One of the most rewarding types of angling in the UK, with a very long and storied history, is carp fishing. In fact, carp angling tends to draw very dedicated followers who think nothing of spending an entire week or more waiting for "the perfect run." As a bottom-dwelling "coarse fish," they present a unique challenge to British anglers by being somewhat difficult to hook as compared with "sport fish" such as trout.
In addition to the hard-fighting "wild" carp that are found throughout Great Britain, there are also several varieties of carp that have all been introduced into British waters in the past several centuries. The most common carp species found in the UK now include.
- Common Carp are naturalized throughout the UK and prized as very large and tough fighters weighing up to 27kg.
- Closely related to the wild carp, Mirror Carp are routinely stocked in river systems and lakes.
- Crucian Carp are the smallest species found in the UK, being quite round and weighing up to 2kg.
- Grass Carp are very a very long and large-scaled species that look the most like their Asian counterparts.
- The brightly coloured Ornamental Carp or koi are also sometimes found naturalized, though rarely stocked.
In most of the UK, carp fishing is most often practised from the shore of a river or lake with a rod and reel, using a "hook-link" rig. These include a bait ball on a length of braided leader and a lead weight to make it sink to the bottom. There are several permutations of the hook-link such as the "bolt rig," "fixed rig" and "helicopter rig," to name just a few.
Floats are also used with floating baits, most often for summertime carp fishing, when the fish are most active. Wintertime carp angling in the UK is also a favourite sport among British anglers. A combination of floating and sinking baits are usually recommended year-round.
The most popular carp baits are boiled egg and dough balls known among UK carp-fishers as "boilies." These have the advantage of not coming apart in the water and remaining on the hook for a several hours at a time. Carp fishing in the UK was revolutionized in the 1980s by using hard-crusted boilies with hook-link rigs that allow the hook to lie a few inches outside the bait for the unsuspecting carp to be snared upon.
Other common types of bait include boiled balls with pulses, grains and nuts. Meats are also sometimes used, with sausages, organ meats and steak, all used with success. Worms, larvae and shellfish are also commonly used in home-made bait balls.