Why Do Carp Jump out of the Water?

You might have been spending hours by the lake or on the river banks, or you’ve heard about it from someone, and you wonder, why fish jump out of the water? Many species jump for many reasons.

Amongst those “jumpers” are carp. You can often see the seemingly fat and sluggish fish performing jumps above the water. 

Do Carp Jump?

Yes, many species of carp jump. They may be doing this for various reasons such as feeding, releasing pressure, or just for fun.

The most common species of carp that jump are the bigheaded carp, silver carp and common carp.

What does it mean when carp jump?

You may wonder why carp jumps out of the water and what does it mean to you as an angler. 

Few reasons may prompt carp to jump.

  1. Releasing pressure or filling and emptying swim bladder. Carp, like most other fish, have a swim bladder. It’s an organ filled with gas (mainly oxygen) that helps the fish with buoyancy.

    As Physostomes, carp have a pneumatic duct that allows the fish to fill and empty the swim bladder via the mouth. When coming closer to the surface, there is a pressure build-up in the swim bladder. Carp jumps out of the water to release the pressure.

    The process occurs during the splashy landing. The air from the swim bladder comes through the connected esophagus, and pressure in the swim bladder drops. Releasing the tension in the swim bladder helps carp go back to the bottom of the body of water to feed.

    They also jump out of the water to gulp down some air to help them adjust to swimming at different depths. The more air in the swim bladder, the easier it is for the carp to swim closer to the surface.

  2. Cleaning. Carp are bottom feeders. That means they suck up everything from the lake’s bottom and filter the food through the debris. Whatever is not consumed is pushed out through their gills.

    But some dirt gets stuck in the gills. The carp then jumps out of the water to clean the gills from dirt. When they hit the surface with a splash, the water rushes through the gills rinsing them from any debris.

    The jump can also help the carp clean the gills from parasites that lodge on the fish’s gills.

  3. Escape from predators. When the carp are still small, they have plenty of predators in their environment. The best tactic to escape the predator’s attack is to jump out of the water.

  4. Panic. Some carp species, like silver and bigheaded carp, can jump high out of the water when startled. They usually do it in groups. 

  5. To feed. Maybe not many people realize this, but carp, apart from feeding on the bottom, also feed on the surface, eating flies and other bugs that fall into the water. 

Different ways carp jump out of the water

Carp jump

There are four different types of carp jumps. They don’t have proper terminology, but there are a few common names you can use to describe them.

  1. Full Jump / Full Body – This is a high jump out of the water, accompanied by a hard splash. This type of jump usually follows coming from the deep water after bottom feeding.

    The carp uses it to clean the gills or release the pressure in the air bladder. It could signify that the carp feeds in the area from the bottom.

    You can try and cast your feeder rig around the place where you spotted jumping carp.

  2. Half Jump – The half jump is not nearly as high as the full jump, but you can still spot almost the whole body of the carp.

    It could mean the carp are coming out to clean the gills and release the pressure in the air bladder before heading back to the bottom. 

  3. Poke / Face above the water – You can only spot the carp’s head above the surface in this type of jump. You can generally take it as the best indicator of feeding carp in that area.

    The carp does the poke jump when feeding or gulp some air into their swim bladder to stay closer to the surface. In that case, you could try and cast a carp fly over the area.

  4. Rolling / Swivelling – This is usually performed in small groups of carp. It is not a real jump. The carp rolls over the surface while making a splash with its fins.

    It is a telltale of carp swimming to another feeding area. The roll can tell you that the carp is done with this spot, and they won’t feed in the area for the moment. 

Do all carp jump out of the water?

Not all carp jump out of the water. The primarily vegetarian grass carp seems to be content staying in the depths of the water. 

The mirror and leather carp are also timider with jumping. 

The most well-known carp for jumping is the common carp. It is often seen leaping out of the water or poking its head out in slow-moving rivers and lakes. 

But there are also a few species of carp that perform very spectacular high jumps. These are the silver and bigheaded carp, two of the species of Asian Carp.

The silver carp is the most notorious of carp jumpers known to anglers in America.

Why do carp jump into boats?

Carp jump

Silver carp, one of the species of Asian Carp brought to the U.S., got a nickname of “flying carp.” 

The reason for it is because this carp jumps almost 10 feet high out of the water. The carp jump when spooked, and they scare pretty easily. 

The trigger can be a boat motor, trolling engine, or even a flock of birds landing on the water. When carp leap out of the water, they do it in significant numbers. 

The high jump performed by silver carp is possible because, as biologists from MDWFP discovered, the silver carp is a powerful and muscular swimmer.

It can be pretty dangerous to experience “flying carp.” When jumping out of the water, they can land in the open boat hitting unexpecting passengers. 

There were a few reports of injuries after encounters with jumping silver carp.

The jumpy behavior is specific to silver carp in America. In other parts of the world where silver carp was introduced, the fish’s reaction does not appear to be so dramatic.

Unfortunately, nobody can explain what the reason is for such behavior in the American silver carp population.


While there are a few signs of carp behavior and feeding patterns you should pay attention to if you plan on going carp fishing, carp jumping out of the water is the easiest one to spot.

Knowing different types of carp jumps and their reason may be something you need to be more successful on your carp fishing adventure. 

Scroll to Top