Early Spring Grass Carp Bite

Common carp and grass carp are two similar but very different fish.  I have a book on carp flies beside me and it gives a disclaimer that the book is full of flies for common carp, not grass carp.  It makes clear that beyond the physiological and behavioral differences between grass carp and common carp, there is a major dietary difference.  Grass carp are herbivores.  They like salads.  It takes an entirely different set of flies to catch grass carp and most of the books don’t address the patterns.  The book I am looking at has hundreds of patterns for carp, not one of them is specifically for grass carp and the author admits that grass carp flies “are beyond the scope” of his book.


Grass carp, the ones stocked in my subdivision pond to keep the aquatic vegetation in check, exhaust my patience and even infuriate me sometimes.  During the summer I stalk them, but they have excellent eyesight and often spook from just the vibration of my footsteps.  I stalk redfish from my kayak but grass carp I don’t even attempt to approach in my kayak.  They often spook on the first cast while the fly line is still in the air, just from the sight or shadow of the line.  Yep, summertime grass carp are tough.  Most of the hero pics with carp are with common carp, not grass carp.

Certainly I am no grass carp expert, but I have learned one thing on my own, simply from experience working on the few local grass carp I have at my disposal.  That “one thing” is that though grass carp are finicky fish, I am able to catch them in the early spring on regular flies, topwater and submerged.

I think the grass carp in the early spring, when they are coming out of dormancy, are hungry, but it’s too soon for the green stuff they love.  Just like a couple of vegans my wife and I went to dinner with one time (true story), when the wife vegan was out of earshot the husband vegan admitted to me, “sometimes I just want a steak so bad!”, grass carp are the same way.   I have heard from military people who have participated in survival training that “there is only about 24 hours between what you will eat and what you thought you wouldn’t eat”.  That’s the way I think grass carp are in the early spring.  They crave a salad but until the salads are in season, well a juicy bug will do.  Anyway, I think that’s what happened to this triploid I caught yesterday.  He was hungry and ate the first bug (steak) he saw, which was tied to my tippet.

So if you want to catch the local behemoth in your subdivision pond, now, which is the middle of March, is the time.  Tempt him with the promise of meat, he might just be looking for a steak.


7 thoughts on “Early Spring Grass Carp Bite

      1. I walked by our subdivision lake this morning and saw a couple of carp boiling the water. I might try my luck there tomorrow. Thanks.


  1. Don, look at them good and determine if hey are grass carp or common. The commons will hit a variety of flies, the grass carp are picky. I dont know how much greenup you have up there since its been so cold, but if they are just now showing up, swimming around and there’s not much green, they may hit a bug. If not you can can catch them with grass type flies. Good luck!


    1. At this point there is very little green around the lake. It was my understanding that when the carp were introduced to the lake that they were grass carp. In fact one of my neighbors told me he caught a couple some years back by actually tying grass to a hook. I don’t think I will try that! Thanks for the information.


  2. Use a really long leader/tippet, dress to camouflage yourself with background and walk softly. Cast close but not on top of them as they are VERY spooky. Grass carp apparently have a much more sensitive lateral line and they will feel your footsteps on the bank and if you wade, (which I haven’t done) I would think you would need to move slowly. They also have incredibly good eyesight. Pay attention to the sun and try to approach where you don’t cast shadows on them. When you cast, lower the line on the water as the loop unrolls so that your fly lands last. Very spooky fish, which makes it very much fun! It’s my kinda thing, like redfish, but actually much harder, at least the ones I have access to are.


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