Photographer: Dezidor Source: commons.wikimedia.org Copyright: (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) also referred to as the European carp, is a heavy bodied fish that can weigh up to 75 lbs, but most individuals weigh 8-10 lbs at a length of 12-25 inches. The size and weight of common carp increase with age, and individuals have been recorded live 47 years or longer. Color can be green, yellow, golden-brown, blue-green, or silver, with white or yellow ventrally. Common carp have two barbels on their upper jaw, dorsal fin with 17-21 rays, and an anal fin with spiny projections.
Common carp, like their counterparts from the family Cyprinidae (Asian Carp) are aggressive fish that are known for consuming resources to the point of depletion. As an omnivorous fish, the common carp is known to uproot aquatic plants while foraging for food and consuming fish eggs. Common carp reduce quality of water by releasing phosphorous, which increases algae growth by providing this necessary nutrient that is otherwise limited in lakes. Reduced water quality and increased algae growth reduces native fish and plants species quality of life and as well as their populations. Turbidity is increased due to regular rapid movements of the common carp disturbing sediment.
Many people in the United States do not consider common carp to be invasive, because they have been established since 1870. Other individuals value the common carp as a sportfish because it thrashes violently when caught, adding a welcomed challenge for many fishermen. In Europe, where the common catfish is native, anglers view the fish as a valuable sportfish and food.
Common carp begin to spawn in April and continues until June with some variation in duration in warmer climates. Female common carps lay eggs in water 1-4 feet deep under vegetation with a clutch size of 100,000 to 500,000 eggs. Larvae eat zooplankton and small crustaceans near the hatching area until they reach a length of 1 to 4 inches.
Introduction of the common carp occurred in 1877 as a valued food source for European settlers. Since their introduction common carp have been introduced all over the United States intentionally and accidentally allowing for their establishment across North America.
Europe and Asia
U.S. Habitat: Common carp can be found in streams and lakes with significant amounts of aquatic vegetation used for shelter and food. Common carps are omnivorous with aggressive foraging behavior that uproots native plants to fish eggs. Common carp are known for being spot predators of bass and sun fish when sizes are appropriate.
U.S. Present: Common carp are found in all mainland states.
View distribution map - provided by USGS
Very little is being done to manage populations of common carp because they are so ubiquitous and have been established in the United States for over 100 years. One of the best methods of control is utilizing the common carp as a food source, however taste varies with water quality. Further spread of common carp can be prevented by disposing of unused bait and never releasing captive carp into new waters. It is not permitted to release any captive carp, but if a common carp is caught while fishing it is permitted to release it back into the original lake.
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