When do carp spawn

When Do Carp Spawn? - (Carp Spawning Behaviour & Should You Fish For Them)

In the UK, carp tend to spawn as early as April and as late as August. The most common months for carp to spawn, however, are May and June.

This article answers some of the common questions around carp spawning, including how to spot if the carp are spawning and whether you can fish for them if you turn up at the water and see the typical signs.

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How do you know when carp start spawning?

Carp exhibit certain patterns of behaviour when spawning and as such, it is relatively easy to spot spawning fish when you see these signs. There are four common traits to look out for to know when carp start spawning. These are as follows:

1. Fish following each other

Carp do, at times, shoal up together throughout the year, but when spawning is on the cards the following of each other is different to just normal shoaling. 

You will normally find a very plump, female fish, leading the way, with smaller, leaner, male fish, following. The male fish also have much larger fins than the females so should be easy to spot.

This behaviour is most often seen in the shallower areas of the water where vegetation is present.

2. Crashing in shallow water with vegetation

Similar to the point above, a key sign of spawning behaviour in carp is crashing in shallow water, particularly near vegetation, if present.

This behaviour is typically down to the male fish nudging the females in an attempt to get them to release their eggs.

If the females do release eggs then the male carp frantically try to get into position to fertilise them.

3. Carp that appear to be fighting

Fighting carp is a sure sign that spawning is just about to occur. This is simply a natural way of male carp jockeying for position in an attempt for them to get first refusal of the release of eggs from a female carp.

4. Spawning nodules

Spawning nodules are small lumps or spots that can be seen and felt on the head and pectoral fins of the carp when they are caught.

These nodules can feel very rough when touched but do not affect the fish in any way. If you see these nodules present on a fish then you know spawning is imminent.

Check out the following video that shows behaviour of spawning carp:

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What temperature do carp start spawning at?

Generally speaking, when the water temperature reaches 18°C, spawning gets triggered. Sometimes if this temperature is achieved earlier in the year, it may not last and can quickly fall below the threshold again.

If this happens, carp will quite often carry on spawning although the success rate may decrease.

What happens when a carp spawns?

When the conditions are right, ovulation occurs in the female carp. This stage causes the eggs to hydrate. With the male following the female and bumping into her, stimulation of the female occurs and eggs are released. At the same time, the male will release milt (sperm) over the eggs which, in turn, fertilises them.

when do carp spawn?

A close up of carp spawn

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How much spawn does a carp produce?

As a rough guide, a female carp will produce approximately 100,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. Some fish may even lay over a million eggs in a specific spawning period.

What happens to the spawn after a carp has finished?

In the majority of commercial fisheries, the number of offspring that will survive after a spawning period is extremely low. Nature is, however, self-regulating, and the success rate does largely depend on the current population of the water.

Eggs are easy prey for fish, algae, and bacteria and as such, the majority of eggs will be eaten before any chance of them hatching. So, if there is a large population of carp already present in the water, more eggs will get eaten and vice versa.

This means that less densely populated waters have a healthy, natural, turnaround of generations of fish.

Once the eggs are fertilised, they tend to hatch between three and eight days depending on the water temperature. Initially, the fry will ingest the yolk sac as this contains all the necessary nutrients for survival.

When the fry reaches approximately 8mm they will have absorbed all the sac but before it is totally used up, the fry will naturally inflate their swim bladders so they can start swimming.

Once they have the ability to move around, the small fry start to feed on microplankton and water fleas. They will remain in shallow water with a lot of vegetation in an attempt to provide protection from predators and to avoid being swept away by any currents.

During this time in the shallows, the small fry will learn how to swim effectively, catch food and flee from danger.

When the fish get big enough, they will then venture off into deeper water and form schools. All being well, the young carp will continue to grow up to about 2lb a year and become a stable part of the water's ecosystem.

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Do carp eat their own spawn?

The short answer is yes, they do. Carp expel a lot of energy throughout the spawning process and after the deed is done, they are in desperate need of nutrition.

The newly laid eggs are a quick, easy meal, that is full of protein and nutrients that are perfect for tired carp. As such, in most waters, carp as well as other fish, will devour the majority of spawn that is produced.

How long do carp spawn for?

In terms of how long a carp spawns for, there really is no hard or fast rule. This is because there are many factors that dictate this. These include:

  • The temperature of the water
  • The age of the fish
  • The size of the fish
  • The general fitness of the fish
  • The levels of stress the carp are under

With the conditions being favourable to the carp, spawning typically lasts for approximately a week. In some circumstances though, the fish can be spawning on and off for a number of weeks.

How many times a year do carp spawn?

In the UK, carp typically spawn once a year. This is mainly due to the variations in weather we experience. There are occasions though when a fish or a group of fish attempt to spawn again, up to four times potentially.

This, however, is rare, and only really occurs where conditions are favourable for a prolonged period of time.

good conditions for spawning carp

Prolonged good conditions can lead to carp spawning more than once

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Do carp feed when spawning?

In the majority of situations, carp do not feed when spawning. This is because they are so focused on what needs to be done, their attention lies elsewhere.

To cater for this spell of absent food, carp tend to stock up on reserves prior to the spawning process and will consume a lot more food than they normally would.

Because of this, the short period of time before spawning commences can be very productive and you'll often find carp anglers with their rods out looking to capitalise on this.

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Can you catch carp when they are spawning?

Technically, yes you can catch carp when they are spawning. However, we strongly advise against fishing for carp when they are spawning for two reasons.

Firstly it is just not ethically right. The fish are the only component that enables us to practice angling in the first place. For this reason, we really need to look after them the best we can.

We know that the fish are under a lot of pressure when spawning both physically and mentally. The last thing they need are anglers lines adding to this pressure, it just isn't fair.

Instead of fishing for carp when they are spawning, take the opportunity to observe them. We know that carp spawn in shallow water where they can easily be seen.

This is a great time to look at identifying certain fish that you may want to target in the future or to get a general feel of the average size of carp in a particular water.

can you catch carp when spawning

Rather than fish for spawning carp, observe them instead

The second reason why you shouldn't fish for spawning carp is that it is just not very productive. As we have previously stated, carp hardly feed at all when they are spawning. So if they are not feeding then you have zero chance of them taking your bait.

On a positive note, however, once spawning has finished carp are absolutely ravenous. This period can be one of the most productive of the year in terms of carp feeding in numbers.

And with carp feeding in numbers, comes with plenty of potential to get them bite alarms singing again and some carp on the bank.

There are two things we recommend when fishing for carp after spawning. Firstly ensure you bring plenty of bait for the carp.

The fact that the majority of fish will be looking for food post-spawning means that you will need a lot of bait to fend of nuisance species as well as keep the carp searching in your swim.

Secondly, due to the crashing about and brushing against rocks and vegetation when spawning, carp can sustain injuries. Legions and sores are quite often seen on carp when they are caught after spawning has taken place.

For this reason, we always recommend carrying a decent carp care kit when fishing for carp so you can apply medication to any injuries before returning them to the water.

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Do carp die after spawning?

As stated throughout this article, spawning is very physically and mentally draining for carp. The crashing about in the shallows can really take its toll, especially if the conditions are hot and the water is lacking oxygen.

Because of this, unfortunately, some carp do not survive the spawning process as it can be all too much for fish that are perhaps not in the best of conditions beforehand anyway.

It is, however, a small percentage of carp that die after spawning with the vast majority surviving and recovering relatively quickly.

does spawning cause carp to die

The sad sight of a carp not surviving the spawning process

Final thoughts?

Nature is a wonderful thing and the whole reproduction cycle of fish is a fascinating subject that often leaves you wondering how fish populations grow in the first place.

Hopefully, we have answered the question in the article title of 'when do carp spawn?' as well as answering some other popular questions around the spawning process in carp.

We have written many articles on subjects around angling and fishing tackle that you can access via our homepage.

If you need any fishing tackle you can always check out our fishing tackle deals page or one of our recommended fishing tackle shops.

Thanks for reading!

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