Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
Carp are the largest members of the minnow family. They are heavy-bodied fish and are usually bronze colored with large scales, each with a dark spot at the base. Their dorsal fin is long, containing one serrated spine in the front of the fin and more than 16 soft rays. They have two barbels on each side of the upper jaw.
First introduced into this country from Europe in 1876, the carp has since spread from coast to coast. They are widely distributed in New York. Carp tolerate most aquatic habitats, but prefer warm streams or lakes with muddy bottoms where they feed primarily on plankton, insects, and aquatic plants. Carp spawn in late spring. Their small, adhesive eggs are broadcast in shallow, weedy water.
Carp are considered a nuisance by most fishermen because of their mud-bottom feeding habits and their tendency to uproot plants while feeding. Feeding carp create considerable turbulence, which results in muddy water. Thus, their feeding areas are unsuitable for more popular gamefish. However, some people fish specifically for carp, which is understandable considering the sporty size some of these fish attain (over 50 pounds). They are also taken by bow and arrow fishermen.
In many parts of the world carp are considered a valuable human food resource. They have yet to acquire that reputation in the United States, and it is generally agreed that introduction of carp was a serious mistake. The carp story is an excellent example of the extreme care that must be exercised when one is tempted to "improve" upon the natural distribution of animal species.
Distribution of carp in NY state. Dark dots represent where actual samples of carp were taken. White dots represent historic distributions.
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