Do Carp Feed or Bite at Night?
Although it is commonplace in the UK and Europe, one question many anglers have in North America is Can You Catch Carp at Night? In North America, we do not have easy access to stocked carp lakes with areas to camp all around them, but if you search long enough, there are some great spots here to Bivvy up and have a great session throughout the night.
Do Carp Feed or Bite at Night?
Yes, carp do feed and can be caught at night. In certain areas, they feed even more at night than during the day. Carp have a keen sense of taste and have no problem feeding in the dark. I tend to have greater success fishing at night since carp feel safer feeding due to less fishing pressure.
Growing up fishing for bass, pike, salmon and trout, I always fished during the daylight hours from dawn to dusk. I never even imagined fishing throughout the night. Over the twenty years that I have targeted carp since I have done many overnight sessions. During these sessions, I have discovered many tips and tricks (through trial and error) to increase catch rates and enjoyment while out on the bank in the dark.
I regularly note on my underwater camera that carp feed voraciously in the few hours after sunset and the few hours before sunrise. Although carp tend to be active all night long, these are the busiest times for night takes.
Where Do Carp Feed at Night?
The great thing about carp is that they can become accustomed to different feeding patterns depending on their past experiences. If they continually get caught in a specific location during the day but feed there safely at night, they will adapt to feeding there only in the dark. So if you’ve fished an area during the day and had no luck but noticed many other anglers there, perhaps try targeting carp there at night.
Some of the best places to target carp at night are locations that are busy during the day. Marinas, break walls, beaches, etc. All shallow areas close to shore are feeding hot spots at night. Carp spook easily during the day when many people are about when darkness falls, the fish feel more comfortable and come into these nearshore areas in droves.
I regularly target one location that is easily accessible, which means it sees a lot of fishing pressure during the day. I was curious as I often saw fish surfacing, but not many were caught. I took my underwater camera down to investigate. I noticed quite a few carp swimming around from dawn to dusk, but many weren’t feeding, even when my free bait was offered. Most fish were suspended about 3 – 4 feet off the bottom and just seemed to be cruising and seeing what was available.
When I checked the next morning, to my surprise, all the bait I had put in was gone. I baited the area again and planned to return after sunset to see if the fish acted differently.
That evening when I returned, I quietly lowered my camera down along with a light. To my surprise, there were a bunch of fish nose down munching away, seemingly oblivious to my camera. Their behaviour was completely different than what I had witnessed during daylight hours. They no longer spooked at the slightest movement and had no fear of committing to the free bait that was going in. I watched in amazement as pod after pod of carp rolled in on the spot in a constant stream. Needless to say, targeting carp at this location in the dark became one of my most rewarding experiences.
What Do Carp Eat at Night?
Naturals – The underwater world comes alive at night. All invertebrates, small minnows, worms, snails, crayfish, zebra mussels and other prey species tend to hide during the daylight hours. Under the cover of darkness, these smaller species feel safer and come out to forage for food, making them an easy target for carp.
As I covered in greater detail in this article on What Carp Eat in the Wild, I noted that carp have a keen sense of taste; they can hone in on natural food sources without needing to see what they’re eating. This is why most of the great carp fishing locations can be found in murky or dark conditions.
Aside from natural foods that carp feed on at night, I will quickly touch on what baits have worked well for me in the past.
What is The Best Bait for Carp Fishing at Night?
I’ve tested many different baits during the night while targeting carp and find two aspects are key:
- Highly Visual Baits – I mentioned above that carp can find their food very easily without having to see it. However, a highly visual bait will always give an angler an added edge, especially if there is ambient light such as a full moon or nearby street lights, it doesn’t take much light to make a bright-coloured bait pop and be the most visible item on the bottom.
- Boosted Hookbaits – Added attraction will always help as carp will hone in on the heaviest concentrations of attraction on the bottom. Be sure to use boosted hook baits or liquids directly on your bait, especially if fishing over a large bed of bait.
Some of my favourite bait colours for carp fishing at night are High-Viz Fluoro, White and Yellow. All three of these baits excel at reflecting their colour even in low light conditions. As for pre-baiting, a cheap alternative to boilies is a mix of corn and chickpeas, and both are highly visual and irresistible to carp.
How to Bait Accurately for Carp at Night?
There are a few tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years to keep your swim topped up with bait at night; it can seem like an entirely different world at night. If wind and rain are thrown into the mix, it can be downright miserable!
Find Landmarks Before Dark
Before the sun sets, quickly scan the horizon. Be on the lookout for anything that stands out. A housetop, tall tree, mountain, marker buoy; any landmark such as this will help you hone in on the spot you need to aim at to be able to hit your mark accurately. I am fortunate with some of my favourite nightspots; one has a street light and the other a marker buoy with a flashing light. I bait spots at a certain distance in front of these, so it is easy to top up the area when I get a run in the middle of the night.
Use PVA Mesh or Pack Bait
Tie up some PVA mesh sticks or prepare some pack bait before nightfall. This is the method I use most often throughout the night. A small offering with each recast will usually top up the swim enough to keep the fish in the area interested.
Set Multiple Rods to the Proper Distance
Use the line clip on your carp fishing reel to ensure all rods are set to cast to the same distance. In my experience, it is best to set up multiple rods at the proper distance. If I have a fish crack off or a major tangle in my line, I can quickly switch to another rod and sort out the mess in the morning.
Deploy Illuminated Marker Poles
I reserve his tactic for important sessions such as multi-day tournaments and competitions and only when fishing at extreme range. You can purchase buoyant marker floats that have a light on top. I wouldn’t recommend dropping these directly on top of your spot but rather multiple yards behind it or to the side. This tactic will aid greatly when using a boat to bait your spot and drop rigs on it as well.
Carp Fishing at Night – Preparation is Key
Before attempting your first overnight carp fishing session, there are a few things to take into consideration. Preparation is of utmost importance; fumbling around in the dark can be quite frustrating, sometimes hazardous and waste a lot of time.
Scout During Daylight Hours
It is best to scout out the location you will be targeting during the daylight hours.
Find the Carp
The most important thing you should look for is where the carp are active and feeding; this can be determined easily by scanning the surface for swirls, jumps and splashes, and murky water that has been disturbed by foraging fish or dislodged vegetation.
Make Note of Prominent Landmarks
Most anglers often overlook this step. After I locate the fish and find a suitable area for camp, I always make sure to note features or landmarks on the horizon that will be identifiable during the night hours. Whether it be a hydro line, mountain, tree, house, light, etc., as stated above, it will help to have an area to landmark for recasting during the night.
Find a Suitable Area to Set Up Camp
Assuming you’re fishing in a location that allows anglers to set up camp along the shoreline and spend the night. During daylight hours, find suitable ground to set up your bivvy and gear. Be sure to pick a location that is relatively free of tripping hazards, as you won’t need that added challenge while attempting to land a fish in the dark.
Scan Your Chosen Swim for Hazards
The last step I take when scouting a location is to note any snags or obstacles that I may have to deal with during the night. It is best to set up and avoid these areas at night time. During the day, it would be easy to hop in the boat and zip out to land fish around these areas, but I usually do all my angling from shore at night time. I don’t like being out in the boat at night, especially if weather conditions deteriorate.
Prepare Terminal Tackle Beforehand
Much like myself, I’m fairly certain the majority of carp anglers prepare their rigs and kit before any carp fishing session. I’ve noted it’s almost like an addiction that carp anglers have above all others, perhaps due to the vast amount of rigs and terminal tackle we employ to target carp in all sorts of different conditions. However, we all have that one friend that is still fumbling through his kit and hastily tieing rigs while everyone else is set up and properly fishing.
Sharpen hooks, pre-tie rigs, bait a few rigs, so they’re ready to go, pre-tie PVA bags and sticks, so they’re ready for an easy recast in the wee hours of the night and ensure all these items are in a readily available location.
Bait Up Your Swim
If you decide to pre-bait the area for a few days before your overnight session, be sure to do it in the hours you will be fishing. If you bait it up during the daylight hours, the fish will become accustomed to feeding at that time. It is best to bait the area for a few days in a row before you fish at or around the time you will be fishing if possible.
Sleep While You Can
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to sleep while you can! On some occasions, the bite will start and not stop, although in other parts of the world, to have one or two fish throughout the night would be considered a good session.
Here in Canada, it can be downright exhausting if the fish are on the feed. In prime weather and peak summer conditions, one can have 30 + fish throughout the night. If you’re on a long multi-day/night session, it can be beneficial to sleep during the mid-day hours when temperatures are high and carp activity low.
Now that I am a father and have young children to entertain throughout the daylight hours, I tend to do most of my fishing in the dark. Once they’re in bed for the night or early before they wake are my prime fishing times.
Be Aware of Night Time Visitors
Here in Canada, the wildlife at night is much different than during the day. Nocturnal animals such as skunks, raccoons, possums and even bears could sneak up quietly in the middle of the night. In more northern areas such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I would think twice about setting up camp with buckets full of sweet-smelling carp bait. I have had encounters with black bears before while fishing on the bank and wouldn’t want to experience that again, especially in the dark.
Raccoons are almost as destructive as bears, although not as dangerous. When I participated in the 2018 Canada Carp Cup, a multi-day tournament in Canada, we were plagued by a troop of marauding raccoons. The first night we were underprepared and lost two full buckets of prepared maize!
Is it Legal to Fish for Carp at Night?
Yes, providing you have the proper permission to set up for an overnight session. It is easy in the UK because you can purchase a ticket to set up and fish for multiple days at certain carp-specific venues. Here in North America, it is a much different situation.
*Note: Always check the local rules and regulations of the area you plan to fish at night. Certain areas prohibit nighttime fishing.*
Carp Fishing at Campgrounds at Night
If you can find a campground on a water body with carp in it, it is much the same as the UK. Purchase your camping permit, and you’re good to go. Just beware, many campgrounds have strict rules on noise and disturbing others. As some campsites tend to be adjacent to each other, your bite alarms can be quite irritating to other campers. Silent mode is highly recommended. If you’re unable to find a campground, you’re stuck looking for permission to fish on someone’s private property or crown land.
Carp Fishing in Town Parks at Night
The majority of the locations I like to target are town parks, most of the shoreline around my area is privately owned, and town parkland is the only shoreline left to access. Town parks are day use only and usually have strict rules about no camping, so I tend to do overnight sessions from my boat.
Carp Fishing from a Boat at Night
If you own a boat, you pretty much have a free pass to fish anywhere. When you anchor for the night, be sure not to block any major channels and have the proper lights on your boat. The only cost that comes with boat fishing is usually a launch fee or parking fee at some boat launches. If you can afford a boat, this is definitely the easiest way to fish at night; check weather and wave forecasts beforehand. If the weather is going to be bad, I would recommend finding a spot onshore.
Lighting 101 for Carp Fishing at Night
Having the proper light while carp fishing can be one of the most important aspects. There are many different types of lights out there, and some are more suited for certain tasks than others. I have three main lights that I never go fishing without. The bivvy light, my headlight and camp light.
The Bivvy Light
There are many different bivvy lights on the market, and many of them are high quality and get the job done. The bivvy light that I use is the Sonik SKS Alarm Bivvy Light. This light is perfect; it has super bright LED lights and easy to replace batteries. It is compatible with my Sonik SKS Bite Alarms, so as soon as I get a take, it lights up the colour of the alarm that has the bite. (Red, Blue or White). This feature allows me to find my boots and headlight as soon as I have a take, no more fumbling to turn my bivvy light on to see where things are.
The Head Light or Head “Torch”
My most important light on any session. This light is a must-have for finding your rod in the dark and fighting fish all the way to the net. Once the fight is over, it also helps with finding all the pieces of kit required to rebait your swim and get a new rig out on the spot.
The Camp Light
This is the light I use when prepping meals, setting up camp, taking pictures, cleaning up and other general nighttime camp duties. It is a brighter light that lights up more area than a headlight or bivvy light. It acts more like a spotlight to aid in making quick work of tasks around the camp and quick night pictures when a fish is on the bank. It plugs directly into my power banks because it uses more energy and would burn through batteries in no time.
If you’re interested in what exact products I use or recommend, head on over to our Carp Fishing Gear Reviews page, where I put together honest reviews of kit, I’ve used in the past. Speaking of gear, I will finish this article with a short overview of essential pieces of equipment you should use for night fishing.
Essential Gear for Carp Fishing at Night
Aside from the regular pieces of carp fishing kit you need, such as rods, reels, rigs, pods, etc. There are some additional items you should look into when thinking of doing an overnight session targeting carp on the bank.
I’ve slowly added these pieces of kit to my setup over the years. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it without them; they make things so much easier and more comfortable on the bank.
For years I just used my old mountain equipment co-op tent for carp fishing. I just couldn’t find the right bivvy with all the features that I wanted. I’m glad I waited as long as I did because I am pleased with the Sonik AXS Bivvy I finally purchased. It checked all the boxes for ease of use, comfort, ventilation, quick setup, etc.
A bivvy is one of the major purchases a carp angler can make; it’s even harder for those here in North America because we don’t have access to trade shows to see them firsthand. We rely on online reviews that we hope are honest and make a special order in hopes it will be the product we imagined it would be.
No more zipping / unzipping a tent, worrying about it leaking or getting wet, blowing over in the wind and worst of all, sticking out like a sore thumb while tucked in along the bank. Carp Fishing Bivvies are much easier to use and look much carpier as well.
Bedchair + Sleeping Bag (and don’t forget the pillow)
No brainer here, but this is another piece of kit I put off for far too long. I can’t count the number of uncomfortable nights I spent sleeping on the ground. A proper bed and sleeping bag make my overnight sessions 100% more enjoyable. Aside from comfort, the good nights’ rest is well worth the price of an upgrade as well.
I’d say on 50% of my overnight sessions; I am terrible at remembering to bring a pillow. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve slept on a balled-up hoodie or towel. My neck always regrets it the next morning. There are many compact camping pillow options on the market, and I’m glad I purchased one that folds up into my sleeping bag; now I’m never without it.
As I touched on above, lights are an important piece of kit for any overnight carp session for many reasons. At the moment, I use three main lights on my overnight sessions, but if I could find one that suited all three needs, I would definitely upgrade.
Cooking and Meals
A small portable stove is a great item to have. I went with a bulky Coleman stove for many years. With some of the remote areas, I fish it’s worth buying the more compact stoves. A hot cup of coffee or tea goes a long way to improve spirits on those long sessions where fish are hard to come by. A small stove also has the advantage of running for a longer duration on a smaller bottle of fuel.
A quality cooler is another important item for longer sessions. I have a cheap cooler that does the job for now, but for one of my next upgrades, I am looking to get a small powered cooler. Technology has come a long way over the recent years with power banks becoming more powerful and compact. I’m just waiting for the right size solar or power bank powered cooler to come along, then I will be set.
Essential Carp Care Equipment
If you’re successful and do catch a carp at night, you will most likely want a photo of it. Taking photos during the day can be tricky, but at night there are even greater challenges. Some simple pieces of carp fishing gear will aid in getting the perfect shot if you do land a fish of a lifetime in the dark.
Carp Fishing Slings or Keep Sacks
Slings or keep sacks are essential if you catch a carp in the early hours of the morning and want to hold it for a little while until the sun rises.
I wouldn’t recommend holding carp in slings or keep sacks for long durations. It is much better to have the proper lighting set up for pictures throughout the night. On some occasions where you land fish in the early hours of the morning, holding the fish in a keep sack or sling will not harm the fish at all.
There are many great options out there; these products are basically the same as a live well in a boat. Just be sure to make sure water and weather conditions are optimal for fish health and safety.
As you can, there are many difficulties and challenges while carp fishing at night, but if you’re prepared and have some simple pieces of kit, it can be a very rewarding and exciting experience.