Sunday, July 1, 2012

Carp on the fly: live or die?

Dynamite on a fly rod, distributed in 48 states, and amazingly tough, Cyprinus carpio, the common carp, has such a bad reputation as a trash fish. They trash the sediment of lakes, uproot valuable vegetation, increase algal blooms with their phosphorous secretion and feed on gamefish roe.

Minnesota classifies Cyprinus as a regulated invasive species, meaning "introduction into the wild is prohibited. Fish caught while angling may be returned to the same water body."

But should we return it to the water? That was my burning question as I reached out to the Invasive Species extension of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln:

"If I angle for common carp, should I immediately kill them as an invasive species and leave them out of the water? Thanks."

 Cue the Jeopardy music.

Then, awesomeness from Karie Decker at said extension.


Sorry about the delayed response- I just got back to the office.

Common carp cards are a tricky species- lots of folks like to fish for them, but in some reservoirs, they can become invasive. Our main goal w/ common carp is to prevent them from spreading to other waters. And actually, I would even recommend learning how to fillet them for eating...they can be quite good. There is plenty of info online with directions.

Thanks for your interest in invasive species, I hope this has been helpful!

I asked her if I could quote her on my blog, because I thought it was great to get some authority behind the question. She responded:

"Sure, I'd be fine with that...
And she continued:
"According to the 2011-2012 regs,
"It is unlawful to sell, transport or offer for sale as bait, any live carp, carpsucker, bullhead, buffalo, gar, quillback, gizzard shad, alewife, or bowfin. Live fish of those species may be used for bait only in the same waters from which they are legally taken."
While common carp are not-native, they are different than the Asian carp species generally referred to in the media. The 'group' of Asian carp generally refers to silver carp, bighead carp, grass carp, and black carp. These are listed in many states as aquatic invasive species, including Nebraska, and several states have laws against the possession/transport of live fish in this group. Nebraska just passed this law in April - prohibiting the possession/transport of aquatic invasive species."
 A big shout out to Karie from the UNL Invasive Species extension. 

Now, back to the original question, should carp be killed when caught?

(The following is my opinion and, although now influenced by Karie's comments, they do not reflect her professional opinion in any way.)

If its silver carp, destroy it, and here's why:

If it's not a silver carp, well... after watching this next video, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to throw on some classical, pull on some mesh and hack-and-slash. Or maybe, get out a hand grinder? No, kitchen shears should be sufficient.

Can't wait to catch one this year! I keep throwing out a double fly, one weighted soft hackle and one not. Haven't landed anything yet.

By the way, the Hairy Badger. Not a carp fly, but Bill asked for pictures:

Badger tail with eyelash yarn body. Actually dubbed black mohair under the yarn. Clipped a slot for the eye in the lower lip. Imagine this on a small Mustad, and you've got a killer bream fly. That was my first creation, and it really is killer on bream.

More to come!


  1. For a few years in Iowa, the law said you had to kill any common carp caught, rather than release them. But then all the rotting fish along shorelines and fishing areas became such a nuisance, they rescinded that law. Generally speaking, killing carp caught by angling will have almost zero impact on the population. Grass carp are still stocked in some waters on purpose by fisheries personnel, and there is no law regarding keeping/killing/releasing them. Silver Carp and Bighead Carp, because of their new invasive threat, should be killed immediately. Supposedly they are delicious, and even beat out crappies, catfish, and tilapia in blind taste tests!

  2. There's a lot of debate on the Carp story. Here in Nor Cal, a lot do C&R while in places like Big Bear Lake (Southern California) it's against the law to put them back. I would suspect that eating them would be similar to Shad. Either boil the hell out of them or smoke them. Personally I'll leave them to somebody else.