Contrary to some old fashioned views, carp do feed in the winter. Although they don't feed as much as in the warmer months, they will feed for short periods and at particular times. We love winter carp fishing. The amount of natural food available through the warmer months means that the carp can pick and choose on the large, sparsely stocked gravel pits. To catch a carp in the winter is the ultimate challenge, especially if like us you fish on big gravel pits. Catching a carp in its winter colours after all the hard work and the doubts, gives you such a sense of elation, a buzz, a feeling that's seldom matched in the summertime.
There are so many factors which influence carp and carp fishing in winter. There is no single answer to being a successful winter carper. A combination of elements must come together for you to succeed. As the average temperature begins to fall through September, October, November carp will often be feeding hard because instinct will tell them that colder, harder times are coming. This time of the year can be very productive. Eventually though, the carp will slow down and head to their winter area, for make no mistake, carp have their preferred holding areas through the winter. On many lakes this holding area will be around the center of the lake, especially if weed is present. This situation may be different on your lake, but its the best place to start. If I where a carp I would want to be in the quietist area which is less likely to attract attention but also close to a food source and with relatively consistent water temperature. Consistent water temperature means the deeper areas. This is because, through the winter the deeper water is the most stable temperature wise. If I where fishing a big pit where I couldn't reach the center area then I would fish as close to it as I could, preferably around some feature, be it weed, gravel bar, patch or even just a deviation in the lake bed.
I cannot over emphasis the importance of weedbeds in the winter. If your lake has weedbeds, especially in the deeper areas, then you must place your bait in or close to the weed. Carp love weedbeds in winter. Weedbeds will provide the carp with security, oxygen through photosynthesis and they will still hold food even through the depths of winter in the form of zooplankton and invertebrates. To find the weed beds, tie a 3 ounce lead on, chuck it out and slowly retrieve feeling for resistance. You will learn through experience the difference between weed, gravel and other features.
I remember one particular year while fishing a gravel pit of roughly 30 acres. The summer had come and gone. My success during the summer was nothing to shout about, so I decided to give the winter carp fishing a go. The lake in question had, perhaps 50-60 carp in it, but no-one really knows for sure. I began pre-baiting in November with about 5 kilo's of Premier Baits Aminos per week. Rolling the bait during the week then going down on Wednesday and using a throwing stick, putting it out towards the center of the lake, but falling short by at least 50 yards. A couple of weeks in and I started baiting twice a week with another 5 kilo's, Monday's and Wednesday's, making the 30 minute trip after work. I would also put in another couple of kilo's on a Saturday after fishing Friday night. Anyway, to cut a long story short I began catching four weeks after that 1st baiting. All the takes came between 1am and 3am. This feeding time was so predictable that I would set my alarm clock for 1 am. I came to the conclusion that the carp were hold up in the center of the lake and by regular baiting I was persuading them to come to my piece of the water when they felt like feeding. The temperature regularly dropped to -10 but still I would catch at the regular time. I had a total of 34 carp during that winter to 34lb just fishing weekends. Other anglers began arriving in early April and so I called it a day. If I where to ever fish through the winter like that again (getting a bit long in the tooth now) then I would use pre-baiting as my single biggest edge. I am not suggesting that pre-baiting would work on every lake in the winter, but I would be confident if I was putting in the hard work. Sometimes it really is a case of "the more you put in the more you get out".
When fishing short winter sessions I would use a high attract bait. Everyone has their favorite bait for the winter, mine is Rod Hutchinson Monster Crab base mix together with his Amino Blend Swan Mussel. In the winter time you should use far less bait than in the warmer months, so making a small amount of your own boilies isn't such a chore and the confidence gained by doing so is well worth the effort. I would change this approach and pre-bait if I had the time and money. This though is for short sessions where time is limited. My method is to mix 1 egg and 10ml liquid swan mussel with the base mix until a firm dough is achieved. I then roll by hand into small balls (8-10mm) and boil for 1 minute. Leave to dry before placing in a plastic bag and adding a further 10ml of the swan mussel.
I have done very well using the above combination over large beds of sweetcorn. Sweetcorn is such a visual food that most carp cant ignore it. I have to admit though that I have only used this combination on smaller waters where the carp visited the margins. This meant I could just throw it in and so didn't have to worry about placing it at range.
This is my favorite winter rig. A very simple rig and nothing special really, just a size 6 hook and an Atomic Jellywire hooklink. I have used this rig in winter when I don't want to be introducing large quantities of bait by pre-baiting. Its simple but effective which is just what you want. By using a small quantity of mini boilies on a length of pva string you avoid the risk of over feeding while retaining a high level of attraction. I prefer to use kryston meltdown pva string because it breaks down quickly, even in the coldest water temperatures. This rig is easy to tie which in itself is good because it makes things alot easier in the depths of winter, when your fingers are numb!
Carp fishing in the winter can be hard especially if your alone. You need a few luxuries to make things a little more comfortable. Below is a list of some essential items that I cant go without on a winter carp session. The most important piece of kit is a good quality sleeping bag. Its such a comfort to know that however cold you get you can always retreat to the bag. The best winter sleeping bag is the Trakker Peachskin. Super thick construction with warm hollow fibre infill and soft Peachskin fully waterproof and breathable outer fabric.
Winter carp fishing is hard, there's no denying it. But, if you persevere through the hard times the rewards can be truly fantastic. Just keep imagining looking down on a gorgeous carp in its bronze and golden winter coat, this will spur you on to great things. I hope I have given you a few new ideas. Don't forget, you may struggle for a while, but in the end it will be worth it. Never again will you pack the gear away till next spring. Good luck!
It is really important for you to be warm and comfortable during your winter carp fishing session. If you are cold and uncomfortable you wont stay for long. With iths in mind you need some essential clothing items.
The last item along with a warm hat is the most important. A good thermal suite is absolutely essential. This suite from Avid Tackle is the best winter thermal suite on the market.
Designed with warmth in mind, this Thermal Suit is totally waterproof and seriously hot. With top quality materials used throughout, the extremely durable suit is designed for fishing in the coldest conditions. The thermal lining traps your body heat with maximum efficiency, yet doesn’t impede movement. Combining the jacket and trousers, you have the ultimate combination for cold-water carping.