My Winter Thoughts: Take Advantage of Winter Carp Fishing
In anything I do in life, goals are a must. Perhaps it’s a character flaw, but if you too have this desire to measure everything, you’ll understand that achievable goals are important and that carp fishing is no exception. This winter I’ve decided to target a new water which is closer to home than my regular venues. As a result, I now have access to shorter, more comfortable sessions. It also means I can pre-bait consistently and establish a proven winter boilie.
I’ve fished my fair share of long, boring sessions in previous winters. Nowadays when the colder months roll around, I instead opt for day and 24-hour sessions instead – I find my levels of focus remain consistently high on such sessions. With November quickly approaching, I fully intend to fish all the way through to March and along the way, bag a few of the best fish that this lake has to offer along the way.
This particular lake is low stock; it’s a large pit that’s open and exposed to the elements, especially the effects of good winds. I am certain that the constantly moving water will lead to the fish maintaining at least a small amount of activity, as they will have to use some energy just to stay where they are!
Winter carping… Beautiful!
The pit does also have some more sheltered areas that I will be sure to keep an eye on, but I actually think the shallow areas are more likely to pay dividends here. Carp are cold-blood animals and it always surprises me just how quickly they will break into shallower waters once the sun starts to show, regardless of the season. This venue has a large patch of accessible, shallow water that I’ll certainly be targeting under the right conditions – those high-pressure periods which bring heavy frosts along with blue skies and sunny days.
My most recent winters have been spent on a small clay pit with vast amounts of deep water (depths of up to 70 feet!), some victories were had here, but the venue shut its doors after Christmas last year.
It’s funny how quickly your angling opinions can change. For a long time I was a believer in fishing deep pits through the bitterest parts of winter, moving elsewhere as the temperature increased. Now I’ve gone the other way, and have seeked out a large pit with an average depth of about 12 feet. I think this water will prove itself though, it lends itself nicely to the positive winter effects of both sun and wind. These two factors trigger movement in the carp. If they’re moving then they require energy, which means they’ll have to feed sooner or later.
The secret to winter carping, being comfortable, warm and well-fed!
I find carp far easier to predict in the winter than in summer. A look back at historic winter captures also confirms this. I know many large carp that are well worth going after throughout the winter, and an almost equal amount of others that aren’t, as they simply don’t show themselves for the majority of the winter season.
I’ve landed carp in high pressure periods through the fine art of prediction. Specifically by predicting that they will show up in shallower water, and setting up there in advance. On those winter days when the pressure is high, my perfect area to set up beside has a depth of less than six feet, is on the back of any wind, receives sunlight for a decent proportion of the day, and has some deeper areas close by that the carp can easily retreat to at night.
When the weather is unpleasant (as is the case for most of winter), with wind, heavy rain and low pressure, I typically fish the same areas as I would at any other time of the year. That means over heavily prebaited zones, but only using a small amount of bait when actually fishing. Mild winter winds are great, but I usually only chase them if I see a fish or two at the end of them. In general, it’s always a good idea to move onto any showing fishing as quickly as you can. Carp are far more docile in winter so asking them to move to you is a much bigger ask.
A view from the bivvy in early winter
Bait is a contentious subject as it is, and when it comes to winter carping most anglers seem to have an opinion. This winter I’m going to use what’s worked for me in the past – heavily baiting with Scopex Squid boilies. For me this is a bait with proven experience, plus I know that my target fish has a taste for squid.
Starting from November I’m also going to be adding salty hemp to a number of different spots across the venue. I want the fish to leave me with some nice clean bottoms that I can use to my advantage later on. In my experience, one of the best winter baits is sweetcorn; I can’t remember the last time I went fishing in the winter without a tin of sweetcorn. This year I’ve got a few huge catering size tins from a wholesaler, entirely for prebaiting purposes.
As the winter develops and the productive spots start to show themselves, it’s time to start focusing your prebaiting in these areas. I actually don’t prebait the shallow, sunny areas I described earlier, as on most waters this would end up being eaten by the birdlife. Instead, on these spots I prebait the deeper spots located close by and only fish the shallows under the right conditions using sticks and singles.
A real winter chunk on the mat
Smell of success
The cold weather not only reduces the carp’s energy levels, but also their senses. This makes finding your bait more of a challenge for them. Any angler with winter experience will tell you the same – bright, fluorsencent baits and very smelly attractor baits are the key. You have to wage war on the carp’s senses to get their attention on your hookbait. Prebaiting from November, as I do using hemp, gives the carp in your target venue a taste for what you’re using. All you then have to do is give your hookbaits a small boost.
There are food dips and glugs out there designed specially for winter fishing – plenty of which have the added bonus of being PVA friendly. This means I can simply dip an entire stick and hookbait in and leave it to soak for a few minutes. The winter sticks I use are made completely from crushed boilies that have been through my chopper numerous times.
In icy weather I always opt for a balance snowman type hookbait, as this slides into the carp’s mouth with ease. Placed in the right spot, these hookbaits can be devastating in the winter and I’m hoping for more of the same this year. I also add a dash of food dip to my sweetcorn to give it that extra edge for prebaiting.
Soaked in food dip to boost the effectiveness
Simplicity of a core tenant of my fishing. Anyone who has ever seen my rigs will testify to this, but it should not be confused with laziness – I always make the extra effort to get everything as I want it. As the weed begins to die off, I switch over to using running leads. This isn’t really a winter trick, if I could use them all year round I think I would, but many of the waters I fish are very weedy, which makes it impossible.
Strike the rod if the bobbin pulls up and stays there for more than five seconds. Winter carp lack energy so this may be the only indication you’re going to get.
Stick with it
An obvious statement, I know, but you’re guaranteed to blank if you’re sat at home. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m now fishing a venue much closer to home so I can do day and 24-hour sessions and avoid an early burnout, which I’ve experienced in the past. I’ll fish longer sessions when the conditions are right, but most of the time I’ll be doing shorter sessions to maintain my interest and goals.
Being prepared for the environment you’re about to encounter is key. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t be focused which means not only will you not enjoy it, but you’ll also be a worse angler. I’ve made this mistake in the past and know the misery it brings! It’s important to not only feed the fish, but yourself too, even on day sessions. The brew kit is pretty much a requirement for me now on winter sessions and I’ll often bring a frying pan along too for some bacon butties.
Fishing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, but without the right bankside gear along with food and drink, in winter it can quickly turn into a grind. As with anything when it comes to angling, get your preparation right and you’ll reap the rewards, in the winter this means a lovely bit of quiet fishing with the carp providing excellent sport and weighing some of their top weights.
I for one simply cannot wait!