When it comes to summer fishing, the shy-biting, buttery-gold crucian carp is something of a cult species for coarse anglers.
Think of float fishing, lily beds and summer ponds and there are few species that capture the joy of fishing in July and August quite like the crucian carp. They might not be especially big (a two-pounder is an excellent fish), but have so much character.
Is it their cute looks we love most, or the distinctive, dizzy way they fight? Or, strangely, could it be the often frustrating, hard to hit bites that keep us coming back for more? Whatever the reasons, crucians are delightful fish to catch. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how to catch crucian carp, along details of current efforts to preserve this unique species.
1. Is it a “true cru”?
Before any talk of tackle and tactics, our first step is to track down one or two genuine crucian carp fisheries. Not always easy, because carp are so common these days and the two interbreed. The site www.crucians.org has a handy list as well as an ID guide, but you might need to ask around and do a little homework too.
2. Find the right spot
Crucians are seldom evenly distributed in stillwaters and tend to hug particular swims. They love margin spots with cover, in particular. Lily pads or places with overhanging shade are a classic. Don’t be shy like a crucian; ask the fishery owner or regulars where the best pegs are.
3. Float fishing rules
The float is not only the most pleasant way to catch crucians, but tends to be the best. Whether you are on pole tackle or running line, pick a sensitive model with a slender tip. Ok, so some deviants occasionally use method feeders. Rather like hunting rabbits with a rocket launcher, it works but it’s a bit ugly.
Two pole-caught fish for John Cheyne, from The Fishponds, near Malvern. The fish on the right is a true Crucian, but the one on the left may be a hybrid.
4. Plumb the depth with pedantic accuracy!
With crucians shy biting at the best of times, there is a huge difference between “that’ll do” and absolutely slap bang on the money. Investigate your swim carefully; just at the bottom of the marginal shelf tends to be good. Be fussy and make sure your bait is just about scraping the bottom.
In silty lakes, a heavy plummet can dig well into the bottom giving you a false reading, so sometimes a split shot or flat plummet is better. Marking the exact depth against your rod or pole is also a good idea.
5. Light, forgiving tackle
With small, quite delicate mouths, crucians are easily lost on heavy tackle. If you are pole fishing, try a relatively soft solid or hollow elastic around an 8 rating, set with a bit of give. If you’re using running line tactics, a rod with a fairly forgiving action is best; a traditional match rod is better than a modern carp-taming beast.
If you want to fool crucians, thicker lines and large hooks are a big no-no. Low diameter hooklengths of around 3lb breaking strain (0.12mm) are spot on. Pick a relatively fine-wired but strong hook in a small size; an 18 or 20 for maggot or caster, or perhaps a 16 for corn, pellet and meat.
6. Dot the tip right down
You’ll often only get tiny indications from crucians, so have as little tip showing as possible. If there’s too much to pull under, they can easily reject the bait.
7. Time your strike
While some bites are sailaways, many crucian takes are fickle. If the float tip moves and holds, try striking even if it hasn’t gone under. If you get a gentle lift bite, try striking! Every session is different though, so experiment. If you miss tiny bites try letting them develop; if bites won’t develop, try hitting them early.
8. Take a variety of bait
Crucians can be quite changeable in their bait preferences, so take at least three different options. Maggots or small worm sections can be excellent, but are sometimes not selective enough where there are lots of silver fish. Corn is another excellent bait, as are soft hookable pellets or tiny cubes of meat.
Two of the most underrated baits, though, are caster or hempseed. You can bury a fine hook right inside a caster, which is useful when they’re really picky. Lots of anglers feed hemp but never use it on the hook, so surprising them with a grain of hemp on a size 18 or 20 can also work a treat.
9. Feed delicately, but keep it going in
The way you feed can influence how crucians feed. Dumping in lots and then waiting is seldom as effective as trickling a bit in every cast. Hemp or micro pellets are ideal for an initial little bed of bait, followed by a pinch of feed every cast. Get the crucians competing with each other and you’ll get more positive bites.
10. Midday can be as good as dawn or dusk
The Angling Trust’s John Cheyne tries a shady margin spot for crucians.
Strangely enough, the classic dawn and dusk periods of the day aren’t always best for crucians. On waters with other species like tench, they tend to get bullied off the feed. Once it’s hot and their rivals go off the feed, however, they will quite often get in on the act. Don’t be too surprised, therefore, if you catch in the middle of a sunny day.
11. Best crucian carp rigs
The pole rig is king for crucians- and there’s nothing stopping you from using a pole float in conjunction with rod and reel! Try a slow fall rig with evenly spaced no.9 or no.10 shot; crucians will often react to the bait falling. Finally, make sure your last, tiny “tell tale” shot isn’t far from the hook. Having it just 2-3” away will help register shy bites quickly.
Above: A specimen fish of over 3lbs from the famous Marsh Farm Fishery (L). Margin fishing in a classic looking swim (R).
12. Lift and fall
Crucians are curious little fish that like a bit of movement. They’ll often home in on a bait as it falls to the bottom. If you’re not getting regular bites, try gently lifting and dropping your rig.
Enter the “Catch a Crucian” competition and win Bait Tech prizes!
There is no time like the present to get out there and net yourself a crucian carp. Take a great picture of your catch and you could even win a special prize with the Bait Tech and Angling Direct sponsored “Catch a Crucian Photo Competition” which runs right through to the end of August in 2018. See: catchacrucian.wordpress.com
Meanwhile, the Angling Trust’s Environment Agency supported National Crucian Conservation Project continues to help save the species and develop genuine stock and a wider range of fisheries where genuine crucian carp have a permanent home. For full details see the Angling Trust’s NCCP page.
Finally, for an exclusive feature on crucian carp fishing, Angling Trust members can enjoy a special article in the 2018 edition of “The Angler” magazine, out this summer.