The Importance of Protecting Trophy Carp

Why Protect Trophy Carp?

The success & growth of the recreational carp angling industry in the USA is very much linked to the protection of Trophy carp. Recreational carp anglers in North America will often travel hundreds of miles, some even coming over from Europe and other countries, to spend significant time (often days or even weeks) fishing key lakes or rivers to catch trophy sized carp.

Several key states attract hundreds of carp anglers every year because their lakes and rivers support robust populations of trophy carp. This can create significant economic benefit for these states.

There are now many ‘Catch & Release’ Carp Tournaments across North America every year. Some like the St Lawrence Junior Carp Tournament (Waddington, NY), the  Connecticut Open Carp Tournament and the  Wild Carp Series attract over 100 anglers often with many helpers, friends and family also in attendance. There are also many smaller, local events every weekend. The value of these events can be important. As an example the Wild Carp Classic (May) and the Ed French Open (October) take place on the Seneca River. Each of these tournaments attracts around 125 anglers, plus helpers and family members, to Baldwinsville, NY. The majority of these anglers (85%) are from out of state (including some from overseas) These tournaments can attract anglers from across North America as well as from overseas and can bring significant economic benefit to the host regions.

Trophy carp fishing in Europe is estimated to be worth over $5-6 Billion per annum. North America has more than three times as many recreational anglers and many more lakes and rivers holding carp which suggests the long term growth potential for catch and release trophy carp fishing is phenomenal!

Impact of Bowfishing  on Trophy Carp

Bowfishing focuses on shooting (killing) trophy carp and peaks during the carp spawn when these big fish are at their most vulnerable. Some publicly boast of “taking 200 shots on a good night and killing  50-80 carp a night during the spawn”. We can only imagine the toll this takes on trophy size fish and the long-term damage to a fishery. Carp are especially vulnerable during the spawn with a large percentage of the carp population from a lake or river gathered in a few localized shallow areas. Bowfishing can quickly decimate the numbers of trophy carp in a lake or river and often create local issues with thoughtless dumping of fish carcasses and problems for local residents.

Don’t we have Lots of Carp?

There has been a common misconception that carp grow rapidly and reproduce in vast numbers. This might be true in commercial fish farms where there are optimal growth conditions or in a few lakes where predators are excluded from spawning areas. But in the wilds of the majority of USA lakes and rivers this is rarely the case.

Observations by state fishery organizations have now shown that where carp rely on natural food sources and especially where they effectively ‘hibernate’ in freezing winter conditions a trophy carp might take several years to reach 20 or 30lb and remain at that weight for many, many more years.

It has also been shown that while common carp spawn annually in shallow bays and marshes the chances of the eggs hatching and the fry reaching maturity is often severely impacted by a multitude of factors. As a result there may only be one or two successful spawning events (recruitment) every 5 – 7 years. Native bluegills, perch and pond shiners eat vast quantities of carp eggs while bass, pike and other predators feast on any fry than manage to hatch. Water levels, wind and other environmental factors also impact spawning success or failure. This explains why we only catch small carp (1-4lb) in years where recruitment has been successful and why NY and other New England waters with trophy carp often support trophy fish of many other species!

Trophy Carp can be Very Old!

In the USA a 20lb carp may be 15-20 years old and 30lb fish upwards of 30-40 years old. Several USA States have conducted age analyses of carp that show fish to be older than originally thought with some up to 60 years old. This suggests the numbers of trophy carp are far fewer than originally thought.

Here’s the same mirror carp that was caught several times over more than a decade by both Steve Clow & Iain Sorrell

There are also many well documented examples of common carp living for several decades even with repeated captures. One of the most celebrated and possibly longest lived carp is a fish that was stocked in a well-known British lake in 1951 and was last caught in 2020. It is thought to be still alive and well putting it at an incredible 70 years old!

Innovative Steps for the Protection of Trophy Sized Carp

Due to the increasing popularity of carp fishing & in consultation with the Carp Anglers Group, the Connecticut Fisheries Division implemented regulations beginning in 2018 to ensure there would be very large carp for anglers to seek. Connecticut’s current carp regulations are:

  • Statewide Regulations: daily limit of 5 fish per person, only one of which could exceed 30 inches.
  • Trophy Carp Waters: daily limit of 1 fish per day with a maximum size of 26 inches in the entire CT River and its coves, Batterson Park Pond (New Britain), Squantz Pond (New Fairfield), and West Thompson Lake (Thompson).

There are now other forward thinking states in the process of considering protection for trophy carp to support the rapid growth in catch and release carp angling & the related economic opportunities.

Please help us protect Trophy Carp in North America by becoming a member of the Carp Anglers Group.