carp.
Mirror carp also have large mouths just like the commons and have two barbells at each side of their mouths.
Crucian carp are the smallest of the carp family and don’t tend to grow much over 5 pounds.
They can survive in adverse conditions that a lot of other freshwater species can’t.
This includes extremely small weedy and muddy ponds and even extremely cold waters.
As stated before, crucian carp are the smallest of the carp family and rarely grow over 6 lbs.
Crucian carp vary in usually golden or bronze looking and darken with age, and they have yellow or orangeish fins.
Crucian carp are quite tall fish as they mature.
Crucian carp have no barbells.
The koi carp was initially bred in Japan as an ornamental fish for display instead of angling or as a food source.
These fish are selectively bred to encourage different colour and scale patterns.
Koi carp are usually kept in pond gardens as a hobby, and very few fisheries will stock these fish due to their high price tags.
There are thought to be over 22 varieties of Koi, all with different colours.
Koi carp are the easiest to identify due to their obscure and bright colour patterns. Koi carp come in many colours, including white, black, red, orange, yellow, blue, and cream, in all different patterns, but the colours are near limitless.
Koi carp are extremely similar to goldfish in shape when they’re small, except for the fact, that they grow much larger and have two barbels which goldfish do not.
Grass carp are rather uncommon in the UK compared to other parts of the world, including the US.
They have been introduced to many countries as a means of aquatic weed control as they consume lots of water-born vegetation daily.
Grass carp grow rapidly, most likely due to them eating up to three times their body weight each day!
In the UK, grass carp can be caught at selective fisheries, including Badshot Lea, Mill lane, Little Moulsham Lake and of course, the Lancaster Canal.
Little Moulsham Lake produced a grass carp of nearly 52lbs in August 2018.
Grass carp are quite dark and range from yellowish to brown.
Grass carp are longer and slimmer and have “torpedo-like” body shapes, and lack barbels beside their mouths.
The anal fin is located closer to the tail.
Grass carp have sale patterns similar to commons.
As you can see from the picture, grass carp’s dorsal fins are smaller and not as long as commons or mirrors, which helps to easily identify them.
They have low flat heads, and their mouths are much smaller than mirrors and commons.
The F1 carp is fairly new to the UK but in recent years, fisheries have been stocking large quantities as they grow all year round and tend to feed more during the winter than other carp species.
These fish are a hybrid between the common and crucian carp which means they don’t grow anywhere near as large as the like of commons and mirrors.
They usually won’t grow much over 6lbs and the F1 record currently stands at 7lbs 14ozs.
F1 carp can be hard to identify as they look a lot like a smaller common.
A way to determine if you have caught an F1 carp is to look at their barbells. F1 carp only have two smaller barbells compared to commons barbells.
I’ve just read your article on the difference in strains of carp in the UK. I found this to be interesting and useful.
Great to hear Alan. If you have any questions drop me an email at Drew@bestofangling.com.