Chasing carp has grown in popularity among experienced fly anglers for the last few years. In fact, some anglers have even compared this freshwater monster to bonefish, which has earned it the name golden bone.
Carp are native to central Asia, but the fact that people introduced them to other parts of the world has helped distribute this species worldwide.
The biggest carp caught was a Black Carp weighing 112 pounds and 5 ounces. Jesse Hughes caught this record carp in the Osage River, Bonnots Mill, Missouri in 2021. The largest common carp on record is 75 lbs. 11 oz caught in Lac de St. Cassien, France
Just like other trophy species catching a big carp is going to test your skills and equipment. They aren’t known for explosive runs, but instead long powerful runs. I think of it like trying to turn a freight train.
Carp will form up into feeding ponds in the warmer months which can be pretty challenging as one fish can spook the pod. Most times carp pods are on a mission in these situations and won’t be distracted even by the world’s tastiest-looking pattern. Therefore, you need a reliable plan and the right gear to catch the biggest carp ever.
Guide Tip: If you’re looking for a chase to HUGE carp with a fly rod, check out my buddies Kevin Morlock and Steve Martinez with Indigo Guide Service. They target these monster fish on a small island in Lake Michigan called Beaver Island. It’s absolutely amazing to see monster carp cruising. Picture credits to Indigo Guide Service
Despite there being lots of carp species on the planet, the Carp, Black reigns supreme. The black carp is one of the largest carp species available. The biggest black carp ever caught weighed about 112 pounds 5 ounces. Jesse Hughes caught this record carp in Osage River, Bonnots Mill, in 2021. (IGFA)
Even though you can find carp in all the world’s waters, they are native to Central Asia. Carp is a vast freshwater fish that people later introduced to other parts of the world. (source) Currently, they’re extensively farmed in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. In fact, they’re famous angling fish all over Europe. Still, they’re considered a significant pest in Australia, Canada, and North America. (source)
In the U.S., people know them as rough fishes or damaging naturalized species with exceptional sporting characteristics. They have been considered undesirable for the table or angling since they are an invasive creature out-competing the other game fishes.
But some states have started viewing them as an exceptional angling species and not an invasive fish. Carp live in weedy, muddy-bottomed rivers, lakes, and ponds. (source)
The most common method for determining the age of a carp is by counting the natural rings on its scales, jaw bone, teeth, and fin spines. Most reliable techniques can give wrong results, so you should compare different bone structures and lengths. (source)
|Age||Length of Carp||Weight|
|0 to 1 year||28.0 in / 11.02 cm||.9 lbs. / .4 Kg|
|1 to 2.7 years||32.8 in / 12.90 cm||1.5 lbs. / .69 Kg|
|2.7 to 4.7 years||39.2 in / 15.43 cm||2.3 lbs. / 1.03 Kg|
The reason carp can grow so large is that on average they can live to be 17 to 20 years old. (source) In captivity even longer. Once a fish gets above 8 lbs. it doesn’t have the same predators like it was when smaller. Carp are also able to live in conditions warmer and with less food as compared to most fish.
Bonnots Mill resides in the northern parts of Osage County on the River Osage near its confluence with River Missouri. (source) It is where Jesse Hughes caught the record carp while looking for catfish with his friends in River Osage. (source)
Osage River is the eighth biggest river in Missouri and an exceptional multispecies fishery. Everyone can still catch something below the Bagnell Dam, holding River Osage’s water.
Anglers can access the river below the Bagnell Dam via Osage River Bridge Road. This region provides more than enough shore fishing access. (source)
The best fishing season starts from September 15th to January 31st. So, make sure you carry either a seven wt or eight wt fly fishing rod.
Lake Guntersville, Tennessee
People have known Lake Guntersville as a bass fishing destination for years, but did you know that it’s home to the largest Carp Bighead ever caught? Jeffrey Rorex acquired the biggest carp bighead in this lake in 2005.
You should expect to have fun and come equipped and ready for a fight. but make sure you have a great strategy because carp ignore even the most attractive baits. (source)
The Guntersville Reservoir occupies an area of about 2,500 acres, with only 67,900 acres in Alabama. Riprap banks and river flows characterize the portion in Tennessee. (9) The fishing season starts in late May and ends in early June. But if you plan on catching something, make sure you are carrying your 7-wt fly rod.
Lake Granbury, Texas
Lake Granbury is one of the leading lakes damming River Brazos. This lake is located near Granbury, Texas, and is contained by De-Cordova Bend Dam. Plus, Lake Granbury is a narrow, long lake surrounded by a 103miles long shoreline. So you can fish from the many great fishing points on its shores.
Lake Granbury was proposed in the 1950s, and the construction process started in 1966. In the past, the lake was stocked with catfish every year, but currently, it’s stocked with bass. Remember, carp is considered an invasive species, so you can catch some of the biggest species here. But make sure you pack your favorite 8wt fly rod and a matching fly line and reel. (source)
Lake Ouachita, Arkansas
Lake Ouachita is an artificial lake created when the Blakely Mountain dam was installed on River Ouachita. The dam was built for hydroelectric purposes, and it’s pretty popular among Scuba divers and anglers looking for their prized catch. Over 10% of this reservoir is covered with vegetation so that you can find some massive catch on the long creeks off this reservoir. (source)
The lake has over 100 uninhabited islands, so you can turn a fishing trip into a camping trip and get an opportunity to fish at dawn or dusk. This lake is home to different fish species, most of them weighing over 30 pounds, so you should be ready for a fight. It means packing your best 8-wt fly fishing rod—the best time to fish in May and April.
Big Carp in the News
In 2021, Jarrett Knize caught a potential record bighead carp in Illinois. Jarrett thought it was a 50-pound catfish, but after wrestling it to the shore, he discovered a massive bighead carp. He took the Carp to Park Bait shop, but their certified scale wouldn’t give a correct weight. When he used a non-certified scale, he discovered that it weighed about 74 pounds.
Several news channels captured this moment, and you can read more about it on the following link: https://www.outdoorlife.com/fishing/illnois-record-carp/.
If you believe that there are some carp near your home, then the best thing you can do is visit your town’s Natural Resources Department website. But if you’re not living near a lake inhabited by carp, then you can look for the landlocked carp in the local lakes and ponds.
But if you can find them in your waters, you should research how the local fly anglers catch them. Remember, proper examination of the water and timing is crucial.
When it comes to catching carp, the presentation of the fly matters a lot, so you need the right fly rod that can help you cast without causing too much vibration on the water surface. Even when focusing on mud-sifting carp that are bottom feeders, you’ll require a medium-weight fly that can sink slowly to the bottom.
Therefore, you need the right 8-wt fly rod and a matching sage fly fishing reel that can be easily converted from a right-to-left hand retrieve and vice versa. The best line that you can Use to catch carp is either a sink tip line or a floating line from Amplitude grand slam.
My favorite technique for catching carp is the drag and drop method. This technique has worked for me over the years, and all I have to do is drag my fly away from my target fish and let it sink slowly, just like a nymph or crawfish.
This technique works perfectly with slow-moving carp. Remember, this species spook easily, so fly presentation matters, and throwing the fly too hard can scare them away.
Guide Tip: Getting the temperature right, with the right environment combined with carp food is the “recipe” to finding and catching trophy carp with a fly rod. I’m going to give you an AWESOME SECRET – get ahold of Indigo Guide Service they do this for a living.
Carp fly fishing is all about presentation, so you need the right bait that can get their attention and force them to attack. The right fly should always resemble the food they usually eat, which varies with where you’re fishing. So before leaving the house, I always pack the following flies for targeting carp:
An important thing to remember about all carp flies is weight. They’ve got to get to the bottom quickly. Carp don’t see very well, so an accurate cast into the small sight cone is critical. The next quality is what I like describing is the “feel” better carp flies have a chewy feel.
Here’s what I like about the Swimming Nymph:
- The heavy bead and up-turned hook (less snags)
- The body provides the chewy factor
- It comes in colors proven to work
San Juan Worm
The San Juan Worm is ideal for the bottom-feeding and cruising carp. The #12 is my all-time favorite worm, but the pink and brown worms can work perfectly. Here is why:
- Simple but effective, easy to tie
- Available in a wide range of sizes
- A great dropper fly tied off a heavier lead fly
The headstand was invented in Utah by Lance Egan, who grew up fishing in Salt Lake City. The headstand is quite effective, especially when dealing with carp that are not moving around too much. It also works with carp slinking around for food on clear, shallow waters. here is why:
- It’s engineered to rest on the base of the lake
- It’s easy to tie
- Available in more than one color (source)
Even though they were initially considered invasive creatures, carp make great game fishes, and they have been most anglers’ favorite for decades. It is the main reason why some states are changing their mind about the carp and starting to protect them.
But make sure you’re well-equipped and prepared psychologically for a tough battle ahead, especially if you get lucky and land a giant carp.
- Wikipedia contributors, carp, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carp#Breeding/Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Department of Primary Industries, General information about carp, https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aquatic-biosecurity/pests-diseases/freshwater-pests/finfish-species/carp/general-information/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Britannica contributors, carp, https://www.britannica.com/animal/carp-fish-species/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Wikipedia contributors, AGE Determination in Fish, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_determination_in_fish/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Wikipedia contributors, Bonnot Mill, Missouri, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnots_Mill,_Missouri/, Accessed February 24th, 2022
- KY3 Staff, Osage County, Mo. Man catches 112-pound invasive black carp, https://www.ky3.com/2021/03/13/osage-county-mo-man-carp-catches-112-pound-invasive-black-carp/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Richard Corrigan, Fishing at the Bagnell Dam in Missouri, https://traveltips.usatoday.com/fishing-bagnell-dam-missouri-61455.html/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Wikipedia contributors, Lake Granbury, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Granbury/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Wikipedia contributors, Guntersville Lake, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guntersville_Lake/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Wikipedia contributors, Lake Quachita, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Ouachita/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Umpqua contributor, San Juan Worm, https://www.umpqua.com/san-juan-worm/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Umpqua contributor, Parachute Adams Calf, https://www.umpqua.com/parachute-adams-calf/ Accessed February 24th, 2022
- Umpqua contributors, Headstand, https://www.umpqua.com/headstand/ Accessed February 24th, 2022