How to hold a carp correctly (and for the best photo!)

  • By: Rob W (15 Years Carping Experience)
  • Published: June 27, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Carp are a delicate species, so when they’re on the bank, we must do everything possible to make sure that they are looked after and returned safely. Knowing how to hold a carp is a key aspect of good carp care.

Failing to hold a carp properly can result in dropping, scale damage and serious injury. For that reason, it’s vital that you learn how to hold a carp correctly before bringing one up on to the bank.

Not only will holding a carp correctly be safer for the fish, you’ll also improve the photos of your catch too. Here are a few things to consider when picking up a carp for the first time:

Keep low to the floor

There’s no need to stand up or lift the carp too high off the ground. The safest thing to do is to keep the carp low to the ground. That way, if the carp flaps, you can easily lower it down onto your carp cradle until it calms down.

When it comes to positioning yourself, kneeling is definitely the safest way when holding a carp.

It’s not uncommon to see people squat down too, using their knees to brace the weight of a heavy fish. However, in this position it’s not as easy to control a flapping carp and there has been instance of people falling backwards too!

In the interest of good fish care, the best thing to do it to kneel or position yourself like I am in the photo below.

how to hold a carp
A safe way to hold a carp and get a great photo at the same time. Notice how low the carp is to the unhooking mat.

Hold a carp close to your body

The closer you have the carp to your body, typically the more control you have over it when it begins to misbehave!

It’s not uncommon for carp to flap on the bank too, particularly angry males close to spawning season. For that reason, you want to the carp close so you can quickly re-adjust your position to lay it back on your mat.

Sometimes you won’t even need to lay it back on your mat if it flaps. You can simply tilt the fish backwards onto your forearms and against your body. That way you’ve still got your hands in position ready to lift and try for a photograph again.

With experience, you’ll quickly begin to judge when a carp is about to flap and prepare yourself accordingly. Tensing up and sticking out their fins is a sure sign that you’re close to getting a beating!

holding a big carp
Keeping the carp close to your body makes them easy to control when they flap around.

How to position your hands

When it comes to holding a carp, you want to find the balance of keeping it secure, without your hands getting in the way of a good photo.

Firstly, you should grip one end around the carp’s pectoral fin, letting the fin rest between your index finger and middle finger, as I have shown in the image above.

At the tail end, you should lightly grip the anal fin. Some people prefer to put the anal fin between their middle and index fingers for added support which is purely personal preference.

Either way, to get the best catch photos, you want to make sure that your hands are not in the photo too much.

What you need to do before attempting to hold a carp

Before you even think about picking up a carp for a photo, there are a few things you need to do or have in place.

  • Make sure your unhooking mat is set up on flat ground
  • Wet your unhooking mat and sling in lake water
  • Have a water bucket ready and waiting next to your mat
  • Get your camera equipment set up
  • Have your carp care treatment ready for use
  • Ask a friend or nearby angler to assist if you are not confident holding a big carp on your own

Dealing with struggling carp

As we’ve already touched on, carp can be tricky to handle at times. Here are some things you can do to ensure that they remain safe on the bank.

  • Don’t panic if you’re getting beat up by a carp after trying to get the perfect shot multiple times. Just stay calm, keep the fish wet and remember you can always let it rest in your carp weigh sling if need be.
  • Roll it in your forearms when it starts to tense up.
  • Put your weigh sling over its eyes to calm it down whilst it’s on your unhooking mat.
  • Ask a friend or nearby angler to give you a hand if you feel uneasy dealing to carp on the bank.

About the writer

Rob W

I’m Rob, Carp Squad’s main contributor. I’ve been carp fishing on and off for 15 years, but the bug is well and truly back at the moment. Hopefully the articles I write on here help you put more carp on the bank!