In the United States, the carp gets very little respect despite the fact that it’s actually a solid game fish and, when hooked, is among the strongest fish in freshwater. The carp is the largest member of the minnow family. There are various subspecies of carp, including the leather carp, which lacks scales and the mirror carp, which has a few large scales placed haphazardly around its body. Of prime interest to anglers is the common carp, which grows to an impressive size under ideal circumstances and fights hard when hooked. The common carp has a deep body and a heavy appearance. It is distinguished by its short head, rounded snout, single long dorsal fin, forked tail and large, rough scales. The mouth is toothless and downturned, an adaptation for feeding on the bottom. The coloration of the common carp ranges from gold to olive to brown with transitioning to yellow on its lower sides and belly along with a slight reddish tint to the lower fins.
Although they are tolerant of most conditions, carp prefer large bodies of slow or standing water and bottoms with soft, vegetative sediment. A schooling fish, carp prefer to be in groups of five or more. Common Carp will readily survive winter in a frozen pond and can withstand summer water temperatures in the low 90 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods. The ideal temperature range for carp is between 68 and 75°F.
Common carp are native to temperate portions of Europe and Asia. They were first introduced into North America in 1877. Since that time, countless introductions—both intentional and unintentional—have allowed carp to become one of the most widely distributed fish species in North America. They range from central Canada to central Mexico and from coast to coast.