Winter Carping on the Maggots: Stay Warm and Keep the Bites Coming

by | Carp, Winter |

The winter can be a majestic time to be out on the bank. Especially those bright, sharp days when it takes forever for the sun to come up, when it does, it lights up the surroundings with a magical glow. It’s common knowledge that carp fishing can be very tricky through the colder months, but as anglers, our desire to catch these amazing creatures continues to burn inside.

This article covers how go about my carp fishing through extreme conditions, and often manage to keep the fish coming through these chilly months.

Conditions – Winter carp fishing and when to go

It’s good to target those periods when the temperature increases slightly, those seemingly random days which reach double digits. If these days don’t arrive or you’re unable to fish them, all is not lost.

If the temperature remains low throughout, then you’re just looking to target steady conditions, where the climate has remained the same for around five days or longer, as this gives the fish time to adjust and adapt.

When the winter months arrive, I usually only fish during the day. If you’re the same, make sure you’re out there at dawn and dusk, as these are particularly productive times in low temperatures.

A nice chunky common caught just before dusk in winter

Be comfortable

Enjoying your time on the bank is more important than catching fish, and therefore you need to make sure you stay warm. Wear plenty of layers so that you can peel them on and off as needed.

So cold that they’ve turned numb!

Double up your socks and invest in decent boots. Too many times I’ve been out of the bank, sitting there with toes that have become so cold that they’ve turned numb! Obviously, you need decent trousers and coat. Personally, I wear a nice thick puffer style jacket, which is extremely warm. I would also suggest salopette style trousers and always have spare clothes in the car, just in case they’re needed for whatever reason.

A few times I’ve ended up with a wellington full of water, which in winter isn’t good at all and will almost certainly bring your session to an early close. A spare pair of socks and boots in the car meant that I could carry on fishing. As with anything when it comes to carp angling, be prepared and you’ll catch more fish.

Last but not least, invest in a decent flask. I can’t imagine being out there in the elements without a nice, hot brew to keep me going!

Picking the right venue

I’m a member of a reasonably tricky, low-stocked syndicate. Low stocked lakes present an even tougher prospect during winter, and whilst I may do the odd winter session on there, I generally prefer to visit a more local lake that I know is well stocked.

My sessions are going to be quite short and challenging due to the conditions. Therefore, I like to tip the balance in my favour by choosing a venue with plenty of fish that offers me the chance of a bite. The cold conditions will also be made easier to endure by staying active and hopefully catching a few fish.

A bar of gold. They don’t have to be big to put a smile on your face in winter!


Watercraft and being able to locate the carp is an essential skill in carp fishing. This is truly tested through the winter, as the carp are not as active and will not show themselves as frequently. I’d advise you to arrive at dawn and to really take your time and watch the water.

If nothing is showing, then consider the conditions, specifically the direction of the sun and the wind. What part of the lake would warm up the quickest if there’s going to be an unseasonably, mild sunny day?

If in doubt, many anglers favour the deeper water, away from the edges but be ready to act on what you see. Fish can often break ‘the rules’ and go against popular theory, so use your eyes and be prepared to act upon what you see.

In winter they shoal up. A double take on a day where I’d clearly landed on them.

My winter bait – maggots & the mix

Much has been written about bait application in winter. We all know that the carp’s metabolism slows right down and so many choose to fish with single hook baits or a very light scattering of bait. I generally feed more than maybe you’d expect. Exactly what goes into the spod mix is not too different from what I would use in spring and early summer. I simply swap pellets for maggots.

My mix includes:

  • Red maggots
  • White maggots
  • Krill powder
  • Micro pellet
  • A small amount of corn
  • Boilie flakes
  • Add water to get the right consistency

Use liquids if you wish but avoid oils

In go the maggots!

Perfect for keeping them grubbing around and getting that bite.

Using my mix, you can create a reasonable amount of bait very easily, which is a good idea if the action comes thick and fast! Interestingly, whilst it’s easy to create fair amount of bait, you’ll notice that all the ingredients used will pass through the fish very quickly. It’s very attractive but lacks volume, perfect for keeping them grubbing around and getting that bite.

The method: Spod then fish Solid Bags

Generally speaking, I use a spod to apply bait to the swim. It’s true that during cold weather, carp will often move out of the margins and shoal up further from the bank. Initially, I will only send out a few spods before placing the hook baits.

The amount of bait put into the swim will be dependent on what happens and how the session unfolds. If you’re catching plenty of fish, then keep it going in.

A solid PVA bad full of maggots – a great carp catching method in winter

How to tie the maggot bag

My previous article covers how I tie a solid bag, if you’ve not read it, please take a look. Again, the only difference here is that I use maggots in the bag instead of pellets.

Getting it out in the pond

Like many, I use my distance sticks to accurately wrap out the distance to the spot. If fishing in deep water, then I will drop my spod rod slightly shorter than my fishing rods, to allow for the drop. 1ft shorter for every 3ft of water depth I find is about right.

Fortunately, on my little local club lake, I can actually pace the rods out along the bank, so there is no need to wrap around the sticks. I find it much easier to do this if you have a long stretch of bank available.

A cold day but the rods are on the spot!

The result

I’m fishing for bites, and in these conditions, I’m more than happy with smaller carp. My target is generally double figured fish with an outside chance of something a bit bigger. You’ve got to keep in mind the fact that the fish shoal up, so if you catch one in winter it’s not unusual to catch a few. I’ve had some very productive sessions when I clearly landed on the fish, and they come fairly steadily throughout the day.

A perfect little common caught for the cameras in very cold conditions

So, don’t be the angler that hangs those rods up through winter. The banks are quieter, which can provide even more peace and solitude in a world that’s crazy busy a lot of the time. I hope this article has inspired you to get out there and apply a few simple tactics to put a few more carp on the bank, even in the coldest conditions. Tight lines and enjoy your fishing.