Carp Welfare

This guide will help to protect carp and assist with your catch & release

Adapted for North America based on CARPology magazine.

After landing the carp make sure you secure the net in the water, with your fish inside so it cannot swim away with the net!

Unless you need to weigh a fish then simply keep the fish in the net in the water. You can then quickly unhook it ready to be released. You can even take a quick photo without ever needing to take the fish away from the water. 

Be Prepared!

You should already have the all-important items needed to photograph and unhook the carp whilst it is on the bank. These include:

  • Unhooking mat
  • Forceps for unhooking
  • Bucket cool lake water 
  • Scales & Weigh Sling
  • Camera / Phone

Dampen your hands and wet both the unhooking mat and weigh sling with cool lake water. This ensures that the protective slimy covering on the carps skin doesn’t dry up which could cause damage to your capture.

Position the mat in an appropriate level place, so the carp does not slide off the mat, with the backdrop you desire for your photographs. It’s worth positioning the mat slightly away from your gear with a backdrop of foliage or the water in which your carp resides.
Get the camera out of its case and in position to shoot. Also zero the scales with your wetted sling so that the recorded weight is accurate.

Now it’s time to move your carp.

Detach the net from its handle and roll the net down towards the carp. This will support the carp as you lift it from the water and ensure that it is not dragging on the ground. It also allows you to have complete control of the lift. If you have a weigh sling or fish retainer then slide this under the net while still in the water, zip up the ends and lift the fish and the rolled up net together. 
Ensure all of fish’s fins are folded flat against its body before you lift the carp from the water’s edge and be cautious not to bump the carp on any obstacles before you gently lower the fish onto your well-padded mat.


Fish safety and looking after the fish we catch so it can be safely released is a key part of modern carp fishing. 

It’s important to grip the hook correctly when removing it from a fish’s mouth. You need to hold the hook at two points, apply steady thumb pressure against the eye of the hook and use your index finger to prevent the hook from moving around.
Once you’ve got to grips with the hook, apply the thumb pressure to the eye of the hook whilst pushing down the shank in the opposite direction to the point of penetration.
Some hook holds are easier to remove than others. If you’re really struggling to unhook the fish with your fingers, then use a pair of forceps by clamping down on the shank applying steady downward pressure.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position where the hook point has gone in and come back out of the flesh, instead of passing it back through, which could cause significant damage to the fish’s mouth, simply crush the hook barb with pliers so the hook will pass back through easily.

Transferring to the Weigh Sling / Retainer

If you transferred the fish to the mat with a weigh sling or retainer to lift the the net then it’s relatively simple to slide the net from under the fish (always slide towards the tail so as not to damage any fins) leaving the fish laying safely in the sling.

If not… Lay the wet sling open on the mat before you move the fish from the water. Lower the fish onto the sling in an upright position. This is better than laying the fish on its side as the movement of lifting the fish up on its side whilst weighing could cause fin damage.

Before you zip up the sling and lift the fish onto the scales, check that all the fins are flat to the fish’s body. If they are not this will cause unnecessary stress to the fish and potentially damage its fins.

Again, from a fish safety aspect it’s essential to get this right so the fish can return to the water without damage and minimal stress. Always ensure your sling is wet before attempting to place a carp into it. If the sling mesh is dry then this can cause the protective slimy membrane that covers the fish’s body to dry out and may result in damage or scarring to the carp’s skin.

Once all the previous steps have been carried out, zip-up the weigh sling to ensure the fish cannot fall out when lifted, then attach the scales to the sling handle Always weigh the fish OVER the mat, in order to see those pounds and ounces.


Every now and then we catch a carp that continues its fight on the bank. When a lively fish goes berserk on the mat it’s essential that we have the knowledge and ability to calm them down and stop the fish causing itself harm whilst in captivity.
The very first action to take if our carp gets a bit excited on the mat is to get your body over the carp and hold it down so it’s not flapping around wildly. Firm but gentle pressure is usually sufficient to gain full control of the fish so that it cannot injure itself or slide off the mat.
If the fish is still giving you the run around, cover its head with a wet sling or cloth. This will help relax the fish, as the mesh/cloth will block off the light.
If your catch decides to give you a tail slap whilst your holding it for a photograph, then bring the fish close to your body and lower the carp gently onto the mat until the fish behaves. When holding a fish you can usually tell when it’s going to flick its tail or have a wriggle, as the fish will tense up just before. When you feel the fish tense, lower it onto the mat until normal order is restored.

Holding a carp

*** Never, ever stand to photograph a carp or hold it up by its mouth or gills! ***

This may seem like a no brainer for many, however, we still see people in photographs or on the bank almost cuddling their catch  rather than holding it correctly. It is paramount to hold a carp in the right manner for two reasons. Firstly it will be a more comfortable experience for the fish and secondly, your photos will look great.
Make sure you are in a crouched or kneeling position when holding the fish low to the ground over the mat at all times. If the fish struggles you can then simply lower it gently back on to the mat.
To hold a carp correctly, one hand must be placed with your fingers gripping either side of the pectoral fin and the other hand should repeat the process on the carp’s anal fin.
Never hold a fish too far away from your body, as you will find it difficult to safely control the fish should it start to flap around. Always stick to tucking your elbows and upper arms parallel to your body with your forearms at a right-angle, this is the safest and best way to hold a carp.

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