Features, Habitat, and Four Fun Fishing Methods of Bighead Carp

The bighead carp is one of the most popular Asian carps, which are native to southern China. The US farmers imported them in the early 1970s for several purposes. They wanted these fishes to control the growth of planktons and consume as foods. Gradually, bighead carp became large in population and spread in many natural waterways. Soon they started to cause ecological threats because of high plankton consumption, rapid reproduction, and competition with native species. However, they grow really fast and get bigger. That’s why they have always been a target of anglers. Today, we are representing their basic characteristics and fishing methods.


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Bighead carps can weigh 40 kg or more. They generally grow up to 60 cm, but the size can cross 140 cm. Their name suits their body a lot. They have a scaleless head with a low jaw. A pair of downward eyes help them to spot foods as it swims. The big mouth does not contain any teeth. A mature fish has nice silver-gray or dark-gray coloration. It converts to off white or white toward the underside. Its lateral line includes a total of 85 to 100 scales.

Many confuse them with other fishes. Well, they resemble many other carp species, especially the silver carp. One feature can separate them from the silver carp, which is black coloration on the sides. You will also see a smooth keel between their pelvic and anal and pelvic fins. Contrarily, a silver carp’s sharp keel lies between its throat and the anal fin.


The bigheads usually prefer living in large rivers and other water bodies. They are also available in small streams. As a perfect habitat, they choose the cleanest portion of the river. The anglers can hardly find them in the dirty or muddy water. They like places having abundant natural food. For spawning, they find a hiding place with above 6 feet depth and slow-moving water. Their ideal reproduction temperature is 25 ºC. They can tolerate up to 38 ºC and even 1 ºC conditions as well.

Food habits

Bigheads keep feeding non-stop because they don’t even have real stomachs. They mostly eat a variety of phytoplankton and zooplankton for survival. If their living zone lacks zooplankton, they consume organisms on the river bottom. They are filter feeders. It means they strain small food particles, algae, and organisms using their gill rakers.

Bighead Carp Fishing Methods

The fisherman applies several techniques to catch carps. Let’s have a look at them:

Rod and reel

The bighead carp’s large size makes them difficult to catch with traditional rod and reel. Also, they do not take most baits due to their filter-feeding habits. Overall, the rod and reel method is not effective, but there are some exceptions, of course. Many experts try to capture them with long rods and strong lines. They pair these tools with large curved hooks to survive the fight of the giant bigheads. Most importantly, they have to choose suitable boilies and form only heavy jigs. Tieing at least three different or same-sized lures on the hook gives a good outcome. Sometimes, people replace baits with artificial flies. These flies mimic the movement of small fishes and attract the carps. It is called fly fishing. Once a carp takes the bait, they reel in and drag it out of the water. Albeit some prefer doing these from the shoreline, it can be done from the boat too.

Boat and Net

People get Asian carps by accident while casting nets in the water. The positive side is, they can reach all fishing spots with their boat. Besides, they bring out several fishes at the same time. Let’s come to the drawbacks. Firstly, it will be an uncertain process. You may get more than 100 fishes a day, but not a single bighead. Secondly, the fishes may get hurt inside the net. A few fisheries don’t allow net fishing for this reason. If you ever go net fishing for a specific type of fish, research your target water source. Check which spots hold the maximum records of yielding fish. Go there with a professional guide and follow his instructions.


Here comes the most beneficial way of catching all Asian carps. It requires a specialized archery setup. It includes a bow, reel, line, and arrow. Normally, one has to stay in suitable fishing spots and wait for schools of bigheads. He can either do it from a canoe or riverbank. When he detects fish, he has to be prepared for shooting. If you don’t prepare your gear before their arrival, you will lose them. Eventually, the carps will be in a close range. Then, you have to shoot the arrow towards them. Remember, when the light goes from one medium to another, it bends and results in refraction. So, seeing a fish in a particular depth means the fish is not actually there; it will be in the lower segment. Adjust your air considering this fact. Correct aiming and shooting will lead the arrow through the fish’s flesh. Now, bring the arrow back by reeling in and get the fish. As you can see, it is useful but not a way to catch carp fish without hurting them.


It is a similar approach to bowfishing; it refers to hunting fish with gigs and similar equipment. The gig consists of a long rod and multi-pronged spears. Its height depends on the place you will be going. In the maximum cases, it is 8 to 15 feet long. Note that you can not do it in deep and polluted water. Night-time is the best period for gigging. Bring gigs, flashlights, and other essentials in your boat. Remain in the shallow water only. The flashlight will assist in spotting the fish in the water. After marking the desired fish, stab it hard, and retrieve it. It is an effective method for bighead carp fishing and also a challenging one. These carps are very quick during night hours. Therefore, it is okay to miss some targets.

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