The Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a large minnow species native to Europe and Asia. It became an invasive species in the US when it was intentionally stocked here due to Europe’s affinity for it as a sport fish and as table fare. However, due to the bony nature of its flesh, Americans came to despise it, and it has spread almost nationwide unchecked (Nico and Fuller et al. 2018).
Common Carp can grow quite large, with the current angling world record being slightly more than 100 pounds. While that fish was caught in Europe, relatively large fish are not uncommon in the US, as this 16 pound Carp captured in Kenner, LA shows.
Common Carp are easily recognizable by a number of features. These include a gold/yellow/brown coloration, large scales, a downturned protrusible mouth, small barbels on the corners of the mouth, and a large hump on the anterior end of the long dorsal fin.
Large scales and a yellow/brown/gold coloration are typical of Common Carp.
The downturned protrusible mouth with small barbels is a highly recognizable characteristic of Common Carp. This is also a significant difference between this species and the Grass Carp.
Note the hump in the anterior end of the dorsal fin, which can also distinguish Common Carp from Grass Carp.
Common Carp will occasionally display bright gold coloration near the anal fin and reddish coloration on the tail, but one cannot solely depend on this for identification.
Common Carp are highly problematic due to their feeding habits. They tend to root around on the bottom, uprooting plants and disturbing sediments and nutrients, leading to increased turbidity (as shown above) and a higher chance of algal blooms occurring. It can also be a method of seed dispersal for aquatic plants (Nico and Fuller et al. 2018).
This image shows one of the many drainage canals in Kenner, LA. This is the type of environment that has allowed the Common Carp to prosper. The incredibly high tolerance for poor water quality and pollution allow it to thrive in such ignored, undermanaged habitats.
There is no true biological control for Common Carp, and they outgrow most native predatory fish. The only realistic solution is human harvest, whether that be for food (Common Carp make good table fare) or another purpose. A good way to increase harvest is promoting them as a sportfish, which is why this species is so highly regarded in its native range.
History of Common Carp in North America. 2015. National Parks Service.https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/nature/carphist.htm. (Accessed 21 April 2018).
Nico, L., E. Maynard, P.J. Schofield, M. Cannister, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson. 2018. Cyprinus carpio. USGS. https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesID=4. (Accessed 21 April 2018).
Nico, L.G., P.L. Fuller, P.J. Schofield, M.E. Neilson, A.J. Benson, and J. Li. 2018. Ctenopharyngodon idella. USGS. https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=514. (Accessed on 19 April 2018).
Authors: Christopher Geisler, and Catherine Barry.
Instructor: Dr. Rodrigo Diaz, firstname.lastname@example.org