Silver Carp, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods and techniques.
The Silver carp are a variety of Asian carp native to north and northeast Asia. They are cultivated in China. The silver carp swim just below the water’s surface and are often disturbed by boat motors and will jump from the water when startled. They are also called the flying carp. They can grow to over 40 lb (18 kg), and can leap 10 ft (3 m) in the air. Silver carp have been cultured around the world, and in many countries are relied on heavily as a food source.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
The Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), also known as Tolstolob in Russia, is a species of freshwater cyprinid fish in the
family Cyprinidae, the minnow and carp family. They occur in several major Pacific drainages in eastern Asia from the Amur River of far eastern Russia south through much of eastern half of China to Pearl River, including northern Vietnam. Its current United States distribution includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
The silver carp is a deep-bodied fish that is laterally compressed. They are a very silvery in color when young and when they get older they fade from a greenish color on the back to silver on the belly. They have very tiny scales on their body but the head and the opercles are scaleless. There are between 95 and 103 scales in the lateral line. They have a large upturned mouth without any teeth in the jaw, but they have pharyngeal teeth. Its eyes are situated far forward on the midline of the body and are slightly turned down. Small specimens do not have spines on their fins, whereas large specimens have a hard, stiff spine with fine serrae on its posterior margin, at the front end of the pectoral, and moderately strong spines in their dorsal and anal fins. The dorsal fin origin is behind the pelvic fin insertion. There are 8 dorsal rays and 12-13 anal rays. The pharyngeal teeth count is 4-4. The gill rakers are fused into a sponge-like porous plate.
Silver carp can grow to over three feet in length and to nearly 100 pounds. This species is very similar to another exotic Asian carp found in the United States, the Bighead Carp. The silver carp is fairly uniform in color whereas the bighead has irregular dark blotches on its back and sides. The silver carp has a sharply keeled belly from the anal fin to the throat, whereas the bighead carp has a keeled belly from approximately its pelvic fins to the anal fin. They have as Bighead Carp low-set eyes below the mouth and large upturned mouths without barbells.
The silver carp is a filter feeder, and possesses a remarkably specialized filtration apparatus capable of filtering particles as small as 4 µm. The gill rakers are fused into a sponge-like filter, and an epibranchial organ secretes mucous which assists in trapping small particles. A strong buccal pump forces water through this filter.
Habitat and Habits
They live in freshwaters that are standing or slow flowing. Silver carp naturally occur in a variety of freshwater habitats including large rivers and warm water ponds, lakes, and backwaters that receive flooding or are otherwise connected to large rivers. Silver carp occupy the upper and middle layers of the water column. Silver carp are quite tolerant of broad water temperatures: from 4 °C to 40 °C. Silver carp are known to feed at water temperatures of 10 to 19 °C or sometimes even at temperatures lower than 4 °C. Silver carp can live in slightly brackish waters. Silver carp are rarely observed on the surface until disturbed. But once disturbed, silver carp are often swim rapidly near the surface creating a characteristic large wake.
Silver carp, like all Hypophthalmichthys species, have no stomachs; they are thought to feed more or less constantly. Silver carp are thought to feed largely on phytoplankton; they also consume zooplankton and detritus. Because of their plankton-feeding habits, there is concern that they will compete with native planktivorous fishes, which in North America include paddlefish, gizzard shad,
Bigmouth Buffalo, and young fish of almost all species.
Silver carp require bodies of water with some current for eggs and larvae to float downstream and develop properly. They spawned in small groups of 15 to 25 fish at dusk and dawn, at water temperatures of between 18-20°C from April to September. After 3 years they are mature enough to breed and will breed until their maximum age of 10 years old, male usually mature 1 year earlier than females. The reproductive potential of silver carp is high and increases with body size. The total fecundity of females usually 145,000-5,400,000 eggs for fish 3.18-12.1 kg. Females are slightly larger than males.
Silver carp are known to hybridize and to produce viable offspring with both bighead and large-scale silver carps. Large-scale silver carp are not known to be in the United States. Hybrids of silver and bighead carps are often used in aquaculture. Both crosses (bighead carp x silver carp and the reciprocal cross) are fertile. Hybrids of bighead and silver carps often strongly resemble one or the other of the parent species.
Silver carp are filter feeders, and thus are difficult to catch on typical hook and line gear. Special methods have been developed for these fish, the most important being the "suspension method" usually consisting of a large dough ball that disintegrates slowly, surrounded by a nest of tiny hooks that are not embedded in the bait. The entire apparatus is suspended below a large bobber. The fish feed on the small particles that are released from the dough ball and will bump against the dough ball, with the intention of breaking off more small particles that can be filtered from the water, eventually becoming hooked on the tiny hooks.
In some areas, it is also legal to use "snagging gear" in which large, weighted treble hooks are jerked through the water, to snag the fish. In the United States, silver carp are also popular targets for bow-fishermen; they are shot both from the water and from the air. In the latter case, boats are used to scare the fish and entice them to jump, and the fish are shot from the air when they jump.