Crucian carp are a medium sized coarse fish found throughout Europe. They are a fascinating species and have interbred with other species such as the common carp to form the sought out F1 carp.
Crucian carp are an incredibly hardy but shy species of fish. We adore this fish and I’m sure many anglers out there do too!
Crucian carp (scientific name Carassius carassius) are a freshwater species of the Cyprinidae family.
Many of you will be familiar with this family as it includes barbel, roach and common carp. In the UK the fish if called crucian carp, or more affectionately “crucians”.
Crucian carp have a history of being mis-identified. They have been linked to goldfish, common carp and gibel carp. There have even been reports of goldfish and gibel carp as being subspecies of crucian carp.
Crucian carp are a beautiful fish and are sometimes used in aquariums. They can also be occasionally found in outdoor garden ponds but their cousins the koi seem to be more popular.
Crucian carp have formed several hybrids with other members of the Cyprinidae family. They are known to interbreed with common carp to create “F1 carp”. F1 carp would form naturally in the waters where the two species would naturally interbreed.
As the demand for F1 carp has grown, they are now artificially bred on a large scale to supply fisheries.
There are probably many F1 carp which are misidentified as a goldfish and common carp cross breed, rather than crucian carp. It is difficult to distinguish between brown crucians and goldfish.
Other hybridisation occurs between crucian carp and goldfish. These hybrids are sometimes very difficult to identify but usually their colouration would be different from ordinary crucian carp.
To make things more complicated, there may even be hybrids which have bred with hybrids, for example F1 carp could interbreed with and crucian carp-goldfish hybrid.
These would be very difficult to distinguish but there might be interesting coloured and looking fish out there!
Crucian carp were an important food in Western Europe (along with many other coarse fish) in days gone by. This seems to have fallen out of favour, however in other parts of the world these fish are still readily consumed.
Together with their cousins Carassius gibelio which is mainly found in Asia (which are also called crucian carp), both species are heavily farmed in aquaculture for the table. There have even been reports that this is the 9th most popular farmed fish in the world.
Countries which really rate crucian carp (both species) as an eating fish include Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, China, Serbia, Japan, Moldova and Finland, amongst others.
In Poland crucian carp are thought to be the most delicious fish, and religious events are centred around the eating of this species.
Distribution and Habitat
Crucian carp (those with the scientific name Carassius carassius) are native to Northern Europe and Central Europe. They can be found as far east as Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey, as far south as Italy, as far west as the UK, and as far north as Sweden, Finland and Siberia.
There was widespread belief that crucian carp were introduced to the UK from Germany in the 18th Century, however this was found to be false and crucian carp are native to the Southern UK.
Although they are native to the Southern UK, they have been introduced across all of England (not Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales), most likely to move carp to different areas for anglers to enjoy.
Crucian carp can survive in a large variety of freshwater environments. They can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds and ditches. They tend to prefer slower moving or still water.
Crucian carp are shy fish and will only be found in the quieter and less boated canals. Crucian carp prefer water with a lot of submerged vegetation on the bottom of the water.
They can tolerate brackish waters in some of the Eastern Europe countries and Russia.
Crucian carp are an incredibly hardy species and it’s difficult to compare this to another coarse fish which can endure such hardship.
There have even been reports for crucian carp surviving outside of the water for a few and even up to several hours. They will tolerate extremely muddy water and water with low oxygen.
Even if the water dries after a drought and there is mud remaining, they can submerge themselves in the mud and can re-emerge once the rains refill the water. Crucians carp can tolerate very high temperatures.
They can tolerate incredibly cold water, and if the water ices over they will reduce their metabolism, sometimes for months. Crucian carp tolerate polluted water. They are sometimes the only fish remaining in habits which have been severely affected.
Crucian carp have a dense, deep and flattened body. They have a humped back and look somewhat compressed and stocky. They have average sized heads and relatively large mouths.
The lateral line scale count is 31 – 35. Crucian carp have a distinctive dorsal fin with is long and convex.
Their colour differs depending on the age of the fish the younger fish are a bright bronze or dark golden colour. As they age they become darker and have grey, green flanks which lead to pale yellow or white bellies. Their pelvic and anal fins can be a slightly red colour which contrasts nicely with the colour of the fish.
Crucian carp have several similarities with other carp species and other Cyprinidae species, however there are some differences. Unlike other members of the family, crucian carp do not have barbules on their mouths.
There may be some hybrids with one barbule on the side of their mouths. Crucian carp also tend to be smaller and have a more “squatish” look.
It is said that crucian carp can change their body shapes to match their environment. For example, if predators such as pike and perch are present, crucian carp will make their bodies rounder so that predators struggle to eat them.
Crucian carp are not long fish, the average size ranges from 6 – 12 inches (approximately 15 to 30 cm). You will probably be able to find larger specimens in prime habitats and conditions.
Crucian carp average 8oz to 1lb 8oz in weight. The British record stands at 4lb 4oz from 2015.
The average lifespan of crucian carp is 8 to 10 years, although there may be older specimens in prime locations.
How they Feed
Crucian carp are omnivorous. They are a shoaling fish and can be found in shoals with other fish of a similar size, age and weight.
Crucian carp are primarily bottom feeders, where they sift through the mud and silt looking for food. They will also fish in the middle of the water if the food is available. They are known to take food from the surface for insects.
Crucian carp are not fussy with what food they eat. They are known to eat crustaceans, plants in the water and insect larvae. They are known to feed on aquatic weeds, snail eggs and leeches.
Crucian carp reach sexual maturity at different times, depending on the location. The fish in warmer waters will reach maturity faster than those in cold waters. In general, male crucian carp reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2 to 5, and the females one year after that.
Crucian carp are batch spawners. Spawning is determined by the environment as they will start to spawn when the temperature reaches between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius. This is usually in the months of April to June.
The females lay adhesive eggs over vegetation. Once they have stuck to the vegetation the males will fertilise them. Healthy females can produce up to 100,000 eggs per kilogram of weight.
The eggs are 1.5mm in diameter and are a pale orange or yellow in colour. The number of batches each season ranges from one to three.
The juvenile crucian carp emerge after around 4 days. They will remain attached to the vegetation until they have consumed their yolk sac which usually takes a further 3 days. The young will then swim off and will feed only on plankton until they grow when they will have a more omnivorous diet.
How to Catch Crucian Carp
Pure crucian carp are a very desirable fish to catch. There may be several hybrid varieties so to find fisheries which only stock purebred crucian carp can be difficult to find.
Crucian carp will swim around in their shoals looking for food. You should try to find areas where their bait would be to target them effectively. Good areas include lilies, weed beds, reeds, overhanging trees and the shallower areas of the water.
Crucian carp shoals are shy and easily spooked. Be careful not to make too much noise around the bank and try to keep your shadow from casting onto the water.
In terms of bait, as stated above you will probably know that crucian carp will eat just about anything, however they are shy biters. Popular carnivorous baits include maggots (try to get fresh wriggling ones), casters, pinkies, red worm, bloodworm, chopped worms and luncheon meat.
Other plant based baits which have proven successful include bread (flake or paste), sweetcorn and cheese.
Crucian carp can be caught using a variety of methods. You could try float, feeder or ledger, however in our view float is the most successful method which we have used. Try float fishing off of the bottom or near to weeds where the fish are likely to be.
Crucian carp are relatively small so light tackle is all that is required here. You will need a rod which is sensitive enough to pick up light bites and a slender tip. It would be a good idea to go for floats which do not require shot.
Self-cocking floats and quills would be excellent here as well as small pole floats. The shotting patterns will need to be able to show the very delicate bites which this species give.
We wouldn’t recommend heavy groundbait with crucians as this can overdo it. We think little and often is the way to go and you should try to get the shoal to compete for the food and they are likely to be more determined to go for your hookbait.
Take a good range of bait as you may find crucian carp change their tastes from time to time.
Crucian carp are extremely shy in their shoals. They are not particularly greedy feeders. They tend to play with the bait and will mouth it rather than taking it decisively. You need to keep on your toes and strike at the slightest hint of a bite on the float.
You may miss a couple of fish this way, but you are likely to have a much higher chance overall with crucians.
As you have read above, crucian carp are hardy and determined creatures but they will still need care out of the water.
Make sure you have a good landing net on hand to land the fish (at least as large as the fish). Do not lift the fish out of the water with the rod and line as this could damage the fish if they wriggle off of the hook (or if they are foul hooked). Do not drag the fish on the bank but lift it out of the water onto a good unhooking mat.
Crucian carp are nervous with bait and are unlikely to swallow it whole. Deep hooking is not as common as it would be with other species such as perch, however it is always recommended to have a disgorger on hand on the off chance.
This is a truly remarkable fish so take the time to appreciate these determined and magnificent species.
If you would like more information on how to fish for crucian carp, or would like some further information on angling techniques, check out our fishing tips page for more information!