While not as indiscriminate as some species of catfish, the diet of carp is varied enough that having a better understanding of it can help tilt the angling odds in your favor.
The quick answer on what do carp eat?:
- Insects including their larvae
- Aquatic plants
- Fish eggs
- Water plants and their seeds
- Corn and bread
- Pretty much anything!
Carp are fish of the family Cyprinidae, and many species claim this name. While even goldfish belong to this taxonomical branch, as sportfishermen, we’re primarily concerned with Cyprinus carpio (common carp), Carassius carassius (Crucian carp), Ctenopharyngodon idella (grass carp), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (silver carp), and Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (bighead carp).
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Related: Carp Fishing Tips, Carp Fishing Rigs, Best Carp Bait
A Brief Note on Carp Biology
Much of what makes a tournament champion isn’t better tackle or technique; instead, it’s detailed knowledge of their quarry.
If you want to catch more--and better!--carp, don’t skip the details.
Unlike barracuda or sharks, carp don’t have teeth in their mouths. Instead, you’ll find pharyngeal teeth in their throat that work like a chicken’s gizzard to crush food items. And if carp were solely interested in soft foods like boilies, they probably wouldn’t need teeth designed to crush and grid hard shells...
Yes, those are teeth you see back there!
While not obvious through a quick inspection, this fact should probably change what you choose to use as bait!
Check out our carp bait recipes!
What Do Carp Eat?
While the most common baits for carp consist of mashed grains like wheat and corn, it pays to think more carefully about carp biology.
While not what we usually think of, these are all important components of a carp’s omnivorous diet.
From aquatic plants to algae, we’re familiar with the plant foods that carp consume. But consider that mollusks, invertebrates like crawfish and snails, aquatic worms, and insects are also on the carp’s menu, and that should start sounding an alarm in your head!
While boilies and corn are offered by pretty much every carp fisherman, a chunk of snail, a tasty crawfish, or a bit of freshwater clam are much, much rarer--and that may be just the difference that separates you from everyone else on the lake that day.
Where legal, live bait gathered from the water should augment, perhaps even replace, the standard carp offerings.
There’s simply no question that protein-rich prey items can be game-changing.
More on carp: Do Carp Eat Other Fish?