When you’re fishing for carp, a situation can arise where you need to keep the fish in a safe place for several minutes or sometimes up to hours. This is unheard of with other species of sports fish. Most anglers are used to using a live well in fishing tournament situations and are unaware of any alternatives on how to retain carp.
Carp angling tournaments differ significantly due to the fact that instead of fishing from a boat equipped with a live well, you’re stationed on shore at a designated location or “peg.” The other key difference is that instead of taking your catch to a designated weigh-in area, the carp fishing tournament marshalls will visit each peg to weigh the fish that have been caught.
How Do You Keep Carp Alive During Tournaments?
The simplest way to keep carp alive during tournaments is to keep them in a keep sack that is tethered to shore. Certain factors such as weed thickness, water temperature, water depth and most importantly safety of the fish should be taken into consideration when holding a carp for any length of time.
Many other factors should be considered when keeping carp confined to a keep sack or retention sling for any period. This article will detail the ins and outs of holding carp for longer periods to help educate anglers on carp care and safety.
Situations Where You May Need to Keep Carp Retained Before Releasing Them
Carp anglers are faced with a few certain situations that differ from other anglers. It is handy to have ways to store and hold carp before releasing them as it is healthier for the fish.
Night Fishing for Carp
On overnight sessions, anglers can safely hold carp in a keep sack if they wish to wait until dawn to photograph their catch. I wouldn’t recommend this tactic if the fish is caught in the early portions or middle of the night. It is best to take a picture in the dark and release the fish as soon as possible. I would reserve this tactic for only those fish caught within the first few hours before sunrise.
When you Have a Double Take or Multiple Runs at Once
If you fish in a location that allows the use of more than one rod at a time, you may be lucky enough to experience the “double take.” You’re fighting one fish in the heat of battle, and your second rod screams off. It can be very helpful to land one fish quickly, hold it either in your landing net, move it to a retention sling, and then land the second fish.
Tournament Fishing for Carp
Anglers will be positioned on shore at designated pegs during multi-day carp fishing tournaments. Tournament officials will visit each peg multiple times throughout the event to weigh any fish that have been caught. While waiting to be weighed, carp will be held in retention slings or keep-sacks depending on the length of time it will take for tournament officials to arrive.
When Preparing Your Camera, Scales, Mat and Carp Care Equipment
You’ve just made it to your swim, baited up and cast out your rods. The trap is set, but the right-hand rod rips off before you can set up the rest of your kit! Not to fear, after you net the fish, simply pin the net to shore with the fish resting in the water and take a few minutes to properly set up your gear before removing it from the water.
If You’re Fishing with Friends on the Same Lake
Carp fishing is a very social sport. You’ve just landed a monster of a fish and would like to share it with your friends that are fishing nearby. Before heading out to get them, be sure the fish is safely tethered to shore in either a keep sack or weigh sling, depending on the amount of time that you will be away.
Carp Fishing Gear that is Designed to Retain Carp While Keeping Them Healthy and Safe
Most anglers in North America and even myself before I discovered carp angling
I doubted some of the methods that carp anglers use to keep carp alive in different situations, but since I’ve purchased the gear, I have yet to have a fish perish while using it. Some pieces of equipment work better than others which I will outline below.
Carp Keep Sacks
- Basically a soft mesh bag with a zipper on one side. A tether cord can be attached to an anchor point on one of the corners of the bag.
- Best used with a longer tether to ensure the carp can reach deeper water where the temperature is more desirable. If the carp can hide in deeper water, they’re calmer and less stressed by shore movement
- The ideal method for keeping carp for longer durations. The only time I would keep a carp in a keep sack for longer than an hour would be in a tournament situation while waiting for marshalls to arrive.
- My greatest fear is having the retention cord come loose and having a fish drift away in the sack. I usually double up my retention cords and ensure they’re secured to a tree, rock or large bank stick.
Carp Landing Nets
- If you do not have a keep sack or retention sling, you can always keep carp for a short duration in your landing net. Carp landing nets are designed with large long mesh netting, this is so fish can be held temporarily in the net while you ready your gear on shore.
- This method ensures the water is deep enough for the fish to sit comfortably upright. It is better to have deeper water close to shore if you use this method.
- Bank sticks can be a handy tool in these situations. If I leave my net unattended to set up on shore, I always make a point to drive a bank stick into the spreader block of my landing net to secure it in place.
- If the water is very shallow right next to the shore, another tactic is to set up two longer bank sticks in slightly deeper water. Attach two butt grippers to the bank sticks, and you have a makeshift landing net holder where the carp can rest comfortably.
Carp Retention Slings
- Designed to be used for temporarily holding carp. Retention slings are larger than keep sacks. They have two rigid poles on either side of the top that are buoyant. The two poles hold the retention sling open, creating a box out of the mesh.
- Retention slings usually come equipped with a zipper that runs up one side across the top and down the opposite side. This allows anglers easier access to the fish and the ability to easily release the fish out of the end of the sling when finished.
- Retention slings shouldn’t be used for more than 30 minutes. They are buoyant and rest on the surface of the water, temperatures are much higher than when using a keep sack, so fish shouldn’t be held for as long.
- One major benefit to using retention slings over keep sacks is that they float. If the tether does let go, the fish will float off but still be retrievable.
- If you’re lucky enough to own a boat equipped with a live well, this can be the optimal way to hold carp. Just be careful not to put more than one carp in your live well at a time. The carp will thrash and possibly injure each other.
- One major downside to live wells is that some will not be big enough to hold carp. Carp can grow quite large if they have reliable food sources. In these circumstances, it is recommended to use a keep sack or sling beside your boat for fish safety.
Carp Fishing Tips to Ensure Fish are Happy and Healthy While Being Retained
I’m sure no carp will ever be truly happy about being retained in a keep sack or retention sling, but there are some key tactics we as carp anglers can employ to ensure that they’re healthy and endure the least amount of stress possible.
Hold Fish for the Least Amount of Time as Possible
- No picture is worth more than the health and well-being of the fish. If in doubt of the fish’s health, be sure to release it and forego the picture. It is best to let the fish go to fight another day.
- Generally, I only retain carp for 20 minutes or less. If I’m not set up to get my rig back out, snap a few quick pictures and weigh the fish within that time frame, I catch and release the fish as soon as possible. As mentioned above, the only situation where I keep them longer is in carp tournaments.
Stiff Penalties for Injured Fish During Tournaments
- If you can’t safely keep a fish in a tournament situation or see its health deteriorating, be sure to take it out of the keep sack and allow the fish to recover before releasing it. In most carp fishing tournaments, stiff weight penalties will be applied, and even disqualification from the event may occur for any mistreatment of the fish.
- If you catch a large carp during a tournament, notify officials as soon as possible. They will make an effort to visit pegs with larger fish first as larger fish tend to stress easier than the smaller ones.
Be Wary of Predators
- Although carp have few natural predators once they reach a certain size, they make an easy target for some animals when held in keep sacks. Always be on the lookout for predators such as otters and mink. I have even had an experience with a snapping turtle that chewed a hole in my keep sack while a carp was in it.
Be Mindful of Water Conditions where Carp are Being Retained
- Water Depth – Ensure that the water is deep enough to allow carp in keep sacks and retention slings to sit upright. For extended periods in keep sacks, be sure that the tether cord is long enough that fish can swim away to deeper, cooler water.
- Water Temperature – In peak summer conditions, water temperatures near shore or the surface in direct sunlight can be too warm for carp and cause undue stress. Be mindful of water temperatures where you keep the fish.
- Wave Action – If the water is shallow where the fish are being held, it is best to release them as prolonged exposure to strong waves and currents can tire the fish and possibly injure it in rocky locations.
Create Quick Clips Pre-Tied to Your Keep Sack Tethers
- When I first started to retain carp in keep sacks, I would tie them to a tree with a piece of rope. I’m sure this made me look like an amateur in carp fishing tournaments, fumbling with knots, tieing and untieing multiple sacks per visit from the officials. I have since made some quick clip tethers. I use a 12-foot piece of paracord. I simply tie a carabiner to either end and now clip the keep sacks to a bank stick on shore.
Keep Your Carp Care Gear Clean
- One final tip is to be sure to wash your keep sacks, landing nets and retention slings between sessions. Especially if you are fishing multiple bodies of water. It will help prevent diseases or plant and animal species spread between lakes and rivers.
Where to Buy Specialty Carp Care Equipment?
Finding carp care equipment in North America can be tricky, but more and more stockists are popping up online. Some great stores in the United Kingdom also ship quite quickly to North America. For a detailed list, check out our Carp Care Equipment Recommended Gear Page for more information and sources.
While using keep sacks and retention slings to hold carp for longer durations, I have yet to see any ill effects on the fish themselves. In my experience, carp have always had lots of energy when handled and released after their time in confinement.