Carp Fishing at Night (A Complete Guide)


carp fishing at night

I have been carp fishing for over 15 years now and can only guess the number of night sessions I have had during that time. Carp fishing at night is one of the most exciting and fun activities an angler can imagine, and as so many people are wondering if it is worth targeting carp at night, I have decided to write this in-depth guide on the topic.

This article includes the best methods, baits, and tactics for night carp, as well as helpful fishing gear and camping equipment tips and recommendations.

If you want to know everything about night fishing for carp, all you have to do is keep reading.

Do Carp Bite at Night?

The carp is a species that eats copious amounts of food. It is a fish with very fatty meat and high demand for energy, which is why they are feeding both during the day and at night.

While feeding patterns differ from venue to venue, it is safe to say that many waters will hold carp that are active during the dark hours of the day, which is why you will often see anglers camping in their fishing tents, bivvies, while fishing for carp.

In carp fishing, long overnight sessions are very common and if you’ve got the time and patience, you should definitely try out fishing for carp at night; it’s extremely fun and chances are often fairly good that you will get a lot of bites.

Pro Tip: Start your night session early and arrive at the bank before it gets dark. This way, you will have enough time to get your gear ready, your rods out, and everything else in order. It’s just so much easier when you still can see everything you need to!

Best Time of Year to Fish for Carp at Night

The period between late spring and early fall/autumn is definitely the very best when it comes to night fishing for carp.

Throughout that period, day temperatures tend to be much higher than during the night, especially in summer, which means that water temperatures will be elevated as well. This, in turn, means lower oxygen levels and hence somewhat less active carp during daytime.

Once evening comes around and temperatures begin to decrease, the carp will increase their activity and feeding. This is further aided by an increased insect and crustacean activity underwater, which are two main food sources of carp.

As they are this active, you can virtually find them anywhere now; both in the shallows, near the banks and thick vegetation, as well as in open and deeper water.

And so, if you are fishing for them during that time of year and target them in the evening, throughout the night, and until the morning hours, you will have upped your chances of getting bites significantly.

Pro Tip: Don’t end your night fishing season too early once summer comes to an end. Usually, you can expect to get night bites as late as September, sometimes even October.

Gear Tips for Carp Fishing at Night

best gear for carp fishing at night
Courtesy of Antony Medlicott

Coming prerapred and using the right gear is extra important when it comes to night fishing. Here are some gear tips that will make your carp night adventures much more fun and effective.

Rods

I really enjoy fishing with somewhat heavier rods at night, as I want full control over the fish and the ability to stop it, should I have to do so.

Hence, 3lb carp rods with a rather stiff blank are my choice for night carping. Check out my favorite carp rods on Amazon here.

Reels

For both beginners and night carp anglers in general, I recommend using batirunner reels at night.

Thanks to their dual drag system, they are just so much easier to fish with when it’s pitch black, which allows you to fully concentrate on that fish out there in the dark.

I have used a set of Shimano baitrunners for many years now and have never had any problems with them, and they are really decently priced too. Take a closer look at these awesome reels on Amazon here.

Rod Pod or Banksticks

As you won’t be able to guard your rods throughout the entire night, securing them by using a rod pod or banksticks is the best way to ensure that they won’t be dragged in by a strong carp.

I personally prefer using a rod pod, as it allows you to have all your rods secure and lined up in one place. Check out this decently priced and really stable rod pod on Amazon here.

Bite Alarms

If you are using bite alarms in combination with your rod pod or banksticks, you’ll be good to go for those night runs.

Alarms will give you both a visual (LED lights) and an audible (beeping sounds) bite indication, which is extremely valuable at night, especially if you should happen to fall asleep.

Some anglers prefer bite alarms with a receiver that they can keep next to them in their bivvies, as it’s easier to hear a bite if and when it happens. Amazon has a great set of bite alarms with a receiver that you can check out here.

If you are planning on doing a shorter night session, staying awake, or being fairly close to your rods, you can instead use conventional bite alarms without a receiver. Such alarms generally cost less as well, which can be important if you have a limited budget.

Landing Net

Of course, you’ll need a bigger landing net in order to get those big night carp on land. Landing nets are always essential for carp fishing, but essentially so at night.

It’s always such a relief when a fish gets netted, as you can’t see it all that much in the darkness. Once it’s in the net though, you can be sure that the fight is won!

Carp Sling

Sometimes, it can be a good idea to use a carp sling, or carp sack, in order to “park” the fish for a while. This can be helpful if you having a lot of activity in your swim and want to get the rod out again as quickly as possible.

However, try to avoid keeping your carp in the sling or sack for too long, especially during the warmer months of the year, as oxygen levels in the shallows usually drop. Also, make sure you are using a big and roomy sling or sling.

Unhooking Mat/Carp Cradle

Now, this is perhaps the most essential piece of gear when it comes to nighttime carp care!

Using a large unhooking mat, or a carp cradle will make things so much easier in the dark, as will allow you to keep the fish right where you want it to be. A mat or cradle also ensures that the carp won’t injure itself if and when it starts to go berserk. Take a closer look at this incredibly practical carp cradle on Amazon here.

Headlamp

Another highly essential tool that you must never forget to take with you when night fishing is a headlamp.

Without it, you will simply be blind at night and won’t be able to do anything at all!

A headlamp will also make it easier to net the fish, as it’s otherwise pretty common to miss that dark silhouette in the black water.

Use a headlamp that does not shine too brightly in order to remain as stealthy as possible on the bank and avoid shining your lamp directly on the water as much as possible, as this can spook the incoming fish.

Pro Tip: Try to use a headlamp with different light colors! Using red or green lights, which are softer colors, will keep the fish calmer, both when netting it and while on the mat.

Best Method for Night Carp Fishing

best method for carp fishing at night
Courtesy of Jay White

Without a doubt, the best fishing method for carp at night is ledgering, meaning to present your baits on the bottom with the help of a weight.

Ledgering for carp is a rather passive way of catching them, which is more than optimal for fishing in the dark.

As you can’t possibly keep an eye on your float when it’s pitch black outside, not to mention the fact that you’d have to stay awake through the entire night, fishing passively on the bottom is definitely the way to go, especially so because carp are mostly bottom feeders.

Bottom fishing also allows you to fish with more than one rod simultaneously. This has several advantages:

  • More hookbaits in the water potentially means more bites
  • You can test different rig setups and hookbaits and see which one(s) yield the best results
  • As it will take some time to fight, land, and handle a carp at night, having multiple rods out allows you to keep fishing during that time

Now, if you’re brand new to night fishing for carp, I recommend that you only use a maximum of two rods. Things can happen in the dark; lines can break or get tangled, hooks might get snagged on the bottom, or you simply stumble or fall over your setup.

Another “worst case scenario” would be to get two bites at the same time, as it is really difficult enough to fight and navigate one fish in complete darkness.

With a little extra will power, two rods can be handled, but if things start to get wrong, three rods could transform your night fishing adventure into a real nightmare really fast!

As you will get more experienced, you will naturally feel confident enough to use three rods eventually. But try not to rush these things.

Best Bottom Rigs for Night Carp Fishing

how to fish for carp at night
Courtesy of Lewis Dutton

As it’s dark and you’ll most likely become tired at some point during your session, try to keep things simple.

Quite honestly, carp are rather active and will feed with full confidence this time of year, which means that, most of the time, you can use very basic end tackle to catch them.

Simple Hair Rig

If you are fishing over clean and even bottom structures, there is really no reason not to use the simple hair rig.

It’s a classic carp rig that has caught thousands and thousands of fish in many venues all over the world. In other words; it works!

Just put a single hookbait or a snowman on the hair, cast it out, and you’re ready for action.

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this illustrative article if you want to learn how to tie the perfect hair rig

Simple Pop-Up Rig

If you want your hookbait to sit a little off bottom, fishing the simple pop-up rig is the right choice for you.

Maybe there are some leaves, roots, or other minor chod on the bottom, or perhaps you just want your pop-up to visually stand out from the free offerings in your swim.

No matter the reason, the pop-up rig will do the job perfectly!

RELATED ARTICLE: This article will teach you how to tie and fish the amazingly effective pop-up rig

Helicopter Rig

This third carp rig is of the somewhat more advanced variety and most suitable for fishing over weed or silt bottoms.

As your weight will hit the bottom first and then slowly descend into it, the hooklength, which is rotating freely around your mainline or leadcore (hence the name helicopter rig), will be pushed up mainline and place itself nicely on top of the weed or silt.

So, no matter how deep that soft bottom is, you’ll always have the perfect bait presentation!

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this in-depth article on when and how to fish the helicopter rig

Best Baits for Carp Fishing at Night

As you will be night fishing during the warmer months of the year, fishy flavored hookbaits should be your first choice. 16-20mm boilies and pop-ups, as both singles and doubles, will work very well for night carp fishing.

Not only do fishmeal or crustacean-based boilies give off a strong fishy scent, which the carp like this time of year, they’re also packed with protein, which equals the perfect carp food during the warmer months, as they are generally very active, and hence, very hungry.

These baits’ essential oils will also spread much more in warmer water than in colder, so using them for your night fishing sessions just makes perfect sense, as they can attract a lot of fish into your swim.

When it comes to specific flavors, there’s really no telling what will work best in your venue. There is a wide range of fishy boilies and pop-ups available, and to be honest, most of them will probably do a decent job, as long as they are of a good quality.

I usually bring 2-3 different flavors with me to the bank to see which one(s) yield the best results (carp fishing is all about optimizing and adapting).

Here are my personal favorite fishy boilies for carp fishing at night:

  • Sticky Baits The Krill
  • NashBait ScopexSquid
  • DT Bait Developments Fish, Blood, and Fresh Orange

Now, using fishy hookbaits does not exclude sweet or fruity flavors all together. Sometimes, topping a really smelly boilie with a smaller, fruit-flavored pop-up can be a deadly combination for night carp.

Once again, it’s all about experimenting. Start with the fishy stuff, and if success does not come, try expanding your bait horizon a little. Sooner or later, you’ll find the perfect flavor and bait combination for your venue!

How to Prebait for Carp Fishing at Night?

how to prebait for carp fishing at night
Courtesy of Jay White

Late spring, summer, and early autumn/fall carp are hungry. Because of that, prebaiting for night carp is always a good idea. In fact, it’s almost impossible to overfeed them this time of year! So, prebait a lot before, and frequent moderate amounts during your night sessions.

The only time during which they won’t feed a lot is during their spawning season, but both before and after they spawn, they can eat copious amounts of food.

Prebaiting before your night session

No matter if you are planning a one-nighter or several nights in a row; try to bait up your swim before your rigs hit the water!

The carp will be rather active now and move around a lot in your venue, which means that they can find a baited swim fairly quickly. But, once they have found it, they will start to eat up everything in that swim, and if there is not enough out there, they will quickly leave again.

If possible, bait up your swim at least once before your actual fishing trip. Make it one or two days prior to your night session, that will give the fish the chance to find your food, even if they aren’t close by.

When it comes to the amount of prebait, that’s really up to you and your budget. As I’ve mentioned, overfeeding is not an issue now and so, several kilos of boilies are definitely not too much.

If your budget is tight, cast in as many boilies as you can spare and further build up your swim with particles such as maize or pellets, chicken feed, or groundbait. Anything you can get your hands on that doesn’t cost too much and comes in large quantities.

Prebaiting during your night session

Now that your swim is prebaited, you do not have to bait up all that much when you start fishing. Just get those lines in the water and cast out a few free offerings around your hookbaits. Then wait!

Throughout the night, you can keep your swim “alive” by sporadically casting out a little feed; a few handfuls of boilies, some catapults filled with pellets, etc. Just to keep the fish actively feeding in your swim.

Pro Tip: If you’re fishing shorter distances, you can attach a PVA bag to your hook, which will ensure that there is that little extra amount of goodies just next to your hookbait.

Don’t forget, it’s warmer below the surface now and there is plenty of food to ve had everywhere in the venue!

After a run, make sure to get out some fresh food, as you now know that there was at least one carp (and probably several more) that has been dining on your baits! I usually cast out a fresh pound or so of boilies so that other, or new carp wont’ go hungry in my swim.

Pro Tip: Should you experience a feeding frenzy and get several bites during a short period of time, get out as much bait as you possibly can! The carp go nuts for your baits, so give them plenty. You could end up having the night session of your dreams!

Essential Camping gear to Bring When Night Fishing for Carp

As you will be spending the entire night out in the open, bringing some essential camping gear on your night fishing trip can be a very good idea.

Let’s round off this article with some camping equipment tips and recommendations:

Tent/Bivvy

If your venue allows for it, you can actually sleep during your night session for carp. Thanks to your bite alarms, you won’t miss any runs!

Having a tent or bivvy with you will improve your night fishing experience immensely, as it’s just so much more comfortable than sleeping out in the open or on your fishing chair. A fishing tent will also shelter you and your gear from bad weather. Take a look at my favorite bivvy on Amazon here.

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this helpful in-depth guide on fishing bivvies

Personally, I prefer a fishing bivvy, as it is just so roomy and really adapted to carp fishing. I own a 2-man bivvy, as I frequently take one of my little daughters with me. Every night session turns into an adventure and they are enjoying it immensely.

Sleeping Bag

Obviously, you will also need a sleeping bag if you are planning on spending the night in a tent or bivvy. A 3 or 4 season sleeping bag is perfect throughout the entire year and will keep you nice and warm, no matter the temperatures.

In summer, you can just sleep in your undies and/or keep the bag open. Take a closer look at this awesome carp sleeping bag on Amazon here.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to bring a carp bed, sleeping mat, or inflatable mattress with you. The ground tends to be fairly hard and can make the night so much longer!

Pillow

For extra comfort, you can also take a soft pillow with you. I really appreciate sleeping on a pillow, as I otherwise tend to get a stiff neck.

Tent Light

night fishing for carp
Courtesy of Matthew Pugh

Being able to light up your tent can really make things easier at night. Maybe you want to read a good book, make yourself a sandwich or maybe, like me, you just can’t find your head lamp or scale in the middle of the night after a run.

A tent light that you can hang up in your tent will easily prevent such problems.

Portable Gas Stove

This is really an essential item to bring if you want to cook your own food. A little gas stove can be used for both cooking and frying a nice lunch or dinner on the bank.

Cookware Kit

Instead of emptying half your kitchen, you can bring practical camping cookware with you. It’s most commonly made of stainless steel and hence, it will not break and is easy to clean. Check out this complete kit on Amazon here.

Power Bank

If you are spending plenty of hours, or perhaps even days, away from civilization, you will need such stored energy in order to be able to recharge your gadgets and devices.

Most importantly, that would be your mobile phone and/or camera.

One, or several, charged power banks will ensure that you will never run out of juice and remain reachable throughout your session. You can find a great and reliable power bank on Amazon here.

And Don’t Forget the Following Items

  • extra clothing in case you fall in
  • bankstick camera adaptor/mobile holder (for that monster catch)
  • crocks, perfect for warmer nights and easy to slip in to at night
  • toilet paper (for obvious reasons)
  • enough food
  • a lot of water (dehydration is your worst enemy when night fishing)
  • a good book
  • patience

Pro Tip: If you are fishing in urban environments, it can be a good idea to fish together with a buddy. You just never know what could happen and having that extra safety on the bank can be quite reassuring. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy your night session much more!

And there you have it! Now you know everything you need to know about night fishing for carp. Now you can head out and actually try it. It will be a very special, and hopefully, a mostly sleepless and action-filled experience for you.

Tight lines!

Featured image courtesy of Gavin Ringer

Max Loesche

Hi, I'm Max, the founder and head author of Strike&Catch. I have been a passionate fisherman since 1997 and spend as much time as possible on the bank. Click on my name to read my full biography.

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