The common carp is a heavy-bodied minnow with a long dorsal fin containing 17–21 rays, a stout, saw-toothed spine at the front of both dorsal and anal fins, and two barbels on each side of upper jaw. The back and sides are brassy olive, and the belly is yellowish white. The scales of the back and sides are prominently dark-edged, creating a crosshatched effect. The fins are dusky, often overlain by red on the tail fin and by yellow or orange on the lower fins.
Similar species: A number of other Asian carp have been introduced to North America, and these pose a severe threat to our aquatic ecosystems. For more about the grass, black, bighead, and silver carp, see the Similar Species links below.
Habitat and Conservation
One of the most widespread and abundant large fishes in the state. Nonnative.
Many people eat carp, and the fish can put up a fight equal to that of any game fish of similar size, so their sporting qualities should be more widely recognized. Carp can be taken on a variety of baits, including dough balls, whole kernel corn, and worms.
Some people think that common carp are a type of goldfish, but the two are indeed separate species. But both are in the minnow family, and both came from Asia.
The ornamental carp with bright orange, red, white, and other color forms that is commonly kept in outdoor fishponds used to be considered a subspecies of common carp. Today, scientists consider these ornamental fish to be a separate species, the Amur carp, Cyprinus rubrofuscus. You may know this species by its Japanese names, koi (carp) or nishikigoi (brocaded carp). The Chinese were aquaculturing Amur carp for food and for various colors as far back as the fourth century AD, and the Japanese started breeding it for color in the 1820s.
At least one Lake of the Ozarks tourist attraction tried to make the most of the presence of common carp near its dock by offering fish food pellets in gumball dispensers and posting signs inviting visitors to "feed the bugle-mouth bass."
Because of their abundance, common carp are often accused of competing for food and space and eating the eggs of more desirable fishes. Their feeding clouds the water and uproots vegetation. Although there is truth in these complaints, the carp’s nuisance qualities may be somewhat exaggerated.
The northern pike is like a larger version of redfin (grass) and chain pickerels. It is stocked in Missouri reservoirs in part to effectively control the large stocks of carp and gizzard shad present in those waters.