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Other Names: 
Grass carp
Common carp
Scientific Name: 
Cyprinus carpio

The common carp is a heavy-bodied minnow with barbels on either side of the upper jaw. That's right, carp are in the minnow family!

The common carp color varies from brassy green or yellow, to golden brown, or even silvery. The belly is usually yellowish-white. The dorsal fin with 17-21 rays, and the anal fin both have a heavy toothed spine. Individuals 12-25 inches in length and weighing up to 8-10 pounds are common, although they can grow much larger. Common carp may live in excess of 47 years and weigh over 75 pounds. The all-tackle world record was landed in 1987 from Lac de St. Cassien, France, and weighed in at 75 pounds 11 ounces.

The grass carp body is oblong with moderately large scales, while the head has no scales. There are three simple and seven branched rays on the dorsal fin. Grass carp are silvery to olive in color, lacking the golden hue of common carp, and they have no barbels. This species typically reaches sizes of 65 to 80 pounds in its native habitat, but individuals approaching 400 pounds have been reported.

Fish Habits: 

Grass carp spawning occurs in the spring when water temperatures reach 59-63°F, and under rising water conditions. Eggs are semi-pelagic and must remain suspended during the 20-40 hour incubation period. Therefore, long river stretches are usually necessary for successful spawning. Once young grass carp reach approximately three inches in length, they become nearly 100% herbivorous. Their feeding habits make them ideal as vegetation control agents, as they are capable of consuming 40% to 300% of their body weight per day in plant material.

Fishing Tactics: 

Although carp are generally considered a nuisance by North American anglers, they are highly prized as sportfish in Europe, as they are often excellent fighters. A growing number of anglers in the US are becoming interested in carp as a sportfish.

Although flavor varies with the quality of the water from which fish were captured, their sheer abundance has made them an important food fish in some areas. The Texas rod-and-reel record is currently 43.13 pounds. The North American record exceeds 57 pounds.

Grass carp are potentially harmful to native resources. Currently, only triploid (sterile) grass carp are legal for use in most states. Because grass carp is a potentially invasive species, an angler who catches one must immediately remove the intestines, except in waters where a valid Triploid Grass Carp Permit is in effect. In those waters, any grass carp caught must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. The herbivorous feeding habits of this species make it very difficult to catch. When landed, grass carp are excellent table fare despite their bones. The rod-and-reel record in Texas stands at 53.5 pounds. A specimen in excess of 69 pounds was landed by a bow fisher.


Common carp are native to temperate portions of Europe and Asia. They were first introduced into North America in 1877, and are now one of the most widely distributed fish species in North America, ranging from central Canada to central Mexico, and from coast to coast. In Texas, common carp are ubiquitous.

Grass carp have been legally introduced into at least 35 states in the US because of its utility as a control for aquatic vegetation. It is becoming more common for triploid (sterile) grass carp to be widely introduced in small private ponds and public waters that have too much vegetation.

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