When any fish is removed from its home under water, it puts immense stress on the fish itself as well as its internal organs. The pressure of the water keeps everything inside the fish in place due to a process of almost neutral buoyancy as the water puts just enough pressure around the fish in the right proportions. It is therefore very important to not keep the fish out of the water for too long in order to limit these stresses.

You will perhaps be catching carp in excess of 40 lbs in the near future and these fish as well as the smaller ones deserve to be handled and treated with proper care. Smaller fish below 10 kg deserve the same proper treatment even if they are to be removed from the lake.

Specimen carp anglers are fanatic about fish care and safety as a whole because they have a passion for the sport they practise. They also enjoy and have respect for nature. Taking care of what nature has to offer them therefore becomes their primary concern through carp care and carp safety while practising the sport of specimen carp angling.

Let’s talk about carp safety:-

Carp safety starts with the tackle, rigs and bait you will be using for specimen carp angling as well as the spot you will be placing your line and rigs with bait. We use tackle and rigs that will be able to handle the huge forces wielded by huge carp fighting against the foreign object in their mouths and the tension of the line and sinker while they are being played by the angler. Carp safety is also very important while the fish is removed from the water and will be discussed later.

In order to use carp-friendly tackle the angler must be informed about the tackle he will be using as well as the correct way of setting up a rig so that it will not pose a hazard to the fish, should it swim into snags and/or the rig breaks free from the main line. To counter this problem the angler should look at the following:

1. If possible always have a small type of watercraft available to assist you in moving closer to obstacles to free your rig/line and/or fish when it gets snagged. Use a strong leader that is longer than the depth of the water you fish so that a snagged rig can easily be removed by pulling it free with the leader.
2. Do not fish near or over snags when using inferior fishing tackle. Take care not to place your main line over snags and rather use a floating line or attach ping-pong balls to the main line to keep it floating above snags. Do not try to fight fish through snags. If you fish over snags, always use a boat to fetch fish safely beyond it.
3. Do not fish too close to snags; rather feed 5 to 7 metres away from snags and feed small lines of feed from the snags to the feeding zone in order to lure the fish away from the snags to a safe distance for fishing. Keep close to your rods while waiting for a fish to bite in order to turn the fish away from snags as soon as possible. Have a boat on standby to fetch the fish if it perhaps gets snagged.
4. Don’t use rigs that will not be able to drop the weight if it breaks free from the main line. Rather use a safety clip to which the weight can be attached and easily dropped when a fish swims into snags or starts to fight against the weight.
5. Ensure that the hook link has a smaller breaking strain than the whole set-up in order for the hook link to break from the rig first.
6. Where possible refrain from using leader lines or leadcore as it could become a hazard when broken off or towed along by a fish if the hook link does not break first.
7. Your rig set-up should always be weaker than the main line or leader. If you want to fish with a heavier rig set-up you should also advance your main line to ultimately cater for a weaker rig set-up.
8. Use proper fishing rods that have a test curve of at least 3 to 3.5 lbs.
9. Use quality reels that have proper brake systems and operate smoothly.
10. With regard to bait and particles: Do not use bait or particles that may be hazardous to fish, such as uncooked peanuts, etc. (Please take note of the particle preparation guidelines at the end of this article.)

Let’s talk about carp care:-

Carp care is the core function of the specimen carp angler when the fish is removed from the water. Fish can be easily injured by foreign objects such as nets, rocks, ground and sticks (which damage and remove the scales and mucus) as well as the sun and air (drying out the skin).

To properly practise carp care (or care of any other fish for that matter) it is very important to use the correct basic carp-friendly equipment to limit the abovementioned problems. This includes:

1. a proper size carp-friendly landing net
2. a bucket of cool lake water
3. a proper-sized, padded unhooking mat that is wetted before placing the fish on it
4. a fish-hook disgorger or forceps to remove a hook that is difficult to get out
5. an anti-bacterial solution, like Klinik from Kryston or First Aid from Pelzer, to treat hook holds and other wounds
6. a proper-sized carp-safe weigh sling and weighing stand

Remember to clean all your carp-friendly equipment with clean water and perhaps an antibacterial solution after fishing to curb the spreading of diseases. It also feels great to start a new session with clean equipment being unpacked.

The following preparations and carp-safe suggestions should be taken to heart while the fish is being handled:

1. Always prepare your unhooking mat, other carp safe equipment and photo gear at the start of the session so that it would be in place before lifting the carp out of the water.
2. Choose a nice spot for your photographs beforehand.
3. When the carp is in the net the landing net arms can be folded together and the carp can then be carried to the unhooking mat.
4. Before you place the carp onto the unhooking mat make sure the mat is wet.
5. Leave the carp on the mat for a little while (not too long) and cover it with a wet carp sack until it has calmed down a bit.
6. Wet the fish from time to time to keep its skin moist.
7. Once it has calmed down it is hopefully ready for the photo session.
8. Pick up and hold the fish steady by sliding your wet hands underneath the fish and placing the pectoral and anal fins between your fingers. Don't pick up or hold the fish directly under its stomach because its intestines will be pressurised and may be damaged.
9. While posing with the fish, sit in a manner that is both comfortable for you to keep the fish steady and holding the fish over the unhooking mat.
10. If the carp has lost a scale it can be treated with an anti-bacterial solution.
11. If the light is too bad to take a photograph the carp can be sacked (one fish per sack) but for the shortest time possible until the light is good enough for photographing.
12. Traditional keepnet use is a big no-no as it hurts the fish badly by removing the scales and tearing the fins.
13. While shifting the fish from the landing net or shifting it over to the weigh sling take care not to let it slip from your hands or the unhooking mat.
14. When handling a difficult fish it can be turned on its back upon which it will normally stop struggling.
15. Take care of the fins so that they are not torn or broken while removing the fish from the landing net, weigh sling or while zipping up the weigh sling.
16. The purpose of the unhooking mat is to keep the fish safe from foreign objects and to serve as a safe cushion for the fish when it slips from your hands. However, it is not good for a carp to be dropped on even an unhooking mat. Therefore try to keep it under control and rather let it lie down again until it has calmed down.
17. Rather carry the fish on the carp mat or in the weigh sling to the water; never just use your hands.
18. Never put your fingers inside the gill plates of the fish or your thumb in its mouth because you will damage the gills.
19. Kindly release all carp weighing 10 kg and more. Smaller fish may also be released but there is no objection if an angler takes some of the smaller fish for personal use.
20. While letting the fish go keep your eyes on it until it disappears – after all, this is one of the greatest times while fishing!

By now you will realise that carp care as well as carp safety should form the basis of carp fishing and for that matter of any other facet of the freshwater angling sport. The use of carp-friendly equipment and proper carp care will at the end of the day ensure that the fish stays healthy, even after being removed from the water. Fish will not get sick or die but grow larger over time (when given the opportunity) to provide great joy for future generations.

Let’s talk about Bait:-

The use of a High Nutritional Value (HNV) Boilie is recommended to assist with proper carp growth and health. There are various products of reputable bait manufacturers available on the South African market for carp anglers that provide healthy and proper baits in different colors and odors to the taste of fish at any venue, i.e MCT Baits, Power Core Baits, Specimen, etc.

Boilie baits are mostly fishmeal - / milk -/ seed based with various attractants and proteins also mixed and sealed inside through the boiling process. The nutrients and odor inside a boilie are released through the hard outer shell of the boilie as it begins to soften when in the water. It is also much better digested by fish in its short intestine system than seeds and particles would be. These are mostly excreted in whole and appears while a fish is in the landing net or on the carp mat.

Particles and seeds are in general not as healthy as boilie baits and it will result in loss of weight experienced by fish when it is the primary baits used in a dam, especially in smaller lakes or ponds.

Particles must be well prepared / cooked because raw nuts / peanuts will kill the fish if consumed raw by fish.


Thanks to www.ccmoore.com for the following table:

Particle, Pre-soak minimum (hours), Boil/Simmer (minutes)
CHICK PEAS 12-18, 30
HEMP SEED 24, Until kernels split
LARGE HEMP SEED 24, Until kernels split
TARES 12-18, 30
MAPLE PEAS 12-18, 30
MILO 6, 30
PINTO BEANS 12-18, 30
SOYA BEANS 12-18, 30
BIRD MIXES * 6, 15
MAIZE 12-18, 30
RED MAIZE 24, 30

*Bird seed mixes must not contain peanuts when prepared; this may be hazardous to the fish. Prepare peanuts separately!


1. Hemp - during certain times of the year, when hemp becomes difficult to split, follow the above process and then wash it with fresh water, pour boiling water back onto it and leave it to soak in a bucket or pail until it splits (maybe a further 24-48hrs). Don’t panic it will split!
2. When any product is boiled or heat treated the molecular structure and nutritional profile (including attraction properties) are denatured and damaged. This means that the less boiling time required making the particles suitable for use, the better. However, it is vital to ensure particle baits are correctly prepared to avoid fish damage. Therefore, pre-soak particles for longer than usual, making required boiling times shorter.
3. To improve attraction properties, leave the boiled particles to soak and partly ferment in their naturally occurring sugars that remain in the boiling water. After several days certain particles will start to form a caramelizing liquid that makes the final particle much more attractive.
4. Tiny particles such as hemp, wheat, barley, dari, rapeseed, or mixes of tiny birdseeds, can also be prepared by putting in a lidded bucket or cool box overnight, with boiling water added.
5. Peanuts MUST be human grade; non-human grade nuts may contain the Aflotoxin fungus, which KILLS FISH. If in doubt, don't use them or buy peanuts from the Supermarket still in their shells.
6. Maximizing soaking times and minimizing boil times will result in better nutrient levels in the finished particles. Most particles can be soaked for up to a week before boiling. Additives should be added during the cool down process of 6 hours because it’s better absorbed during this stage as the smell and nutrients does not disappear like it would during the cooking process.

Safe equipment


Safety rigs used for Specimen Carp fishing

Use a proper soft and fish safe landing net

Use a Carp mat with proper sides for the fish to not slip from it

Pose properly with a trophy Carp while the mat is underneath it at all times

The proper way to weigh big Carp safely

Use even a small Carp mat rather than placing the fish directly on the ground where it will become dirty and be injured

Treat the hook holds on the fish with a proper anti-bacterial solution that is safe for fish


Preparation of Particles: Ensure that particles are well prepared and don't use particles or additives that could be harmful to fish

How to "sack" a Carp

The practice of specimen carp anglers to sack big carp is really a personal choice as some anglers do it and some don't. Some take a photo of the fish in any weather conditions, even in rain and at night, while some like to have clear trophy photos taken of their catches and sacking it while waiting for rainy weather to clear or for light of day. Sacking a big carp especially has the benefit to give it proper time (about 30 minutes) to recover after a long battle before being released. Acid build up due to stress can lead to the death of big carp after a quick catch and release. Sacking carp individually is also much safer for the fish than to put it in a conventional keep net with other fish. While a sacked carp will immediately go into "limp mode" to recover while being covered in darkness, fish in a keep net will many times keep on battling against the unnatural enclosed environment and get hurt easily. The use of a conventional keep net is thus not recommended.

The practice of removing a carp from the warmer water to very cold air during winter nights can really be dangerous to the fish because its eyes can suddenly freeze up and the gills can get a huge shock from the cold. In this case it may be better to sack the carp in the safety of the landing net without removing the fish from the water. The sacked fish can then be removed from the net and the cord of the sack tied to a secure pole or bankstick in deep enough water, while the angler waits for warmer weather the following day to take the fish out of the water to weigh and secure a trophy photo.

The following information serves as guidelines to sack carp safely:

1. Only sack carp if it is really necessary.

2. Decide right at the beginning of your session, where the best place will be in your swim, to sack the carp, if the need arises.

3. Use a proper carp sack; preferably with large enough holes/mesh so that water can pass through it easily. A sack that is made of too fine mesh material can actually hinder the carp's gills from opening and closing freely as it prevents water flowing through the material easily, making it hard for the carp to "breath".

4. Wet the carp sack before placing the fish in it. Make sure the sack is big enough to hold the carp and that the sack has a long properly secured cord, long enough so that the carp can reach deeper water when needed.

5. Make sure you have a VERY secure pole / bankstick etc. in the water to secure the carp sack to. If the sack comes loose during the night, it’s a dead carp for sure. Its good practice to add a marker float to your carp sack in case it comes off the securing line. Then at least you can see where it's swimming around and you can recover it again.

6. Ensure when lifting the carp up when in the carp sack, that its fins are tucked into its flanks/body.

7. If the water contains otters, other furry inhabitants, has a crab problem, etc. don’t sack the fish as it will surely be in danger. I've seen crabs make holes in a sack.

8. Always sack a carp in as deep as possible water. Do NOT sack a carp in shallow water, especially in the summer when the sun is out and the shallower water is normally low in oxygen.

9. Do not sack a carp overnight in weedy areas. During the day most types of weed / weed beds release oxygen (photosynthesis), but the opposite happens at night. A carp can actually "drown" if there is too little oxygen.

10. Always keep checking on the sacked carp to ensure its ok, upright, etc. If the carp is tilted onto its side, there is a problem! You need to take the carp out and nurse it back to full strength!

11. When lifting the carp sack out of the water for photos etc, make sure the carp is held securely, fins tucked in. The carp will most probably be very lively and you don’t want it to flip out of your hands and fall onto the hard ground.

12. After the session it is necessary to wash the carp sack in an antibacterial solution to curb the spreading of diseases from one fish / lake to another. It should also be done with your weigh sling and unhooking mat.

Please keep in mind that it is still safer for the fish to be released as soon as possible after capture rather than to be sacked. Enjoy your big carp fishing!

Sacking Carp


See to it that the carp's fins lay safely in the sack before closing it and picking up the sack. Use a good quality carp sack with an attached float that is large enough to hold the fish safely.

Use a Carp sack only when necessary for a tired-out fish to recuperate. It is rather better to immediately release a healthy fish than to keep it in a sack.