Imagine this: it’s well past dark, and the water before you is yours. The sound of crickets and the water slapping against the shoreline fill the void, and then suddenly your drag begins screaming and you are into a fish of a lifetime.
For those who have caught a carp, it’s no mystery as to why so many pursue them for the sheer fun of it all. However, a great number of anglers in Ontario pursue these fish where and when they can see them. Anglers rarely fish far beyond that first 15 feet from shore, or what shall now be referred to in this article as “the margins”. There is always a bit of excitement when it comes to the mystery in fishing, that element of the unknown and thus is the reason for this write-up. Nighttime carp fishing—that’s right, you can fish for more than just walleye at night. In fact, at certain times of the year, overnighting for carp could yield far better results than an entire day on the water.
The Night Bite
Fishing for carp at night can be an exciting, and exhausting angling experience. In my own pursuits, I have landed over twenty carp in a little under twelve hours, with at times hours of inactivity between a flurry of bites. During these lapses in action, you simply sit back (or lay down), relax and await that next bombardment from a passing pod of fish. At night, carp rely almost entirely on their sense of smell and thus are far less spooked by happenings on the shore. Therefore, even in places where pressure is significant during the day and action is as dead as a doornail, the night could be a completely different story.
If you have made it this far in the reading, I may assume I have piqued your interest. So, what do you need for a successful night of carp fishing in the dark?
Comfort is key when fishing those long hours, thus having a cot/portable lounging chair is a must!
You are going to be fishing (in theory) during the coolest period in a 24 hour day, therefore having adequate layers of clothing to keep you warm is also essential.
Bring LOTS of bug spray… those evening hours and first hours of light are often time to bite for more than just the fish! Mosquito coils and Therma-cells are also great to deal with the inevitable bug life.
Finally, in terms of comfort and security, a tent or bivvy (carpy lingo for an army green tent that is specially designed to accommodate carp fisherman) will keep you out of the less desirable elements.
Carp fishing requires kit that can handle some serious abuse, as a scrappy carp will put up a fight few fish can match. It is recommended that a fully loaded size (4000 plus) reel is used up against these mighty beasts, to avoid the very real risk of being spooled.
In terms of a rod, there are many shops in Ontario and Quebec today that are beginning to carry carp specific tackle, namely rods. These 9+ foot rods are often intimidating to anglers that have not experienced rods of such length. However, once they have fought a carp on a rod under 9′, and compared it to one 9′ and even longer, they begin to see the benefit. The longer blank maintains better hook holds at a distance, as well as increases control during the bout, thus I recommend sticking with a rod of 9′. And if not a carp specific blank (that’s action is already geared to performing well against carp), then a medium or medium-heavy action.
When it comes to line, there comes a huge debate; Braid or Mono? The answer comes entirely down to the spot you are fishing. Excessive, dense weeds? Braid. Open, silt, gravel, or rock? Mono or Fluro. Some choose braid for all situations. At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to the angler. Just keep mind to use a line appropriate to the size of fish you are pursuing (i.e. no less than a 15 lb mono.)
A cheap bite alarm is also a must-have for night time fishing. Having that means of indication can awaken even the sleepiest angler from slumber and allow for a very audible indication of a bite. Also, it adds to the heart-pounding chaos of a carp run.
A headlamp is also a must-have, for obvious reasons.
Finally, either a carp specific or large basket style net for landing these massive specimens safely. Keep in mind that if you intend to take pictures of these fish out of water, a landing mat is also recommended. You can make your own with simply a roll-up yoga mat covered in a garbage bag. This helps to prevent injury, by providing padding should the fish “flop” and hit the ground. It also helps keep the fish wet and free of rocks and dirt, which make for a rather unappealing photo, in addition to potentially harming the fish.
1 oz weight or greater is a must for carp fishing, especially once you begin dealing with the current. Confidence that your rig is presenting well is key to success day or night. As for myself, I tend to use 2.5 oz weights and up to ensure than when the fish has picked up the rig, that the hook essentially sets itself!
In terms of rigging, the sky’s the limit. Keep in mind, in Europe, carp are the most pursued sport fish. As a result, there are so many rigs that have been made over the years to catch carp, that I couldn’t name them all if I tried. The most basic and most tried and tested rig is the “hair rig”, also known as the knotless knot rig. A quick YouTube search will yield numerous videos on how to tie this proven catcher.
In terms of hook size, I find that my most successful outings have been with hooks between size 6 and size 2 curve shank, or wide gape hooks, however octopus style have also proven effective.
Corn is undeniably one of the best carp baits around—simply because it is cheap, and it works! There are however many European bait companies, and even some North American bait companies, that make a variety of different flavoured boilies, pop-ups, tiger nuts, and maize for carp. Check out Monster Carp Tackle for some of these options!
If you want a one-stop-shop for all of your carp fishing needs in North America, check out Carp Kit.
Bait… Lots of bait
On my carp night sessions, I have loads of free offerings, namely corn. I recommend having a few kgs of corn/maize for a night session, in the event that a large number of fish suddenly show up and clear out all of the bait in a matter of minutes. Keep this bait going in little and often to keep fish checking out the swim. This can be done by hand, scoop, a bait catapult (slingshot), or a spod/spomb baiting device. Always top up the swim after a fish has been caught, or if a period of inactivity has occurred, which could be a sign that fish have pushed in and cleared out the bait.
Never discount the “margins”
The margins are a natural area for carp to visit, as this is where the majority of their natural food can be found. The end of a weedline, or end of a piling of rocks, are natural features that often attract carp at night. So, don’t assume that if you don’t see them there during the day, that they won’t be nosing about there at night. Remember, carp, can’t see you as easily in the dark!
Baiting up a spot ahead of time (whether that be a few hours ahead of time or daily for days on end) will increase the retention of fish to that particular area, which can also increase the chance for some action.
What are your thoughts on fishing for carp at night? Or even just fishing at night in general! Let me know in the comments below.