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With Carp, The Eyes May Have It!

“Anything you can see underwater you can expect a carp to see too – and more besides.” – Marc Coulson, The Complete Guide to Carp Fishing.

Have you ever noticed the relatively large eyes of a carp you caught while fishing?



Did you know that the big eyes of the carp have a highly developed sense of color vision and an incredibly wide field of view? They sure do. Interesting, huh? Think about it. Carp generally live in a turbid, roiling, murky world with low-light conditions. Research actually shows the carp’s eyes are probably more effective than our own in dull lighting. Here’s a carp I caught on an earthworm in the cloudy waters of Nebraska’s Elkhorn River.


Studies prove that vision is most likely not the most critical sense for the carp when it comes to finding food but it does play a crucial role. The value of good eyesight to a carp cannot be overestimated, not only to help the fish locate natural food items in the water, but to also detect and avoid predators as well as anglers!

Fly fishing for carp is becoming increasingly popular and carp love to take floating baits and imitations on the surface of the water. Carp offer a unique fly-fishing experience. Even the most experienced fly anglers discover that sight-casting to and fooling these keen-eyed, wary fish is quite the challenge.


With the carp’s tremendous eyesight, it is said by expert carp anglers such as Marc Coulson, that the fish sees lines, pieces of end tackle and even the smallest rig bits. So, he says, it’s no wonder that the serious anglers after carp go with camouflage, drab, non-reflective finishes and carefully chosen colors on their rigs.This is a simple bead (split-shot) rig that I use in the Elkhorn River for carp that works well!


Keep these things in mind the next time you want to tackle carp! Good fishing!


About Greg Wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!


  1. SAM,

    From what I can gather, common carp can see color. However I did not find any reference to them being more sensitive to certain colors. They likely can see colors like we do, and maybe sense some colors beyond our ability. However, keep in mind that below the surface of the water visibility and color detection is entirely different.

    Daryl B.

  2. I noticed in the second to the last picture, you use red color leader. Some Japanese insist to use the same color and others refuses. Can carp see the full range of color as human being or are there any color which they cannot recognize? Sorry for the silly question!


    • SAM,

      Red has always been a good, successful color for me fishing for a variety of fish species in our eastern Nebraska waters. Thanks for visiting my blog!

      “Wags” — Greg Wagner

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