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What Do Carp Eat For Food

There is no question that the carp is a fascinating type of fish for you to try to catch. They are a very unique species in that they are not only prized throughout the world for their taste, but the koi version of carp has become well-respected as an ornamental fish.

Certain species of carp also have the ability to survive for literally weeks in watery environments without oxygen, simply because they make use of glycogen, turning it into ethanol and carbon dioxide. So it’s definitely a unique fish, but how do you catch it?

Well, one way is to study what the carp eats. Take a look at some interesting facts about the carp’s diet below: 

here is a study about the feeding necessities of carp.

The Natural Diet of the Carp 

First, let’s examine the natural diet of the carp. For starters, this fish breed enjoys eating both plants and animals, and that means they are an omnivore. Interestingly enough, the carp actually has teeth inside their throat, and that can assist them with crushing hard objects such as the shell of a snail, clam nut, leech, crayfish, or mussel. Anglers have found other things that carp will eat as I have described below for your benefit.

Carp will also have an immense preference for the larvae of water borne insects such as water beetles or true flies. You will also often find them eating worms or algae as well. Here are some examples of other specific items that the carp will just love to feast on: 

carp and striped bass at Lake Mead Nevada

Zebra Mussels 

Much like other types of small crustaceans, the carp will often go after this prey simply because they have the ability to crush their shells with their powerful molars. The edible flesh inside the shell of the zebra mussel is almost considered a delicacy for many different breeds of carp. 

Insects 

Carp will not only feast on insect larvae, but they will often enjoy the insects as well themselves. One tell-tale sign that the carp are beginning to go after insects would have to be when you see them creeping to the surface.

This often means that damselflies, horseflies, dragonflies, and many other insects that dwell near the surface of the pond will be no match for the carp, and you will soon hear a suction-like sound as they inhale another insect victim. 

Invertebrates 

Carp also love to scrape off invertebrate organisms off the watery floor as well. They will often get their fill of such things as corals, sea cucumbers, corals, flatworms, threadworms, earthworms, and leeches. They are bottom feeders, after all. 

Nuts and Berries 

Yes, carp will definitely eat nuts and berries. They will eat the berries because they enjoy the taste. Additionally, part of the reason they enjoy nuts is simply because they can.

Once again, don’t forget that they have those nasty molars in the back of their mouth helping them munch on things like this. Take this to heart: if you are fishing for carp, then chances are you should try for them in an area that has an overhanging tree branch.

Although it depends on the specific point in time, these carp love to congregate around these areas to have a tasty nut or berry snack. 

Leeches 

Indeed, there have been many accounts of fishermen using leeches as a bait and then unintentionally catching carp instead of their intended catch.

This is because carp are always on the lookout for scurrying prey and leeches have a tendency to move around a lot even on the bait hook. However, you can definitely use this to your advantage and include leeches in your carp-catching arsenal. 

Crayfish 

Crayfish will occur naturally in most lakes and rivers throughout North America and Europe. Like carp, they too are a bottom-dwelling type of fish.

They are a tasty delicacy to the carp, and there are some who say that the crayfish are much like candy to the carp.

Moreover, part of the reason that carp love to eat these crayfish is because they are a great source of protein to the carp. Additionally, crayfish are fairly large, so it’s almost akin to a steak dinner for the carp. It’s definitely something that they will regularly want to forage for. 

Crustaceans, Period

Carp just simply have a thing for all kinds of crustaceans of any sort. They really go to town on them simply because of those tough molars they have.

Besides the ones we’ve already mentioned, they also enjoy snails. While it’s not something that they will deliberately search for, if a carp comes upon one of these snails, they will treat them no different than clams or mussels.

These snails might be able to use these protective shells against other predators, but the carp will be able to eat the snail at will. 

What of the baits for carp? 

Of course, now that you know all about the natural foods that a carp prefers, if you are still interested in fishing for them, you should be aware of the bait they are accustomed to as well. Since carp is a fish that enjoys to eat, you should take into consideration what type of bait to use. The good news is that there are plenty to consider. 

Corn or Maize 


Even though it might not have been your favorite vegetable growing up, the fact remains that carp cannot get enough of corn or maize. Additionally, it doesn’t really matter whether the corn is in solid form, canned, frozen, or even in creamed of peached form.

Indeed, corn is actually considered to be a staple in the carp-catching industry. There have actually been numerous individuals who have not only caught their intended catch of carp while using corn, but they have also caught other species such as pike or muskie!

Of course, it might seem very strange to you that corn would be such a wonderful option for catching carp. Granted, while it doesn’t naturally appear in aquatic ecosystems, it has been proven by many people even with video that carp will indeed catch corn.

Part of the reason for corn being so popular with these carp is because it is rich in carbohydrates and the remaining parts of the corn is composed of various parts of fiber.

Thus, part of the reason why the carp love it so much is because it gives them an instant pick-me-up and helps them continue to do what they do best – forage. 

Bread 

Yes – you read that right – bread. This type of bait might seem like an incredibly cheap option, but if you use it right it can be absolute dynamite.

The best thing about using a slice of bread for catching carp is that it consists of at least 75 percent carbohydrates, which yet again is a good way to give the carp some quick energy.

The fact that the bread has a load of protein, fibers and fats within the remaining 25 perfect means that it will not only be easy for the carp to digest, but it will help them about their day in a solid way. This is why it’s good for bait. Carp will seek this out anyway, so they will attack this every time it hits the water. 

Indeed, there are many individuals that have had success with bread in the springtime when the carp are just barely beginning to wake up and want something that won’t roughen up their metabolism.

Obviously, there are some difficulties with bread, such as the fact that they tend not to last long in the water and any surrounding water fowl might go after them too. However, as long as you barb your bread right on the hook this shouldn’t be a problem. 

Boilies 

Of course, these boilies are a bait that has been invented. However, the boilies are a great bait for the carp because of the added ingredients that they have.

Simply put, a boilie is a wad of flours, eggs, and various attractive additives that have been rolled together into a ball. These ingredients are usually mixed into a paste and then after they are fully cooked they are rolled into a ball-like shape.

They are hard-boiled, and after they leave the appliance they are air-dried for a 24-hour period so that they become fully hardened. This process is important because it allows the bait to last a longer time within the water. 

Even though this is simply an invented bait, it has been found to be incredibly effective at catching carp.

Indeed, there have even been fishermen in France that have been pleased to notice that the carp will even abandon their choice of natural food and simply go for one of these boilies! Of course, the goal of the boilie is for the carp to view this addition as a viable food source that is full of nutrition.

Unfortunately, the best way to buy this fish would be in bulk, but that can get expensive. However, sometimes you get what you pay for. Simply put, these boilies will last far longer than bread or corn, and you won’t have to contend with nuisance fish either. 

Conclusion: Carp: An Invasive Species 

Although they had a promising beginning on the North American continent, the carp is unfortunately now viewed as a species that is problematic at best and invasive at the worst.

It all began with immigrants to the United States in the mid-1800s. There were many of them who were surprised that the United States did not have any type of carp population. You see, this fish species had been prized in Asia as a human food choice for 4,000 years and it had also made its way to Europe where it had been held in the same regard for 2,000 years.

Indeed, there were even Austrian princes who had as much as 20,000 acres of carp in their royal ponds. 

So what went wrong? Well, part of the reason is because carp are a very hearty breed of fish. They not only can survive without oxygen, but they are heavily tolerant of polluted waters as well.

They were imported to the United States by several different entrepreneurs, including one Julius Poppe, who began importing the carp from Germany in 1872.

He started off with five, but he eventually ended up with a whole farm of them in California by 1876. As is common with the entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Poppe truly thought he was on to something:

“There should be at least one person in every U.S. county who will raise this fish and sell it to others so that they can fatten it for their own eating table,” he said. “The carp is cheap but sumptuous and also quite convenient.

Indeed, they literally can be eaten throughout the year.” However, it would only take a few decades before the carp would fall out of favor. Indeed, they were such a hearty breed that they began to take over all parts of the nation’s waterways. 

Another part of the problem is that carp literally breed like rabbits. One female can lay millions of eggs, and if even a small fraction of these survive into adulthood, you can definitely see how pervasive this species can become.

They are also bottom feeders, which can cloud up a river or lake and make it difficult for native predatory species such as walleye or pike to see their prey.

Carp can also disrupt the vegetation in these waterways, which in turn can impact other organisms and eventually can even negatively affect the health of the whole entire water system. 

Why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the species is so pervasive that many government bodies will actually encourage you to fish for this species.

By knowing what they eat, you will have a better chance of landing one of these carps. Plus, you usually will get to keep what you catch! Of course, you will have to properly season what you catch simply because there are some who claim that carp has a very bland taste to it, but still, it’s definitely a very rare occasion when you can keep the fruits of your fishing labor. 

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Darren Enns

For me, fishing is an enjoyable release from the pressures of life. It gets me out into nature and I love it!

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