Carp are popular freshwater game fish in Europe, North America, and many other parts of the world. While not always being the easiest target for sport anglers, they can be exceptionally finicky during the spawn.
But what time of year do carp actually spawn, exactly?
While most carp in Europe and North America will spawn sometime between April and July, they can spawn as early as March in warmer regions and as late as August or September in colder climate zones.
Keep reading this article to get all the exciting facts about the carp spawn and find out if and when you should fish for carp during this time of year.
When Do Carp Spawn?
Generally speaking, most carp will spawn sometime during late spring and early summer, depending on weather conditions and water temperatures.
However, the exact time of the carp’s spawning depends on many other factors and can vary from year to year and even from water to water.
In a shallow lake with plenty of vegetation, the carp may spawn as early as late April or early May.
In a deep and cold clear water lake, they may spawn as late as July or August, even if that lake is in the same area as the shallow one!
Late spring and early summer is a good rule of thumb, but if you want to be entirely sure, the best thing to do is to visit your local lake or river and observe the fish.
There are also geographical differences, as carp can be found all around the globe.
So I thought I cover the approximate time of spawning per region in more depth:
When Do Carp Spawn in the US?
The US is a huge country with many climate zones and different types of water bodies. It is only natural that the time of the carp spawn varies significantly from state to state.
In the northern states, like Minnesota, Michigan, and New York, carp generally spawn sometime between May and June but can spawn as late as August, depending on weather conditions and temperatures.
Down in the southern states, like Texas, Florida, or Louisiana, on the other hand, the spawning can occur as early as March or April. They can even start spawning as early as February during mild winters.
When Do Carp Spawn in Canada?
Canada’s colder climate means that the carp will spawn somewhat.
In the Ontario region, the spawn usually occurs between June and July but can start as late as August during colder years.
Furth up north, the carp can spawn in late summer or sometimes even early fall, as late as August or September.
It would be interesting to find out if the northern Canadian stocks skip spawning during very cold years. This can sometimes happen when the water temperature doesn’t reach the level required for the carp to spawn.
When Do Carp Spawn in the UK?
Due to the relatively mild English climate, most carp in the UK will spawn in May or June.
However, depending on the weather conditions, the type of venue, and the individual stock, the carp spawn in the UK can occur as early as April and as late early or mid-August.
When Do Carp Spawn in Europe?
The carp’s spawning time in mainland Europe is relatively close to that of the UK, meaning the months of May, June, and July.
Of course, as Europe is a pretty big continent, regional differences occur.
In southern Europe, which, due to climate change, is experiencing warmer and warmer weather, the carp can spawn as early as March or April.
On the other hand, up north in Scandinavia, the spawn can take place as late as July or sometimes even August.
When Do Carp Spawn in Australia?
In the southern hemisphere, things look a little different!
In Australia, the carp generally spawn sometime between September and December.
What’s really interesting, though, is the fact that spawning in Australia can occur throughout the entire year if conditions are suitable.
Australia’s climate is fairly warm year-round, giving the carp far more spawning opportunities than those for carp found in Europe or North America.
When Do Carp Spawn in South Africa?
South Africa is also located in the southern hemisphere, but here, the carp generally spawn a little earlier than in Australia.
South African carp typically spawn sometime between August and September. During colder winters, they can spawn as late as October.
What Water Temperature Do Carp Need for Spawning?
Unlike many other fish species, carp need relatively warm water to spawn successfully. The optimal water temperature for the carp spawn is between 63 and 77 °F (17 and 25 °C).
It has been observed that once they have started, the carp won’t stop spawning if water temperatures suddenly rise or drop out of this optimal range, even though that might mean higher egg mortality.
But why such high temperatures in the first place? Don’t the eggs need all the dissolved oxygen they can get?
Yes and no. Carp eggs are perfectly adapted to higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels in the water. And the higher water temperature actually works in the carp’s favor.
Studies have shown that the eggs hatch faster in higher temperatures. Given all the egg predation that’s going on (more on that further down in the article), this means more eggs will reach the fry stage.
What Depth Do Carp Spawn at?
Carp prefer to spawn in relatively shallow water of 1 to 5 feet, although spawning in deeper water has been observed in different water bodies and rivers that lack shallow shore areas.
Once again, the water depth has to do with the survival of the eggs and fry, as shallower water, especially in lakes, is typically much warmer than the deeper areas of a lake.
PRO TIP: You can easily spot spawning carp in shallow water, especially if it is clear. The sight of a couple of giant carp going at it is truly majestic!
Where Do Carp Spawn?
Shallow and warm water generally means rich vegetation, which is exactly what carp need for spawning.
Most commonly, you’ll find them spawning in bay areas with lots of weeds, reeds, lily pads, or any other type of aquatic vegetation.
They also like to spawn in or near sunken trees, beneath overhanging branches or bushes, or above underwater root systems.
Reeds are probably their most preferred type of vegetation for spawning, as it provides good protection and shade for the eggs and fry.
You can often see big carp plowing through a reed belt, totally taking it apart in the process.
How Do Carp Spawn?
Both males and females will hang around close to the intended spawning area for several weeks before they get going. I have observed this several times.
The act of spawning is pretty exhausting for the fish, which is probably why they remain relatively inactive and wait; to gather the necessary energy.
Once the timing is right, the fish will move into the shallows and start their spawning ritual.
Several males will try to get the female to release her eggs by bumping into her belly. This behavior can be fairly aggressive and brutal-looking.
When the female fish releases her eggs, all the males close to her will release their milt and try to fertilize the eggs.
One female can have five or more males by her side during the spawn, and several females can spawn in the same area.
Sometimes, a dozen or more carp can be observed spawning together.
Carp do not build nests for their eggs (redds), like bass, crappie, or trout do, and the males are broadcast spawners, meaning that they will try to fertilize as many eggs from as many females as possible.
After the act of spawning is completed, both male and female carp will leave the eggs to their fate. Unlike many other fish species, they do not guard their eggs until hatching.
How Long Do Carp Spawn for?
I wish I could give you a definite time frame here, but I can’t, as the carp spawn can last from several days to several weeks.
You see, carp do not spawn simultaneously as other fish do. A group in one area of a lake can start spawning in June, and another in a different lake area can start spawning in July, several weeks later.
When you think the spawn is finally over, suddenly, more fish will start spawning. That’s why the carp’s spawning period is stretched over several weeks or even months.
On the plus side, the ones that are already done with the spawn will get back to feeding quite a lot, so it’s not all hopeless!
Can You Catch Carp During the Spawn?
This is a question that interests a lot of carp anglers, and the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because not all carp spawn simultaneously, and, as mentioned above, as the spawning period can often stretch over several weeks or even months, there is always a good chance of catching carp that are not spawning when you’re fishing.
No, because once the fish get spawning, they basically stop feeding altogether. If you’re targeting fish that are spawning or are about to spawn, there is a very high risk of blanking!
I don’t know how many times I have had fish in or very close to my baited swim only to realize that those fish were about to spawn. The moment that realization sinks in, you can pack up your gear and head home. It’ll save you a lot of time!
It’s like the fish turn off entirely and turn their attention to the act of spawning. It can be super frustrating to see big carp swimming and jumping all over the place and not catch a single one of them during the entire session.
And trust me, it can take days before these fish are done mating!
Of course, there will always be exceptions to this rule, but if you’d ask me whether or not you should target carp during the spawn, my answer would always be a solid no!
Finding the right timing and post-spawn fish during this time of year is challenging, and you’ll have to invest a lot of time.
But even if you spend days and days trying to locate fish that are still feeding, the outcome remains uncertain at best because even fish that aren’t spawning at the moment will often be less active and won’t feed as much as they usually do!
Continue reading to find out how much pre and post-spawners feed and when you should fish for them.
Do Carp Feed a Lot Before Spawning?
So as I have mentioned, the carp will feed less and less during the period that ultimately leads to the spawn. It’s like they are getting in the right mood and focusing less and less on their normal routines.
Of course, if there are fish that are still several weeks away from spawning, chances are much better that they’ll still be feeding and taking your bait. But, once again, those fish can be hard to locate this time of year.
As a rule of thumb, I tend to stop fishing for carp in my local waters as soon as I see the first signs of spawning because that means that fewer and fewer fish will be eating my offerings over the next couple of weeks or so.
Instead, I turn my attention to other warm water species that are not spawning right then.
Do Carp Feed a Lot After Spawning?
So when do those carp get back to feeding like they usually do? As soon as they are done spawning!
The act of mating requires a lot of energy, and those fish will be starving once the spawn is done.
Sure, they will be slimmer now, but those carp are hungry! The days and weeks after the spawn can be one of the best times of year for carp feeding frenzies. I have experienced many of those over the years.
They can eat copious amounts of food now, so don’t be shy when baiting up your spot! You can literally not overfeed them now, in my opinion!
Also, I have found that they gain back their average weight reasonably fast and will soon regain those pounds lost during spawning.
If there is a good time to target carp, it’s during the post-spawn period! No doubt about that!
How Many Eggs Do Carp Lay?
Female carp can carry vast numbers of eggs in their bodies. Studies have shown that a female fish can produce between 70,000 and 100,000 eggs per 2 pounds of body weight!
If you’ve ever caught a pre-spawn female, you probably know how insanely fat their bellies can be, so those numbers don’t really come as a surprise.
Still, even in the world of big fish, that’s a lot of eggs!
To give you a better picture of just how many eggs carp of different sizes can produce, I made the following list:
|Weight of female carp
|Approx. amount of eggs
Isn’t that incredible? A 40-pounder can have up to 2 million eggs in its belly! The larger a carp female, the more eggs it can produce.
Additionally, studies have shown that larger females in top condition and health are capable of producing even more eggs than the average.
How Much Weight Do Carp Lose When Spawning?
With that many eggs, carp naturally weigh considerably more during the spawn and then lose that weight immediately after laying their eggs.
I have yet to find any studies on this subject matter, but based on several accounts of carp anglers, including mine, a female carp can lose between 10% and 20% of its total body weight after spawning.
Smaller females tend to lose around 10% of their body weight, while bigger specimens can lose about 15 to 20%.
Remember, though, that these numbers are a mere average and can vary significantly from water to water and population to population!
For example, a healthy 10lb carp will lose about 1lb right after spawning. On the other hand, a massive carp of 30lb might go down by as much as 4.5 to 6lb, which is quite a lot if you ask me!
So, that fat pre-spawn 30-pounder can become a pretty slim post-spawn 24-pounder!
Luckily, they’ll regain most of that weight during the remaining season.
Do Carp Eat Their Own Eggs?
So why on earth do they produce so many eggs? Well, it’s actually fairly common for adult fish to gobble up the spawn, which explains why they lay so many!
Especially in waters with a dense carp population and high food competition, it’s not uncommon for the fish to eat both carp eggs and larvae.
Even the mother fish themselves can sometimes eat their own eggs and young!
Carp eggs contain high amounts of protein, and after a long and hard spawning session, munching on some of those eggs can give the exhausted fish a quick energy boost.
Furthermore, various other herbivorous and carnivorous fish species prey on carp eggs, as well as crayfish, if they are found in the same water body.
So with such a high level of predation, it’s no wonder this species produces large amounts of eggs!
Do Carp Spawn More Than Once a Year?
While most carp generally only spawn once a year, some studies have observed females that have spawned repeatedly within the same spawning season.
Repeated spawning is commonly observed only in larger females carrying a lot of eggs, which they tend to “unload” over two, three, or sometimes even four spawning sessions.
On the contrary, carp only have one spawning season per year. They cannot produce eggs more than once!
Not all carp spawn simultaneously, though; a season can stretch from late spring to early fall.
That’s why some anglers might think that they spawn more than once a year, I guess.
Essential Tackle Tips
If you’re looking for solid and reliable carp fishing equipment, these tips might be useful for you.
The following tackle is of top quality and sells at a very decent price on Amazon.
I have been using this setup myself for many years and have caught plenty of big carp with it.
Rod: Daiwa Black Widow
A very strong and beautifully made 12ft 3lb carp rod with a ton of backbone and a great bend. Casts anything up to 5 oz extremely well and lets you navigate and control your fish smoothly and effectively. Fits both open and snaggy waters.
A reliable standard-sized baitrunner reel that works great for short to medium-distance carp fishing. Loads around 200 yards of 15-18lb monofilament mainline. Handles any wild run very smoothly! Fits the Black Widow rod perfectly.
Mainline: Daiwa Sensor 15lb
One of the strongest and most durable monofilament lines out there! Sells at a very good price and will last you for many fishing trips. Has just the right amount of stretch to perfectly hook and fight every fish.
- What Types of Carp Are There?
- Best Weather Conditions for Carp Fishing
- Euro-Style Carp Fishing Gear (A Complete Guide)
- How to Catch Carp at Night?
Featured image courtesy of Jay White