Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
In the UK, the average grass carp weighs between 8-20 lbs (3.5-9.0 kg).
Also known as
A Note On Spawning
Grass carp are unable to spawn in both the UK and Europe. Despite this, the females will sometimes become conditioned for spawning, increasing in weight and releasing eggs. These semi-buoyant eggs will not be fertilised but will be carried downstream by the current.
Be careful when unhooking a grass carp, they are known for thrashing around violently when on the bank. Be prepared to carry the fish over to a level grassy area, to use a large unhooking mat with lots of water so as to keep the fish covered throughout the unhooking process.
Use caution when photographing them, they are powerful fish which can wriggle vigorously when being handled and you don’t want to hurt yourself or the fish.
The grass carp has a long, torpedo-shaped body, it’s head is broad and rounded with a short snout and small eyes. Whilst they are related to the common carp, grass carp look more like large chub, and can be mistaken for such.
The mouth slopes slightly downwards and is found at the very end of its head, not underneath, and the lips are not fleshy (unlike many of the other carp species). The grass carp also lacks barbules and has large scales which are slightly outlined. On the upper flanks, the scales also each have a single black spot. Like other carp species, grass carp lack teeth in their mouths, but have formidable pharyngeal teeth. These are used to crush food items, such as snails, and allow the fish to eject the unwanted shell and swallow the nutritious parts.
Grass carp can be a range of different colours, their back can be dark grey, olive green, brown-gold and anything in between. This colour fades along the flanks and transitions into a silver colour on their lower flanks, this colour then transitions into their white underside. The fins are usually pale/dark grey in colour.
So how do we catch one?
Grass carp have big appetites, eating up to three times their body weight each day. As you would imagine from their name, grass carp eat plenty of aquatic plants, primarily weeds, but will also feed on invertebrates and molluscs.
The most effective baits include maize, sweetcorn, tiger nuts, peanuts, hemp, boilies (particularly fruity ones), maggots, bread and dog biscuits.
Grass carp are really only active from April to October, with the warmer months being the best time to catch them.
Grass carp have a strong tendency for sluggish waters that are heavily vegetated, mainly being found in lakes or very slow running rivers. With that said, they can survive in very cold temperatures and waters with low oxygen levels, making them a fairly hardy fish. They patrol the central areas of the lake in shoals and are often spotted close to the surface with their dorsal fins poking out of the water.
The grass carp is non-indigenous to both the UK and Europe, it is native to the Amur river which borders Siberia and China. In the UK and Europe, the grass carp is not able to breed, as such, continuous stocking programmes are necessary to maintain them. Care is taken to ensure that they do not have a negative impact on aquatic weeds in fisheries.
The tackle needed for catching grass carp is similar to that which is used for general carp fishing.
Ledgering is considered to be the most effective method for catching grass carp and a range of baits can be used successfully. The bait should be presented popped up just off the bottom. Bites are more likened to bream bites than other carp species and dropbacks are common.
When the weather is particularly hot and sunny, grass carp will feed on the surface and can be targeted specifically, usual baits such as bread, floating boilies and dog biscuits work very well in these situations. Grass carp are wily and are easily scared, especially when surface fishing for them, but this is the only way to specifically target them, as other methods will often lead to other types of carp biting.
Don’t be fooled when playing grass carp, they can appear to put up a boring fight and follow you in as you wind in the line. However, once under the rod tip they have a habit of fighting furiously, made worse when they see the landing net. This can lead to the fish shooting off in all directions. You can prevent this by giving the fish some extra line if it starts to react in this manner, otherwise you risk a break off or hook pull.
Commonly too, it doesn’t end once the fish is in the landing net. Grass carp will often thrash fiercely around in the water and can even jump out of the net itself!