Locating Carp Through Spring: Top Tips & Tricks
As the spring season develops the changes are dramatic both above and below the surface, the world comes alive before your eyes and swims that were open and barren become lush and green. The fish’s activity levels begin to increase significantly, as the water temperature rises and the carp prepare to reproduce in their annual spawning ritual.
During the spring period it is most important to stay in tune with the carp’s activity, they tend to be very mobile. Their movement can appear random, as it is not driven by feeding areas but more by comfort and warmth. In fact, as I have become a more experienced carp angler, I have realised that location is the only factor which matters. Of course rigs and baits must be suitable, but once you have those aspects sorted, then you can really focus your energy on being in the right place.
In this article I will share my thoughts on location through each month of the spring period. Obviously these aren’t hard and fast rules, but it should give you an idea of how I change my approach through the spring.
During the early months of the spring, carp are just awaking from a long period of inactivity, they are still lethargic in their mood, slow moving and unable to eat much. Due to being cold blooded, their metabolism won’t have got going yet, so they will be unable to digest any significant amount of bait. This does not mean they cannot be caught and provided that you can find them, they can provide some great sport in this period.
During these early months, carp will be doing their best to make the most of the early spring sun, staying in the layers of water which have begun to warm first and only visiting cooler, deeper waters when driven to feed and probably only for short periods of time.
The temperature variances that exist in the depths of the water are known as the thermocline, this has an annual cycle but generally in spring, the water is warmed from the top down as a result of the increasing sunlight. Shallow areas of the lake or areas receiving the sun all day may be favoured by carp, particularly on clear and still days with good sun.
It may also be worth checking the southern margin, depending on the height of the tree line, this area can often be a good bet as early as Feb/Mar on the right day. At these times a bait in a shallow area such as a plateau, bar or margin can be the best approach, or perhaps a bait suspended high in the water like a zig rig.
A south facing capture in late Feb
Wind will undoubtedly have a big effect on location, this can be true at any time of the year. In the cooler months it can be hard to tell whether the fish will follow the wind or not, at times they can follow it and then back off after some time has passed, so observation is key.
If a wind is warm I would usually focus on the end of it to start with, if cold then I would start fishing away from the end of the wind. Whether a wind is warm or cold is a matter of opinion, but if you can stand in it without feeling uncomfortable, it’s probably worth a go. The lack of weed at this time of year will mean that the fish can travel long distances un-interrupted, so the wind can have an even bigger effect. This is not always the case though, so I advise only using it as a guide for where to start looking.
Mid and late spring can be the most rewarding time for an angler, as the fish are at their most catchable and will begin visiting spots to feed regularly. Usually by late April the water temperature will be well in to double figures, the weed will often be quickly growing at this point, due to the temperature and sunlight hours, this can be a great thing for an angler, provided you are comfortable fishing in and around it.
One in the net during early April from a lightly baited spot and bright hook bait
Different types of weed tend to grow at different rates, Eel grass is usually the first and fastest to grow, its long stands mean that it can outgrow the slower species like Canadian in the early season. It is difficult to feel with a bare lead and often grows on hard areas, so use of an old rig or grappling lead to determine the clarity of your spot is a wise move. On many of the gravel pits that I have fished, this is the first type of weed to appear and can be difficult to present amongst. Lower lying Canadian and silk weed however can be a magnet for carp and their food sources, presentation amongst or over these in the spring can be a deadly tactic, providing of course that you can effectively present a hook bait.
Usually by this time of year the fish are showing well and in my experience they will be very visible through the morning period.
Throughout April and early May, tactics for early spring are still applicable and a single hook bait in the right place can be deadly (this is true for the whole year but is most effective early on in the season). With that said, I tend to start fishing over more bait to try and keep areas clean if able to, possibly keeping at least one rod as a ‘roamer’, free to move to showing fish.
Now that you are able to try and create feeding situations, it is important to find suitable areas of lake bed to present your traps. When looking for areas to fish out in the lake, it is a good idea to start by letting the fish show you the spots, careful observation will give away areas that they like to feed in. Looking for shows and then following the bubbles will show you exactly where they are touching the bottom. Careful investigation with a leading rod after the fish have left should help you to identify what they were feeding on; often at this time of year there are rich bloodworm beds to be harvested.
I have always preferred fishing areas of firm ground (but not completely polished), I try to avoid gravel, favouring clay or clean silt, as this is more typical of where the carp’s natural diet would hide. This remains true throughout the season and you may witness these natural larders being cleaned out towards the autumn, evident as they become cleaner and harder. I can recall one spring when almost every cast revealed blood worm on the hook, this would usually be a great sign but when it is every cast, you start to wonder what chance you have!
During the second half of spring, it is also worth keeping a close eye on the shallow and snaggy areas of the lake, the fish will often start to spend more time there, enjoying the shelter and relative warmth. These areas offer sanctuary, as the angling pressure increases through the spring. In addition, caddis and other nymphs will emerge up these margins making them excellent feeding areas.
Fish wont ignore such a significant natural harvest
Careful observation will show signs of activity if the fish are using these food sources, you will often see fish ‘striped’ with clay from the lake bed. Carp search out these spots for their mineral content, these areas shine like a beacon if freshly disturbed in the margin. The carp often seem to have their preferred snags too, on my last water I noticed that they appeared in certain snags at first and then others later in the year. Without fail these areas all produced their share of captures through the spring and so should not be over looked. Snag fishing requires special consideration for fish safety; this is paramount and should always be your first consideration.
The end of the spring for me is usually marked when the carp start to spawn. The timing of this will vary depending on the water temperature but a steady temperature of 20 degrees for a prolonged period of time will typically trigger it.
However, the period before spawning starts can be very productive, the fish group up before they actually spawn and it is possible to achieve multiple captures, often with the larger fish in one area.
Carp can spawn multiple times from late May/early June through to July, during this period, fishing can be very hit and miss with the carp pre-occupied and not looking for food. Recognising the signs of spawning and having alternative waters to target is a good idea, the fish in different lakes will usually spawn at slightly different times.
On a recent trip during the first week of June, I had been observing regular feeding activity, when this stopped after a couple of days I checked a large shallow bay filled with pads and found the fish spawning. Moving over the road to another water brought a totally different scene and the following morning I was rewarded with two fish for my efforts.
A late spring capture over a baited area on a fresh new wind.
I cannot talk about spring fishing without mentioning surface angling. This should absolutely not be overlooked, particularly towards the end of spring. Much like the bright single hook bait approach, at this time of year it has been a long time since the carp have been targeted with such an approach
The water is warmest in the surface layers and they can often be tempted with a mixer. I now carry a separate rod specifically for surface fishing, this stays in the car set up but I can retrieve it should an opportunity present itself. Last year this resulted in two 29s landed and a 40+ lost in a very short space of time during May.
A May surface capture off the top.
I hope this has been useful and you have something to put in to your own angling.