The Carp - (Cyprinus carpio)
It has a long and flat body covered with large scales. Colour varies from golden, silver to black , depending on the minerals in the water and the amount of penetrating sunshine., A characteristic feature of the cyprinid family is their mouth with lips that can extend to the shape of a tube, a sign of adaptation to the way of feeding under water.
Carp is a member of the goldfish family. This family is characterised by no jaw teeth, mouth barbels, no adipose fin. Adult males are smaller than females and fish can reach a weight of up to 40 kilos. Various sorts of carp are the best known, but the family also includes minnows, daces, and bitterlings.
It was the first finfish species to be cultured. There are records of cultivation dating as far back as 2400 years in China and 1900 in Japan. It is the third most important cultured finfish species in the world.
It is widely distributed through the whole of South-Africa in freshwater dams, lakes and rivers. Although this is a introduced species to Africa it is a sought after specimen among anglers and a great food source for a large number of people. Privately owned dams have started syndicating waters and are now caring for these species as South-African and international anglers try to land that elusive monster carp.
Carp feed on a wide range of plant and animal matter mainly by grubbing in sediments. Although it is hardy and tolerant of a wide variety of conditions, carp generally favour large water bodies with slow-flowing or standing water and soft bottom sediments. It thrives in large dams and large turbid rivers. The feeding habits of carp loosens a lot of old sediment, and waters where high populations of carp are found tend to be murky.
Carp can sense any dissolved substance in the water and determine whether or not it is a good food source, thus wind direction plays a huge role in their feeding habits, nutrients in the water change direction according to surface wind direction, and the carp will follow these nutrients that they are able to taste and smell in the water. In addition carp can tell whether the food source is good or bad through a lining in the carps mouth that contains chemically sensitive sells.
Research has been done into whether barometric pressure has any effect on carp. When the barometer drops, carp tend to stop moving and start feeding on dead materials. When it rises, carp become more active and feed on living things.
Changes in water temperature have an affect on carp's spawning habits. Carp spawn in the spring and early summer when the water temperature is around 16-26C. It may take place over several days. The embryonic development of carp takes about 3 days at 20-23C. If hatching comes too close to winter the young carp fry do not have enough time to build up reserves of fat before winter sets in and they perish. Growth is rapid where the water is warm and rich in food. Carp can reach 0.9kg and 15cm in length in a year. They continue to grow at that rate, but not in waters that are too cold (below 10C) to encourage maximum size. The ideal temperature for maximum growth is 20-28C
Over time we have learnt a lot from the European anglers and over the last few years have shown much bigger fish of this species caught. The South-African angler is now also being educated in the care of this species and much more time, effort and money is being spent to ensure ones quarry is not hurt and that it is released in a safe manner.
Gone are the days of fish being thrown in keep/holding nets and fish are released back from where it came from in a speedy manner.
Special equipment like Carp friendly landing nets, unhooking mats and weigh slings are used by the modern day angler to ensure that the fish caught are not injured during the landing and releasing stage. Special rigs are now used to prevent damage to the fish and to ensure the carp will not be hurt in the event of the fishing line breaking.
Hunting for that elusive big one has become more and more of interest to South-African angler and we are no longer interested in catching volumes of small fish. With this new aim methods changed to assist in getting that trophy picture.
Pre-Baiting ones swim has changed tremendously over the years and we have moved away from buckets-full of chicken feed ran through the meat mincer.
A mixture of whole maize, maples, tigernuts and various seeds are used to pre-bait ones swim. Do not skimp on this as overfeeding in our waters are basically imposable. Ensure that if you are going to use boilies, that a lot of boilies are also added to your particle mix as the local carp tends to leave single boilies on a hair rig found between a particle mix that does not contain boilies as part of the mix.
Fine feed has been proven to attract smaller carp in the 6 and 8 kilogram range and while these fish are on the feeding area the bigger carp tends to stay on the outskirts of the feeding area. Getting that bigger fish means much more patience and do not expect to land a personal best on each trip. A lot of well known anglers has been on sessions where they return empty handed, but once you get that new personal record it makes it all worth while.
Attractants (dips) used in conventional angling methods tend to also lure a lot of smaller carp to ones feeding area. These dips should be avoided and more natural attractants should be used. Hempseed oil, Betaine and Amino's have proven to be very successful.
Flavoured baits how-ever does not interest smaller carp as much as dips, and flavoured boilies, tigernuts and pop-ups have shown great success in our local waters.