Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are one of the most well known fish in Ohio. They are a member of the minnow family and can be identified by their bronze-yellow coloring and two barbels on each side of the upper jaw. Both the dorsal and anal fins are serrated (knife-like) with a spine-like ray.
Common carp habitat is warm lakes, streams, ponds and areas with a lot of organic matter. They prefer warm water with muddy bottoms. In hot weather when waters dry up, carp have been know to survive for weeks by burying themselves in the mud. They are omnivores, eating worms, snails, insects, larvae and plant material.
Spawning runs April through June. Females will produce 100,000 - 500,000 eggs. Hatchlings will stay in vegetative cover until they are approximately four inches long. Carp average twelve to twenty-five inches long and weigh one to ten pounds; some have been caught weighing up to sixty pounds. They have been known to get much larger. The state record carp taken by hook and line weighed 50 pounds and measured 40 inches. The state bowfishing record is 39 pounds and 40 inches.
Originally from Asia, where they have been farm raised for food since 400 BC, carp were introduced into the United States from Europe in 1876. The U.S. Fish Commission sent carp to six applicants in Ohio in 1879. One year later, they supplied carp to over 100 applicants. Large numbers were introduced yearly until 1886. The last federal shipment to Ohio was sent in 1896. There were also stocking programs run by the state of Ohio. These included the stocking of private farm ponds, however many of these "escaped" to area streams.
Over the years carp have continued to spread and are currently found in all 88 Ohio counties. Most fishermen consider carp nuisance fish. Their active feeding habits uproot plants and muddy the water. Because there are so many carp, they also compete with other popular sport or game fish. For this reason, it is legal to catch carp in many ways other than a rod and reel. Besides traditional angling, carp can be caught with clubs, spears, even bow and arrow.
A variety of carp known as koi are very colorful and used in decorative ponds and fountains.