Mirror carp are a type of fish commonly found in the United Kingdom and Europe. They can grow in excess of 60lb, with the last few British record fish have all been mirror carp.
The difference between mirror and common carp is both genetic and visual – biologically they are similar. The mirror carp was the first mutation of common carp, owing to two alternative genes, the S allele and the N allele. The genetic term for a mirror carp is “ssnn” (all minor). Common carp have an even, regular scale pattern, whereas mirrors have irregular and patchy scaling, making many fish unique, and possible to identify by sight, leading to most carp in the UK over 40lb being nicknamed. This lack of scales is widely believed to have been bred in by monks in order to make the fish easier to prepare for the table. The current record (as of Dec 13, 2005) is known as “Two tone” due to its colouring, and is currently around 64lb.
Contrary to popular belief, Leather carp are not Mirror carp without scales; there is a distinct genetic difference. Leather carp are permitted a few scales, however the dorsal row of scales is either absent or incomplete. Leathers also have reduced numbers of red blood cells, slowing growth rates.
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
The Common carp or European carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a widespread freshwater fish distantly related to the common goldfish, with which it is capable of interbreeding. It gives its name to the carp family Cyprinidae. Originating in Asia, the fish has been introduced into environments worldwide. It can grow to a maximum length of 5 feet (1.5 meters), a maximum weight of over 80lb (37.3 kg), and an oldest recorded age of at least 65 years. The wild, non-domesticated, forms tend to be much less stocky at around 20% – 33% the maximum size. Koi (錦鯉 (nishikigoi) in Japanese, 鯉魚 (pinyin: lĭ yú) in Chinese) is a domesticated ornamental variety that originated in China but became known to the Western world through Japan.
Although they are very tolerant of most conditions, the common carp prefer large bodies of slow or standing water and soft, vegetative sediments. A schooling fish, they prefer to be in groups of 5 or more. They natively live in a temperate climate in fresh or brackish water with a 7.0 – 7.5 pH, a water hardness of 10.0 – 15.0 dGH, and an ideal temperature range of 37.4 – 75.2 °F (3 – 24 °C).
The common carp, as well as its variants, mirror carp, with large mirror like scales (linear mirror – scaleless except for a row of large scales that run along the lateral line; originating in Germany), leather carp (virtually unscaled except near dorsal fin) and fully scaled carp, is omnivorous and will eat almost anything that it comes across. The common carp is happy to eat a vegetarian diet of water plants, but also insects, crustaceans (including zooplankton), or even dead fish if the opportunity arises.
Carp have been introduced, often illegally, into many countries. In some countries, due to their habit of grubbing through bottom sediments for food and alteration of their environment, they destroy, uproot and disturb submerged vegetation causing serious damage to native duck and fish populations. In Australia there is enormous anecdotal and mounting scientific evidence that introduced carp are the cause of permanent turbidity and loss of submergent vegetation in the Murray-Darling river system, with severe consequences for river ecosystems, water quality and native fish species.
Efforts to eradicate a small colony from a Tasmania’s Lake Crescent without chemicals have been successful, however the long-term, expensive and intensive undertaking is an example of the both the possibility and difficulty of safely removing the species once it is established.
Carp have attributes that allow them to be an invasive species – a species that invades and dominates new ecosystems with serious negative effects to the ecosystem and native fauna. The movement and introduction of carp for frivolous reasons such as sport fishing should not be tolerated.
An egg-layer, a typical adult fish can lay 300,000 eggs in a single spawning. Research shows that carp can spawn multiple times in a season in some areas. The young are preyed upon by other predatorial fish such as the northern pike and largemouth bass.
Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus)
DistributionThe native range of the smallmouth buffalo includes larger tributaries of the Mississippi River from Montana east to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The species is also found in Gulf slope drainages from Alabama to the Rio Grande River drainage. In Texas, smallmouth buffalo are found in most large streams, rivers, and reservoirs exclusive of the Panhandle.Other Although some anglers consider smallmouth buffalo to be a rough fish, in many areas the species is highly prized. Specimens in excess of 82 pounds have been landed by rod and reel anglers, whereas the trotline record is 97 pounds in Texas. Buffalo will sometimes take doughballs made with cottonseed meal, and when hooked provide exceptional sport. Many people may be unaware that smallmouth buffalo is quite a food fish. It is the number one species sold by commercial freshwater fishermen.
Carp senses- how they see, hear, smell taste
Like any good hunter the angler should have a basic working knowledge of their prey. Understanding how a fish uses its senses to feed and evade danger is, of course, vital if we are to understand just why it is they will or won’t pick up our baited hooks. In this short introduction I won’t be drawing any conclusions on how exactly this knowledge will put more fish on the bank for you – the implications are too many and varied on the issues regarding how carp feed, especially regarding how carp react to different coloured baits and flavours, to cover in one whole edition of a magazine let alone a short article. Instead let’s just have a look at how a carp’s senses work.
A carp’s sense of smell comes through a set of nostrils (called ‘Nares’) located just in front of the eye on either side of the head. The water is channelled through the nostrils by a raised flap of skin in the middle of each Nare and down through a set of thousands of miniscule hairs which can distinguish between sweet, sour, savoury and saline substances. These sensory cells are extremely sensitive, giving the fish a far more acute sense of smell than a human. The fish is trying to detect low levels of chemicals (such as amino acids) that its natural prey such as bloodworm, crustaceans etc. emit into the water. When you consider the carp can detect bloodworm in several inches of silt you can see just how acute it’s sense of smell is. Smell is used by the carp essentially as a long range detection mechanism. As the fish comes closer to the source of the smell the taste buds kick in to action.
Just like humans carp have a sense of taste via a set of taste buds. However this is where the similarity ends. Like its sense of smell, the carp also have a highly developed sense of taste. In the first place it is important to remember the old maxim that ‘carp don’t have hands’ therefore the carp acts almost like a vacuum cleaner when feeding, using its sense of taste to reject items that it does not want to eat. Furthermore a carp’s taste buds are not just located inside the mouth; carp have taste buds on its barbules, pectoral and pelvic fins, underneath the head and even have a small number of taste buds located along the side of the body. These external sensors allow the carp to more accurately pinpoint the sources of food. Thus the carp smells the bloodworm in a silt bed, swims over the silt and then pinpoints the area within the silt that holds the bloodworm. This silt, along with other detritus, is sucked into the mouth. At this stage the main taste organ on the top of its mouth, the ‘Palatal Organ’, comes into play and traps the food against the bottom of the mouth, with waste such as silt and sand being blown out through the gills. Larger waste items are spat out through the mouth. All this happens in seconds, and it’s estimated that about 97% of what the fish takes into its mouth is ejected. Carp will also clean food items by spitting them out to rinse them and taking it back in. Accepted food items are then passed back to be crushed by the set of pad like teeth at the back of the mouth (the ‘Pharyngeal Teeth.’)
While we can never quite be sure exactly what a carp sees, its eyes are able to operate in much lower light levels than our own and can also detect a wide spectrum of colours. The position of the eyes on both sides of the head give them a good sideways field of vision, in fact almost 360 degrees ( apart from near the tail ). Above the water their forward vision is quite sensitive to changes in light and movement, so when stalking carp use slow movements, avoid standing out on the skyline and try to blend in with your surroundings ( hence the use of camo clothing! ) Better still approach them from behind. Research has suggested that carp have a total circular window of vision above them of around 97.6 degrees (48.8 degrees on either side of the body from a line drawn vertically through the fish). Outside of this window it’s suggested the carp sees reflections of the bottom of the lake with the water surface acting as a mirror. The eye position also has implications for feeding since carp cannot see items immediately in front of and below their mouths, when it relies on the barbuls’ sense of touch and taste to detect items. A few inches and beyond in front of the mouth however is where the carp’s sense of sight is most acute since it can focus on items using both eyes. Each individual eye can also see reasonably well on both sides of its body round to a few inches either side of the tail.
Carp do not have a visible set of ears; rather they are inside of the carp’s body on either side of the head just above the gills. These ears, located at the rear of the brain, consist basically of a fluid filled sac that contains set of tiny hairs on an ear bone (the ‘Otolith’) which detect vibrations in the water outside. The ears are also conncted via a set of bones to the swim bladder, which acts as an amplifier, so all in all the carp has a highly effective aural detection system capable of detecting frequencies from 60 to 6,000 Hz.
Like all fish the carp has a pair of lateral lines the run down the sides of its body. The lateral line is a canal filled with fluid dotted along its length with miniscule openings. Inside this canal are sensory cells called ‘Cupula’, which are jelly like structures with fine hairs branching out of them. These allow the carp to detect water flow direction, vibrations and changes in pressure.
Clearly then a carp has a highly developed set of tools that allow it to survive and flourish. The one conclusion I will draw is that obviously we need to be well aware of just how sensitive a carp is to noise and vibration. I’m forever amazed here when I see anglers using mallets to bang in tent pegs and bank sticks, though less amazed when they complain about how badly the place is fishing! Sound travels alarmingly well under water, so keeping noise and vibrations to a minimum is going to help.
Softly, softly, catchee monkey!
by Steve Lightfoot
‘Strategic Carp Fishing’ – Rob Hughes & Simon Crowe
‘Carp Sense’, Total Carp March – June 2004 – Simon Scott