- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Common carp (Cyprinus)
Despite their widespread population, common carp (carp) are not native to North American waters. They were introduced in the United States in the late 1870s after being imported from Asia by way of Europe, particularly from Germany and England. They are an abundant and important food source in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world and have been farmed for as long as 2,400 years. However, in a relatively short span of time, their numbers and distribution have grown dramatically in North America, in many instances dominating their local habitat.
Carp are one of the largest members of the minnow family and a close relative of the goldfish. There are a number of physical characteristics that distinguish them from other fish. Most will have a bronze-gold to gold-yellow color on the side, though some are more olive to brown. Their belly is generally a faded yellow tone. Lower fins often have a reddish tint. Juvenile and breeding males will often have a darker green or gray color with a dark belly. Females tend to be somewhat lighter in color than their male counterparts.
Carp have a short head with a rounded snout. They have no teeth and their sucker-like mouth, which points almost downward, is well adapted to their bottom feeding habits. In addition, they have two barbels, or whiskers, on each side of the mouth.
The front of the dorsal and anal fins have a single jagged spine. The one long dorsal fin has between 17 and 21 rays. Carp have fairly large scales marked by a distinct dark spot at the base and a noticeable dark rim. A forked tail completes the body.
Common carp, although introduced to North America just 125 years ago, are found in large, even excessive, numbers nearly everywhere from central Canada to central Mexico and from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts. They are now one of the most widely distributed fish species in North America and can be found in nearly any type of water throughout the United States.
Carp have thrived in North America due to their ability to tolerate poor water quality and a variety of environmental conditions, including low oxygen levels and high temperatures. They are resilient and adaptable nearly anywhere they are located. Although they prefer warm, muddy waters, they can survive in cool, clear water but do not multiply as quickly. One common factor in their habitat, regardless of temperature, is ready access to organic matter.
As bottom feeders that often root for food, they disturb the sentiment at the bottom of the body of water, which in turn makes it muddy. This is an important protection device as well, since it limits visibility for species that prey on carp. Unfortunately, stirring up sediment can limit the penetration of light needed for plant growth. These factors all contribute to the carps ability to quickly dominate a body of water and crowd out other fish species.
Carp will spawn during spring and summer, generally April to June, depending on latitude. They are relatively fertile spawners, with a single female releasing about 100,000 eggs per pound of body weight.
Prior to spawning, males temporarily develop small projections on their head and pectoral fins called tubercles. These projections help the male remain in contact with the female during spawning. As water temperatures approach 60 F, adults seek shallow water of 1 to 4 feet in which to spawn. At this time, several males will accompany one or two females to the selected area and splash and thrash until the eggs have been released and fertilized. Females release 100,000 to 500,000 eggs during this event.
Adult carp offer no protection to the eggs. After about one week, those that survive will hatch. Young fish, known as fry, are born with an adhesive organ that connects to vegetation on the bottom. In order to survive, the fry must rise to the surface within one day to inhale air. Initially, fry utilize a large yolk for food. Eventually they search out algae and plankton as their primary food source. Fry will remain in this shallow water environment until they reach 3 or 4 inches in length.
Adult carp are bottom feeders that will consume both plant and animal material but more often select a vegetarian diet of aquatic plants and algae. A preference for vegetation does not prevent common carp from feeding on insect larvae, snails, mollusks, crustaceans and other fish, especially those that are dead and decaying. Their favored feeding areas are quiet, shallow waters with a soft bottom and dense aquatic vegetation, though they will travel widely for food. In the process of feeding, they often uproot and destroy bottom vegetation, causing the water to become murky.
Carp are both loved and despised as sport fish, and regardless of an individuals perception of carp, they present challenges to fishermen. Many anglers pursue carp because they are among the strongest-fighting fish in fresh water. Their ability to put up a stubborn fight and make several long runs is a challenge to a fishermans abilities and tackle. In fact, carp are one of the most popular game fish in Europe and their popularity is on the rise in North America. Other fishermen dislike the carp because of their ability to crowd out other sport fish. In addition, because they prefer vegetation, they are more difficult to catch with many popular fishing techniques.
Nevertheless, common equipment such as cane poles, throw lines, and conventional rods and reels are effective tools for catching carp. The key is using attractive bait such as dough balls, worms, and crayfish tails. In overpopulated areas, harvesting carp with the use of clubs, spears, and snagging has been successful. It is also possible to fish for carp using bow and arrow.
Fishing for carp requires a good deal of patience. Where legal, chumming, or pre-baiting, can improve the odds of a successful fishing excursion. Understanding the environment can be very important as well. In clear water, carp may rely more on sight, making color a key to choosing bait. In murky water, they rely more on smell, meaning the odor of the bait may be more crucial. Successful carp fishermen also know keys to locating carp. For instance, rooting activities may release gases that rise to the surface resulting in surface bubbles that could indicate a school of carp.
- In North America, carp have been criticized for economic and biological damage because their rapid reproduction and feeding habits are blamed for damaging populations of other game fish, as well as entire habitats.
- Many fishermen consider the carp a pest rather than a sport fish. In Europe and Asia, however, they are the most popular game and food fish.
- Carp have been the target of numerous attempts at eradication, including poisoning programs.
- Carp are often cited as an example of what can happen when introducing a species into a new habitat without careful consideration.