The carp is a large, sturdy fish with thick scales. Native to Europe, the carp was introduced to the Chesapeake region in the late 1800s and can now be found throughout the rivers, lakes and ponds of the watershed.
Carp are broad, large-bodied fish with a long dorsal fin that extends along most of its back and a forked tail fin. Carp typically grow 1 to 2 feet in length and weigh 1 to 8 pounds, although it is not uncommon for them to reach 30 to 40 pounds. Adult carp have a mouth located at the end of the face, while young carp have a mouth slightly under the pointed part of the face. Two barbels appear at the corners of the mouth. Males and females look very similar, except males have a slightly larger ventral fin. A typical carp is olive-brown to reddish-brown with a yellow belly; coloring may be variable, but its scales are always large and thick.
Prefers large, slow-moving bodies of water with soft sediment, but is a hardy fish that thrives in a variety of habitats.
Native to Europe, but now found worldwide, except for the poles and northern Asia. Found in fresh to slightly brackish water throughout the Bay watershed.
Carp are omnivorous but feed primarily on plants. Adult carp feed on a variety of organisms including aquatic plants and seeds, insects, crustaceans, mollusks and fish eggs. Carp feed by sucking up mud from the bottom, spitting it back out and feeding on particles while they are suspended. Feeding areas favored by carp are easily recognized as depressions in the sediment.
Predators of young carp include larger fish like northern pike, walleye and largemouth bass. Birds such as great blue herons also feed on young carp. Humans are the primary predators of adult carp.
Spawning generally occurs in the spring and early summer. The female deposits her eggs onto underwater vegetation, where they adhere in clumps. A typical female may produce up to 300,000 eggs over the breeding season. Eggs take roughly four days to hatch. Carp live an average of 17 to 20 years, but some carp have been known to live up to 47 years in captivity.