Freshwater Fish - Species

Common Carp - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Common carp

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)

The common carp is a large, robust fish with two barbels on each side of the upper jaw.  The body color can range from gray in young carp to a brassy green-gold in adults.  The scales are edged with a black spot at the base.  At the front of both the dorsal and anal fins, there is a strong spine-like ray. 

Range:  Statewide

Average Length:  3 feet

Average Size:  1 to 10 pounds

South Carolina State Record: 58 pounds (2000)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 20 years

Preferred Habitat

Common carp inhabit either standing or sluggish warm water over soft mud bottoms where vegetation is found. 

Food Habits

  • Worms, insect larvae, crustaceans and mollusks. 


  • Spawning for the common carp occurs from April to June.  Female carp produce on average 100,000 to 500,000 eggs that either attach to vegetation or sink to the muddy bottom.  Spawning activities are quite vigorous, stirring up sediment and often causing a commotion that can be heard. 


Common carp are native to Eurasia and were first introduced in to North American in 1831.  They were reintroduced widely in the 1880’s by the federal government as a food source.  Consequently, they now occur in nearly all 50 states. Their introduction has proven to be a serious mistake because of their destructive effect on habitat where they feed and spawn.  Carp can also adapt better than most fish to pollution.  This adaptability allows the common carp to outcompete other native species. 

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species are:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.