What do Carp Eat – All You Want to Know

You probably googled this question for one reason and one reason only. You are most likely trying to figure out what to throw out in the water to improve your chances of catching more of them.

Maybe your a new carp angler or maybe you know exactly what your doing and felt like browsing around the internet. Well, I’m here to cover the basis for both.

So, what is a carp’s natural diet? What are they eating when they don’t feel the pressure of all us anglers targeting them non-stop?

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What do Carp Eat?

Carp belongs to the family of omnivores. Carp will gobble up anything ranging from plants buried at the water floor in rivers or lakes. Also, carp eat algae, and other micro-level animals (zooplankton). This is only during infancy.

As the carp matures is when they can be more damaging to the water ecosystem consuming large amounts of snails, insects, worms, mollusks, seeds, crustaceans, and other fish eggs. They are a “savage” so to speak.

If it’s in the water when a carp matures, good chance they will be all for sucking it down with those big old vacuum lips.

Now, keep in mind. This accounts for the carp’s natural diet. When it comes to baits for catching carp, the story and script change a bit and they expand even further on what they are cruising the waters looking to eat and how they eat it.

Let’s start breaking down some carp basics.

Where do Carp Live?

Carp can survive in nearly all conditions known to fish. For the most part.

Common carp are going to be found in larger bodies of water but in all reality, it’s hard to find any bodies of water where most species of carp are not present anymore these days.

They prefer to stay around coverings such as vegetation, snags and other safe harbor spots most of the year, but you will also see carp surface if the right conditions are present and the sun is shining.

You will usually see carp roaming in a group larger than 1 and up to 5. Carp don’t really have any struggles surviving winters in fresh water even with freeze overs due to the ability to use those vacuumed like lips to take in air at the water surface.

A key reason to not knock ice fishing carp until you have tried it.

What to Use For Carp Bait

This is where it gets a little more fun. Carp make fishing easy and hard at the same time. They will eat such a large variety of baits that you theoretically would think it’s easy to snag into one of them, but you are absolutely 100% wrong.

Let’s first cover some of the most common carp baits.

Hemp Seed and Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed contains large amounts of amino acids and additional omega oils making it a very high-end choice for catching carp.


What are boilies anyways? Boilies are an incredible carp bait primarily made of eggs, other scents and flavorings in addition to various forms of protein such as milk.

They attach easily to various carp rigs. Don’t be surprised if you hook into another fish when using boilies. Carp are not the only fans of a well-crafted boilie.

Sweet Corn

Do carp really eat corn?

Between corn and nightcrawlers, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which bait bang delivers you more bang for your buck. They both have overall great price and ease of use is more appealing than anything using these bait options.

It’s crazy how well corn can work.

Sweet corn stands out from the pack for 2 reasons. It’s cheap, and it’s bright and easy for the carp to see. It’s been a top bait for a long time, and no signs show it will ever be a bait you can’t trust for carp fishing


Do carp eat night-crawlers? Seriously? Is there any fish that really doesn’t eat nightcrawlers?

Nightcrawlers are already part of a carp’s natural diet so it’s not hard to see why they would eat off your hook. If I placed some well-crafted buffalo wings on your dinner plate, are you going to check each wing for a fish hook before eating it?

Well the carp, if you do your job with your rig, isn’t going to know the difference either making the night-crawler an underutilized and top end carp bait.

Luncheon Meat

Yep, that’s right. No more sandwiches for you or the kids, the meat is getting added to the arsenal of baits we will use to dominate carp fishing. It can be overly powerful bait during certain seasons for carp fishing like Autumn.

I explain in depth how to catch carp in the fall if you are looking for some added knowledge today. Make sure to check it out.


They have been around since before your great-grandfather. They come in many varieties. Pellets such as salmon and halibut are two of the most common forms of pellets used to catch carp.


Doughballs can either be made by hand or purchased commercially. It depends if your willing to try and create the recipe on your own or want to use an already proven option. Both options work great for catching carp.

Other Baits Carp Will Eat

If you’re looking for other baits that you can use for carp, here’s a quick list of some other natural fast carp baits that can get you out and on the water.

If your looking for a way to really dominate carp fishing and how to specifically use these baits, make sure to check out my other post, best baits for carp fishing.

I really try and break down the fundamentals and uses for each bait to help the new or experienced angler.

Back to our quick list of commonly used carp baits.

  • Grubs
  • Cheese (If permitted in your area)
  • Salmon Eggs
  • Chicken Livers
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Artificial Lures and Flys

Tiger Nuts

Tiger nuts became famous for carp fishing due to strong scents and the powerful attractants they give off. Tiger nuts aren’t the easiest bait to use for carp fishing, so you need to make sure you have the right gear and knowledge to get started with tiger nuts.

Home Made Carp baits

This section could be the length of a phone book if I wanted too but I’m not doing that. It would take to long, I’m terrible at making them, and it’s just not necessary.

Disclaimer. Many anglers are way better at making these baits then I am.

I’ve had success with 1 home made carp bait and just have gone to other avenues for fishing for carp. Plenty of other valuable resources are easily accessible on the internet. Here’s a good example of some of the best homemade carp baits you can give a try if that’s more your cup of tea.

Seriously, I’m bad at making these.

I can cook some killer carp though if that makes you trust my abilities anymore? Yeah, I didn’t think it would but was worth a try.

What’re The Best Baits For Common Carp?

The baits we just listed are going to be as good as any for common carp. Nothing really changes. There are hundreds of other baits you can use as well, but we won’t dive too deep into that for the sake of time and relevance to what you’re looking for.

The key with any carp species is just taking action and trying different things. The more you do, the more you learn.

Learn what baits work for you and stick with them and master them. Even if you are trying to turn this into a day out with the kid or a full blown hobby and sport for yourself, learning is key when it comes to carp fishing.

What do Carp Eat in Ponds?

Carp in ponds are going to eat the same baits and natural options as carp eat in other bodies of water. It’s not a matter of what they eat, it’s a matter of how you are going to get them to eat it and what tactics to deploy to make it work.

What do Carp Eat in Rivers?

Carp in rivers are eating the same baits and natural options as carps eat in other bodies of water.

You always must be in a state of mind to adapt to the environment and learn new ways of doing things.

I do luckily have an article I put some effort into to help beginning carp anglers learn the river fishing game that you can read here.

Other Related Questions

Do carp eat minnows?

You bet they do. Carp eat minnows just like a Chinese buffet. You can use them as bait, and you may even spot a carp eating minnows without your assistance when they surface during the right weather and lighting conditions.

Do carp eat bread?

I won’t get to carried away with methods of using bread for carp bait, but yes, this is another one of the most natural baits to use and works like a charm. It flakes apart nicely which acts as an attractant for the carp and is also incredibly easy to use.

I enjoy using bread for carp so much I took the time to put together this comprehensive guide for methods you can use carp fishing with bread.

Can we eat carp?

This has been debated on for many years but seems we are finally reaching a point where we understand that we can absolutely eat carp.

It took me a long time to learn the ropes of how to make this work in a tasty manner, but carp can be worth keeping instead of releasing. If you haven’t tried it, start with my guide here on how to cook carp.

It will give you the details from the preparation phase to cleaning and all the way to the several methods you can use to cook the carp.

Spoiler Alert- Go out and buy a cheap smoker. It’s the absolute best way to cook carp in my opinion.

Does carp taste good?

Another huge topic of debate but the answer is yes. Carp does taste good. Well, let me clarify, carp can taste good if you know what you’re doing. If you haven’t ever prepared carp, most likely the first few runs, it will be terrible.

Once you mess it up enough times, it can absolutely be a delight. Just hang in there and keep trying till you get it down to a science.

Don’t rush preparing, cleaning or the cooking phase and carp can taste great.

2nd- Spoiler Alert. Yes, carp do have the bones in after cooking and depending on how you cook it, you can’t just swallow carp meat whole. You should delicately eat the carp unless you don’t mind those tiny bones going down the hatch with the rest of the meal.

I suppose the choice is ultimately yours.

Do we feel that we now know what carp eat and how to catch them?

As we can tell, carp are not the pickiest fish swimming in the water. You can use a variety of methods to catch them. Catching them effectively and using the correct baits, and rigs are more of importance than anything else.

It takes a lot of trial and error, but I assure you, you will eventually catch on and learn what works and what doesn’t work.

Point being, you can literally cycle through hundreds of options, but the best advice I can give is to learn one first and then move on. You can’t make an educated assumption about anything related to fishing for carp or in life without data. True story.

When you change the variables to often with fishing, you never know any real data that allows you to adjust your game plan and methods.

Stick with it and don’t give up until you have found a method that works for you.

Do any of you have any other baits and weird things that you have caught trophy carp with that you are willing to share? If so, please make sure to comment below.

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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