Looking back to the early 1950’s through the 60’s, 70’s and even the 80’s many carp anglers believed that carp were uncatchable through the winter. This myth has now been dispelled as carp are regularly caught in the winter. Carp will feed for short periods, at particular times throughout the colder months. During the Spring and Summer the amount of natural food available mean’s that the carp can pick and choose what they eat and when. The amount of natural food in the form of algae, plants, insects, tiny crustaceans, freshwater shrimps - (Daphnia), insect larvae, worms and molluscs (snails) and tadpoles will be abundant in spring and summer. Many of these natural food sources will disappear with the onset of cold weather.To catch a carp in the winter is the ultimate challenge, especially if you fish large gravel pits/lakes. To see a carp in its winter colours at peak condition is the ultimate prize for many carp anglers. It’s a Friday 13th January and you have been wishing away the hours at work, looking forward to heading off to the lake. The forecast is for light easterly winds and clear skies, hardly the best conditions for a winter carp fishing trip! On your way to the lake your mind turns to past captures for inspiration.You remember another weekend during a previous December when the conditions were almost identical and you managed to catch a couple of twenties. This gives you the motivation and confidence you need to carry on, it would be oh so easy to turn and head for the comforts of home. The combination lock is frozen and the dials stubbornly refuse to move so you waist an extra 20 minutes boiling a kettle to warm the lock. Pushing the gates open you have that same familiar feeling of relaxation and anticipation, the fact that it’s now 6pm and -6 degrees doesn't dampen your mood. The walk along the pathway seems easier in the cold weather, the heat and dripping sweat absent. Choice of swim is never an easy decision at the best of times, in the depths of winter it can be even more important. You decide on the same swim you fished when you had the previous winter result. This is often a good move, a carp caught from a particular spot in the cold means they frequent the area, two carp confirms it. You fish in much the same way as you did on your productive winter session even using the same bait. It's 2am on the Sunday night and you are standing alone, fighting to land an un-seen carp. After a nervous 20 minutes you finally slip the net under a 34lb common carp. Being alone on a black Sunday morning doesn't detract from the enjoyment of landing such a beautiful creature By torch light your weigh and then photograph the carp before slipping her back to the cold depths. You finish the weekend with a new pb. After all the hard work and the doubts, a winter carp capture gives you such a sense of elation, a buzz, a feeling that's seldom matched in the summertime. Carp at this time of year will be in peak condition having fed strongly through September, October, November and December.
There are so many factors which influence carp and carp fishing in winter. As the average temperature begins to fall through September, October, November carp will be feeding hard because instinct tell’s them that colder, harder times are coming. While the carp are ‘feeding up’ in this manner it can be very productive time for carp fishing. Eventually though, the carp will slow down and head to their winter area, for make no mistake, carp on many lakes have their preferred holding areas through the winter. On some lakes this holding area will be around the centre of the lake, especially if weed is present. This situation may be different on your lake, but unless you have spotted carp then it’s often the best place to start. The ideal area would be close to a food source or feature and with a relatively consistent water temperature. Consistent water temperature in winter means the deeper areas. Through the winter the deeper water is the most stable. Another tactic I sometimes use on a new water is to cast one rod to a likely looking spot. The other i will use as a "roaming" rod. This means i will try lots of different areas for about thirty minutes to see if i can get any indication. I never use backleads in winter because if there are carp around they will often brush against the line , giving small indications, with backleads attachedI wont see these knocks and pulls. As in the summertime carp will also be attracted to features, gravel bars, gravel patches, snags could all be frequented by carp in winter. Without a doubt one feature is more attractive to carp than any other in the cold.
I cannot over emphasis the importance of weedbeds in the winter. If your lake has weedbeds, especially in the deeper areas, then you should try casting 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, cast it out and slowly retrieve along the bottom feeling for resistance. You will learn, in time, the difference between weed, clay and gravel.
Observation is so important in winter, spotting a carp jump can give you a starting point to concentrate your efforts. Keeping your eyes peeled can pay big dividends. One sighting of a fish jumping can turn a blank session or even a complete winter season around. Binoculars are a good piece of kit to have in the winter, you may spot fish with them but if not, it’s just nice to view the wildlife. I travel light in the winter because I could be sitting a hundred yards form carp on the big pits I like to fish. If I see a carp jump out of range then I need to move onto it.
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 Amino's per week. Rolling the bait during the week then going down on Wednesday and using a throwing stick, putting it out towards the centre 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 centre 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 favourite 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.
Firstly you need to decide which ingredients you are going to use. I would recommend buying the base mix. There are so many quality ready prepared base mixes available from manufacturers such as Mainline Baits, Premier Baits, Rod Hutchinson and many others. I prefer to make my own boilies this way because for me its quality not quantity and when trying to catch winter carp I like the extra confidence this give me. Use a fairly light textured base mix containing some bird food this help flavours escape.
You can purchase a dry base mix from tackle shops ready prepared.
I have done very well using the above combination over large beds of sweetcorn. Sweetcorn is such a visual food that most carp can’t ignore it. I have to admit though that I have only used this combination on smaller waters where the carp visit the margins in winter. This meant I could just throw it in and so didn't have to worry about placing it at range. Peperami is another smelly and carp attracting winter bait, for day sessions its great.
Maggots are attractive to all fish and will often provoke a response when others do not. To overcome the problem of them wriggling away many carp anglers use dead maggots. Scalding the maggots with hot water kills them quickly, they can then be scattered over your fishing area creating a bed of tempting food. You could fish a different bait as the hook bait or use the Medusa rig. The maggot medusa rig uses live maggots as well as imitations. The rig gets its name from the visual aspect which looks similar to the hair of the mythical medusa. Medusa's hair was made up of snakes however and not maggots! This rig once assembled looks the business and it is immediately obvious why it is so effective even in winter. This is basically just a pop up rig with the bait being maggots. A cork ball is threaded on to the hair to which you affix as many maggots as you can. Using super glue/rig glue to fix the maggots to the cork ball will insure that they stay alive for the longest possible period. Be careful not to overdo it with the glue because covering the maggots in glue will kill them quickly (maggots breath through their skin). By using this method of applying the maggots is preferable to the commercially available maggot clips which can make the whole job very messy. It’s also worth experimenting by adding a few casters, casters do have a habit of producing the bigger fish.
For winter fishing I am mindful that in winter most lake water is clearer and so I adjust my rigs accordingly. My favourite hooklength material is Atomic Jellywire and I will still use this if fishing around or in weed. For fishing over gravel I will use a flouro carbon hooklink which is less visible to fish.
I have used this rig in winter when I don't want to be introducing large quantities of bait by pre-baiting. It’s 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,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 allot 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.
With regards clothing, a layering approach is the best option for carp fishing in winter, the layers will retain body warmth. If you are cold and uncomfortable you won’t stay for long.The last item is the most important. A good thermal suite is absolutely essential. A good quality thermal suite will keep the cold at bay an allow your to carry on fishing to your best ability. You dont need any special winter tackle, the gear you use the rest of the year will also work in summer. 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. 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. Be lucky!
Credits: - tomekkarol-d4jrfcx - Fevan - my_nation-d4pijgj