Common Carp


Map showing distribution of the common carp in central and southern Ontario

modified from: Mandrak and Crossman (1992)


Typical length: 30-75 centimetres (12-30 inches)

Typical weight: 0.2–3.5 kilograms (0.5-7 pounds)

Ontario record: 17.4 kilograms (38.5 pounds)

Similar fish: 
freshwater drum



 Common Carp


Key Identifying Characteristics


  • Large, deep-bodied fish
  • "Whiskers" (barbels) beside mouth
  • Colour varies from silver to olive-green, brassy or grey on the back and sides; belly is yellowish; lower fins are orange-red. Partially scaled cheek and gill cover
  • One dorsal spine



  • Carp were introduced from Europe and are distributed widely throughout eastern North America. In Ontario, they occur throughout the Great Lakes region from the upper St. Lawrence River to Lake Superior, and in many inland lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • These fish are easily caught from shore and are accessible to most anglers, often in urban areas and habitats that are not suitable for other fish species
  • Carp thrive in warm, shallow lakes and rivers that contain an abundance of aquatic vegetation. They adapt to a variety of conditions, tolerating all types of bottoms and water from clear to murky.


Angling Tips 


  • Carp are large, tough fish, capable of great speed and power.  Place your bait directly on the bottom to hook these often-overlooked fish.  Still fishing with natural bait works best, and they will take even simple bait such as doughballs. Early in the morning and late in the evening are prime times for catching carp with rod and reel.


Common Baits 


  • Doughballs (soft or hard, often homemade)
  • Large kernel corn
  • Liver paste and bread crumbs rolled into small balls
  • Boiled potato
  • Earthworms



For advice on getting started in carp fishing, check out these tips from the Carp Anglers Group.



Common carp banner graphic

Illustration credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service