How to Catch Carp in A River – 7 Ways to Catch More!

Spoiler Alert: reading the blog post could dramatically increase your odds of catching carp on your next river fishing trip.

If that’s the meat and potatoes you stopped by for… I recommend proceeding to the 7 tips to catching more carp. Thanks for stopping by.

How to Catch Carp in a River

Carp river fishing is not the same as angling for carp in other fashions.

Learning how to catch carp in a river can be frustrating to say the least.

It’s more complicated and requires more skill to develop. From finding the best river to fish for carp, using the correct rigs and baits that can attract your prey is just the beginning of the process.

I know because just finding the river I wanted to fish for carp and scouting the area was a challenge for me when I began. In Illinois, we have the plague of the Asian carp or jumping carp invading our rivers.

I’m not after those carp unless bow fishing. I want the common and grass carp.

I wanted to go sit in my boat or along a shore and carp fish traditionally.

I started fishing for carp and catfish at a young age and still completely enjoy the old school manner of carp fishing as well as some of the new school methods.

A thermos of coffee, a comfortable chair and nothing but the sounds of nature distracting my mind from reality waiting for the fight of the lifetime is my style of carp fishing.

That’s if I was lucky enough for my homemade bait to work or that the carp gods would make my swimming friends hungry that day.

I wanted to blog a few tips I’ve either found through experience, failures, successes or just pure research on how to improve my game on river carp fishing and hopefully help you too.

I hope that it can help one of you land your next trophy carp.

Here are 7 ways to improve your skills today and a few of the basics of fishing for carp on any river.

1. Can You Catch Carp on The River Year-round?

Carp season for the die-hard anglers is year-round. You can absolutely crush it in the summer, and you can tear it up in the fall and spring.

Sure, you have specific times to consider. You want to avoid going during the prime days of when carp are spawning is a good example of when not to fish for carp.

I’d argue that’s still easy to catch carp in the winter with proper planning, but this isn’t for everyone.

For the sake of carp river fishing, carp season can absolutely be 100% year-round. We will cover why this is a bit further in the blog.

A big reason why you can catch carp in a river year-round or in the winter is simple.

The water doesn’t freeze nearly as easily or doesn’t freeze at all, and it’s not overly difficult to find warm water discharges where carp may be near.

Okay, so here are your 7 tips for improving your game.

2. Wind and Wind Direction when River Fishing for Carp

Don’t ignore wind and wind direction when river fishing for carp.

The weather has always had an impact on anglers’ abilities to catch fish, and that’s not going to change. This doesn’t change when fishing for carp or any other river fish species.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a river, lake or pond.


You’re not looking for clear skies, butterflies and apple pies here.

Your crossing your fingers for those high air pressure days with some wind.

Carp go dead when it’s frigid and very calm.

Often, they surface on these days to get closer to the sun, but they are still in the state of mind that they don’t want to eat or really move.

Windy days with carp fishing have the complete opposite impact.

The air pressure gets that stir going in the carp (mentally). They will still be at the bottom of the river your fishing, but they are willing to eat, and that’s all that matters.

Those nice windy days can be a jackpot recipe for catching some decent size carp.

You must remember, your fishing on a river. It doesn’t freeze over instantly or cool and heats up immediately the way you might think. Just because your ears are close to falling off from the cold weather doesn’t mean the carp feel the same beneath the water.

Get down on the ground and feel the water, you will understand what I’m referring to.

The stronger the winds, the better. It stirs things up. Gets various insects, and various dinner items dropping and flopping in the water for your targeted fish.

3. Pay Attention to the Rain

Rain isn’t necessarily the best weather condition for carp fishing. It’s also not the worst and can be your best friend if you learn to execute appropriately.

Rain naturally helps oxygenate the water. Highly oxygenated water gets a carp up and moving.

Pure down poor’s can be a hinder and just make everything difficult when your carp fishing.

Not to mention, annoying as hell.

You aren’t looking for next flash flood warning to be successful with carp fishing on the river.

You’re looking for the possibilities of light rain accompanied by a little wind. Rain helps wash organisms into the water and naturally get the carp up and moving around and actively feeding.

If your river fishing on the bank near shallow waters and the rain gets too heavy, you may have an issue locating or catching carp close to shore.

If this happens, go deeper to find the carp.

Use a fast sinking bait and get the bait to the bottom as quickly as possible.

Don’t ignore or shy away from rainy days when river fishing for carp.

4. Choose the Correct Bait to Catch More Carp when River Fishing

Using good bait is a method that needs followed whether your fishing rivers, lakes or ponds for carp.

Your bait will ultimately make or break your success.

Unfortunately, sometimes you just don’t use what the carp wants for the day.

I have a full guide to choosing the best carp bait in general, but for river fishing, I’d recommend using Boilies.

Boilies can work any time of the year and with any body of water.

I recommend boilies for river carp fishing for a few reasons, however, boilies can stay strong against the small critter fish biting and nibbling.

Carp also have a strong sense of smell. You don’t need to go overboard with this. A commercially purchased boilies will be just fine.

Many anglers prefer to add additional scents to boilies such as vanilla extract.

I have found this isn’t my method and doesn’t work for me personally. That does not mean it doesn’t work and that it won’t work for you.

It probably means I have no idea how to do it correctly.

Point being, just the boilies packs enough scent to get the carp interested in any body of water which of course includes rivers.

5. Be Sure to do Some Night Fishing For river Carp

Carp river fishing at night can yield some great results if you are up for the challenge.

Carp being a species of fish that’s willing to bite at night is one of the reasons that I love fishing for them. Same goes for my love for cat fishing.

Night fishing for carp is just a different feeling. The hunt or stalk is intense. The natural feel of the environment for night fighting on a river is matched by none.

Point being, they still bite, and you can land big river carp night fishing on the river.

Here are some quick tips to add to your success.

  • Use Bright Baits- Remember Carp can get see very well.
  • Use Strong Baits- You can break out the more potent smelling baits for night fishing
  • Be ready for the weather elements. It can get buggy and cold quickly
  • Have proper lighting equipment- You want to be able to see what you’re doing
  • Start fishing with only one rod.
  • You don’t need to go deep at night. Carp will move into shallow water in the evenings where the water cools down faster.

6. Fishing at the Correct Spot

Make sure you have pinpointed a good location for your bait and attempting to locate where the carp may be.

At night, the carp could be much shallower than you think. You don’t need a boat to hit the deepest waters.

Scout the area you plan to fish and look for…

  • Overhanging Trees
  • High Vegetation
  • Don’t Ignore the River Margins
  • Fast Flowing Water Spots

Read up on how carp behave in individual bodies of water to familiarize yourself with the best tactics. A good starting point could be one of my other blog posts, how to catch carp.

7. Scout the River for Carp

People who read many of my posts (hopefully your one of them) are probably sick of hearing this, and I apologize for that.

Unfortunately, with carp fishing and especially carp fishing on rivers, the scouting report is an absolute must.

Not necessarily for beginners but for those of us wanting to step it up to the next level.

Scouting ahead of time allows you to see the activity.

  • Are carp spawning around your fishing area?
  • Do you notice any clouds of mud in the shallow waters?
  • Do you notice any heavy vegetation areas?

This is the scouting report and will help immensely.

If you just grab your favorite fishing chair and willy nilly a random spot, you will have no clue if you’re going to be sitting all day without a single bite. Try and be prepared and know what to expect before heading out for the day.

Bonus Tips

Does the Moon Matter or Impact Catching Carp on the River?

You hear of other anglers mentioning how much better they can catch carp during a particular time of the year and even yes, moon phases. It’s said that you will find your largest carp on the first full moon of the year.

Unfortunately for me, this was not the case. Always the next full moon I suppose. Regardless, it seems to hold true for other anglers.

Don’t overestimate or jump straight to the conclusion that the moon has no impact. Grab your calendars and make sure to carp fish a full moon.

Give Camping a Try

This really doesn’t necessarily impact any of your skills or chances of catching carp unless you include time as a critical bonus statistic. I’m just mentioning it because I love to do it and fellow anglers should give it a try.

Try camping on one of your river adventures. Be well equipped of course. Consider using Bell alarms for the carp rods, so you don’t always have to be 100% locked in and paying attention.

Bring the family with you to add that much more excitement to the trip.

Always Have Fun

Have fun when fishing for carp on any body of the water. It’s an incredible hobby and snowballing in popularity.

If you had a few bad nights carp fishing the river, stick with it, your luck is bound to change for you soon.

Carp fishing involves technique, stealth, and some research and planning. I would be willing to bet once you snag into your first carp, you will be addicted to the process.

Best Gear for River Carp Fishing

I wanted to throw this into the blog in case some of you are brand new to river fishing for carp.

I’m not going to go into substantial detail or make any recommendations. It’s more of just a quick list to make sure you have packed up what it’s needed to try fishing the rivers.

These would just be the bare essentials as well.

I have plenty of other fun gadgets that we can cover another time, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a necessity.

Here’s a quick list of what to bring with you to the river.

  • Rods and reels (2)- I’d always bring 2 rods on a river trip – You just never know.
  • Line – Have plenty of fishing line.
  • Leaders
  • Hooks
  • Chair
  • Flashlight
  • Boots
  • Boilies or Bait
  • Rod Holders

Again, I would consider this the bare minimum needed. The gear you collect as you build the love for the hobby will expand but at least make sure you have these minimum requirements.

So, do you feel you can now catch carp on the river?

Hopefully, you at least feel a little more confident in your abilities to catch carp on the river. That was my goal and hope I was able to add a little value to your next fishing trip.

This article won’t only help you catch carp while river fishing but should have you able to catch big carp on each river trip you set out on.

As always, I’m not an expert by any means and encourage you to leave a comment below if you feel something needs to be added to allow successfully fishing trips for all of the readers.

Just remember, prepare for river fishing and scout your areas. It’s completely different than fishing other bodies of water.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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