What do Carp eat? A Complete Guide to Carp Feeding Habits

Maybe you’re just curious by nature, or maybe you’re interested in fishing for carp and want to find out what carp eat.

Whatever brought you here, we’re going to go into great detail on what carp eat and their feeding habits.

Carp eat a range of foods, for the bulk of their diet they mostly eat aquatic insects and vegetation.

When Do Carp Feed?

We’ve found that carp are a great year-round fish, with the same steady approach working across all seasons. 

Carp love the sun and typically come to the surface on sunny days, particularly in the cooler months of fall and winter. 

Rain also influences carp activity, as the water stirs up food particles and intrigues the fish to chase and feed whether it’s morning or night. Just after a rain shower is a great time to fish for carp. 

Unlike other species, carp seem to thrive in manmade reservoirs where waste and pollution abound. The more sediment and smaller fish in the water, the more carp move around and come out to feed.

What Are Carp Feeding Triggers?

Beyond just their normal feeding habits, it’s important to understand the additional triggers we can take advantage of when fishing for carp. 

The goal is to trigger the sensory system and entice carp into a feeding frenzy. 

These fish have specialized cells in the olfactory organ and strong taste abilities, with taste buds throughout the mouth, fins, lips, and barbules. This makes it easy for fish to pick up on how chemicals taste and smell, pushing them toward a big feed.

It may take a little more time for feeding triggers to work in the winter, but overall these options are pretty foolproof when out fishing for carp.

Carp Flavor Additives

Traditionally, bread, corn, and pellets were used to attract carp, but now these baits can be covered in carp flavor additives to draw the fish in. 

There are dry rubs and liquid additives you can get online or in your favorite bait shop. Perfect Peach, GOO by Korda, and Corn Twist are a few popular ones.

Just remember to use these additives in moderation. The additives will penetrate the water and encourage fish to feed, but you don’t want the scent or flavor to be too overpowering. 

Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect, and carp get turned off from feeding. Plus, there’s always the option of combining powdered and liquid additives, which can be extra powerful if you let it sit out for a few days before fishing to really pack a punch.

Natural Additives

What do Carp eat

Essential amino acids are highly attractive to carp and easy enough to purchase online. Natural additives can be combined with homemade baits or added to boilies.

Natural ingredients like herbs, spices, and even peppers have proven successful in carp fishing, while natural yeast is another option to consider. Enzyme-treated yeast is water-soluble and high in protein, with improved digestibility that attracts carp and other fish.

Dimethyl Propiopthetin (DMPT)

Lastly, another way to trigger carp feeding is through Dimethyl Propiothetin (DMPT). This completely natural algae metabolite contains sulfur and has earned a solid reputation as one of the best carp bait and feed lures available today.

DMPT awakens carp taste buds and triggers the fish to get up and feed. Just a few grams of the DMPT mix suffice, which you can dissolve into the bait mix ahead of a carp fishing adventure. One thing to keep in mind with DMPT is that it’s not a permitted additive in all states and counties, so make sure to check local regulations first.

What depth do carp feed at?

Carp have been known to be caught off the surface on a fly to 60 feet deep, so it’s hard to answer this question accurately.

Many factors come into play when carp are choosing a depth to feed at. Some of these are location, weather, type of water, time of year, etc.

Many people would consider carp as bottom feeders. However, carp only feed off the bottom for 40-50% of their feeding time. 

The rest is spent feeding at different depths, with a considerable amount of time feeding off the surface.

Carp prefer the water temperature to be above 39F, any lower and they tend to rise to the surface, and at temperatures above 64-68F, they feed extensively. 

In winter, carp can be found feeding in more shallow water, which is warmer.

Generally, carp seek out oxygen-rich areas.

Do Carps Eat Fish?

Carp are omnivores and eat a wide range of foods, but other fish are not frequently found on a carps menu. They do, however, eat things like fish eggs, crayfish, and dead fish.

It’s not that carp don’t want to eat other fish; given the opportunity, I’m sure they would. 

The issue is that it’s difficult for them to chase down other fish, so they spend their time getting easier sources of food.

What is the Best Bait to Catch Carp?

Now that we have an idea on when carp feed and what triggers them to feed, let’s have a look at some of the best baits that carp eat.

Corn

It’s a well-known fact that corn is an excellent bait for carp. I like to use the tinned sweet corn as they usually have added sugar and salt added, which is a great attractant to carp.

You can use fake corn bait that also works, although I find that it doesn’t work as well as real corn which is packed full of aminos, which we know from above stimulates feeding in carp.

Maggots

Carp love live bait, and maggots are no exception. Whether you want to use them on a hair rig or just use them in a maggot feeder, they’re a great addition to your arsenal.

The best time to use maggots is in the winter, although they can also be an attractant for nuisance fish this time of year.

Worms

Worms have been the go-to fishing bait for many an angler and are used for numerous species of fish worldwide.

While they are not my first choice for carp fishing, they do work exceptionally well.

The biggest drawback with worms is that they work so well for most fish, so you may attract a lot of nuisance fish. One great advantage in using worms is that they are readily available in most bait shops and it’s easy to keep them alive at home.

Homemade baits

There’s nothing more exciting than catching a fish on a bait you made yourself. 

Homemade baits allow you to get creative and try out new things without breaking the bank.

Boilies

What do Carp eat

Boiles are one of the most popular baits for carp. They come in various sizes and various flavors.

I love boilies because they can stay on your rig for hours without breaking up or the annoyance of small fish. Although if you pick too small of a boilie, you may likely pick up some other fish like bream.

Flies

It’s not often you hear carp anglers talking about flies. However, there are a small group of fly fishing anglers out there who prefer to target carp with a fly.

I, for one, get more enjoyment fly fishing for carp than fishing with bait.

The thing about fly fishing for carp is it’s a bit more challenging than using bait. Carp generally feed off the bottom; this presents a problem for fly anglers, unless using a nymph, but then again, carp don’t like to chase their food.

However, there is a time when carp will rise to the top and feed on flies.

When the temperatures cool down, carp will move to shallow water on the lookout for food. They typically like to hang around reedy areas looking for any insects that may be around there.

Conclusion

Carp are opportunistic feeders and prefer to forage food rather than exert too much energy trying to catch food. However, they like to eat flies, and many fly fishing anglers will purposely seek fly-eating carp.