Boasting nearly 1,000 total unique native and non-native fish species, North Carolina’s waters have something for just about every angler hoping to land their next big catch. Among the state’s more popular game fish is the common carp, an incredibly hardy and hefty species that also happens to be invasive. But North Carolina’s largest carp ever caught wasn’t just big–it was larger and heavier than your average beagle!
Keep reading to learn more about the Tarheel State’s most corpulent carp. We’ll also look at how it compares to the current world record and even some fun facts about the species!
A Brief Introduction to the Common Carp: Overview and Fun Facts
Despite its unfortunate reputation today as a pest in many parts of the world, the common carp has a unique history. Originally known as the Eurasian carp, this hardy fish is one of around 3,000 unique species in the carp family, Cyprinidae. This taxonomic family is one of the largest and most diverse among fishes, including most other carps and true minnows as well as barbs and barbels like the common barbel.
As its name implies, the Eurasian carp is native to parts of central and eastern Europe and West Asia. However, it’s been introduced to and domesticated in every single continent other than Antarctica, initially as a food fish starting sometime in the 13th century.
It wasn’t until 1831, however, that the carp made its way to the United States. Unfortunately, over time, the common carp became more of an invasive, troublesome pest than a convenient and tasty dish. Most anglers considered its rather earthy, muddy taste to be unpleasant.
Furthermore, the species is exceptionally hardy and opportunistic and grows rapidly, meaning it can easily outcompete native species and disrupt entire ecosystems. They also have a preference for destructive bottom-feeding. This increases water turbidity and uproots and destroys vegetation that would otherwise be an important food source for other fish and birds.
Today, the carp remains one of the world’s most invasive and overall destructive animals. It even gained a spot on the Global Invasive Species Database’s 100 World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species list in 2014. The database belongs to the IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group.
How Big Do Common Carp Get? Average Weight and Length
Though they are certainly capable of growing to abnormally large sizes, the majority of fully-grown common carp specimens average between just 4 and 12 pounds or so. Their average length can also vary significantly, with most individuals measuring between 12 and 30 inches long.
Common carp reach sexual maturity at around two to three years old. But they can grow continuously–and rapidly–for much of their lives. They also enjoy unusually long lifespans thanks to their hardy nature and commonly live to be anywhere from 20 to 40 years old.
These factors, along with the species’ opportunistic tendency to feed on just about anything it can fit into its mouth, contribute significantly to its ability to reach extraordinarily large sizes.
How Big Was the Largest Carp Ever Caught in North Carolina?
The record for the largest carp ever caught in North Carolina dates back to the 1980s! According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the record-holding specimen was caught on March 11th, 1986, by angler William Houston, Jr. There’s even a photo of a newspaper clipping covering the event of Houston, Jr. holding the fish, and it has to be seen to be believed!
As for the fish’s actual measurements, it weighed in at a whopping 48 and a half pounds. Unfortunately, no length or girth measurements are available for the specimen. However, it certainly appears exceptionally long and wide in the aforementioned photo. Houston, Jr. caught the downright enormous fish at Southern Mecklenburg Pond in central North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County. According to the newspaper article, the previous record for the largest carp caught in the state was 45 pounds.
Considering most beagles grow to be around 30 pounds, North Carolina’s largest carp wasn’t merely as big as a beagle. It was a bit bigger!
How Big Was the Largest Carp Ever Caught in the World?
Although the largest common carp ever caught in North Carolina is certainly towards the heavier end of the spectrum as far as carp go, the current world record blows it out of the water. Weighing in at an astonishing 112 pounds, 14 ounces, and measuring 49 inches in length, the largest carp ever caught worldwide was landed by Hungarian angler Michel Schoenmakers in 2018.
Schoenmakers caught the massive carp at Euro-Aqua Lake in Hungary. The lake is the site of the Euro-Aqua Carp Farm, owned and operated by Schoenmakers and his partner, Jacqueline Horvath. The farm has long been part of the pair’s family estate and is notable for breeding, especially large, record-breaking carp. The current world record also holds the unique distinction of being the lake’s–and the world’s–first-ever 50kg+ individual.
Incredibly, the Euro-Aqua Carp Farm is still aiming to produce even larger carp in the future. They even hope to break Schoenmaker’s eye-watering current world record in the coming years!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com
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