Special Winter Carp Fishing Tackle and Bait Tips!
By Tim F. Richardson
Winter carp fishing can very often be more productive in many ways with less anglers on the bank and more possibility of multiple catches of fish in a very short space of time. Prepare well for big rewards in winter and spring and some of the biggest fish can be yours now so read on!
When water temperatures drop to under about 16 degrees Celsius carp metabolism and feeding is markedly affected leading to changes in behaviours that differ to summer for example. We can exploit such changes and make winter catches much easier. For instance, the first winter I seriously winter fished almost no carp were caught during certain months, but the syndicate members on this lake were just getting started.
While at Agricultural College in the early and mid-eighties I recall using the UK meteorological office data from the previous 30 years on winter temperatures. I used this to help me chart winter temperatures and pressures and spot current patterns to exploit in terms of best probable fish feeding conditions.
In doing this I guess I may have been described as one of those who accidentally noticed the effects of global warming but the sudden rise of winter temperatures I noticed at that time and ever since that time really had me puzzled. When global warming was being discussed as an issue and not yet accepted as fact back in the early nineties I already knew a cover-up was taking place!
In fact as I worked outside for my living for majority of the past 30 years and rain patterns, dry spells, extremes of temperature and these effects on plants and animals just cannot be ignored. I began seeing the warmer seasons extending, starting earlier and ending later with some winters with such little frost that certain deciduous trees and shrubs actually kept some of their leaves on all the way from summer to late spring.
Much as I thought warmer winter temperatures for carp fishing was a good thing at the time, it has in fact meant for many that winter fishing has become harder due to various factors. At many waters, the traditional late autumn feed in preparation for the onset of winter seems now to be much less noticeable, or much earlier than before. September can be even more productive now and Late April and May are 2 periods I am especially keen to exploit now.
Everyone is now aware of altered migrations of birds now and to see roses in full bloom in the UK and geraniums lasting outside in sheltered microclimate positions for instance are now more common signs we are moving towards a more Mediterranean climate. Some common birds species are not even wasting energy by migrating for the winter and are remaining in various locations in the UK all winter!
The mass use of high oil highly nutritious fish meal boilies and marine halibut pellets for instance definitely has provided UK cap with far higher levels of stored energy reserves. This can mean reduced requirement for many fish to feed during the colder months. Despite the possibility of reduced feeding due to such enormous mass use of high energy pellets for instance at most carp waters, incredible winter catches are there to be had for everyone and every fish is an individual with different needs.
It is not uncommon to catch winter and spring carp covered in leeches and with leeches inside their mouths that have build-up as a result of very low carp activity levels. You will notice too that often the colour of winter carp are fantastic. It perhaps is no coincidence that antioxidant additives and substances that contain colour pigments that boost the immune system are very successful in winter time.
In winter you need bait that will not fill fish up prematurely and stop them feeding. What you need is food that is very highly digestible with excellent soluble nutritional attraction. (I include in the attraction of highly potent antioxidant substances.)
Spices and herbs and many other natural products packed with bioactive and antioxidant substances are really well proven in low temperatures, and a whole new generation of baits and bait and ground bait-making ingredients are now available and especially good for winter use.
Milk powders have always been great in winter and products like supermarket milk powders and also Vitamealo for example are great in hook baits and ground baits, spod and stick mixes and paste etc. Although many anglers discuss the advantages or disadvantages of milks in terms of how far carp digestion might actually deal with their elements, milk ingredients have been in use in most of the leading readymade carp baits for decades for very good reasons. (Some of these have nothing to do with nutrition at all!)
Soluble nutritional attraction is vital and the predigested additives and ingredients in winter baits can make all the difference. Summer boilies designs that are high in predigested protein ingredients that last just 3 hours on an immersed hair-rig in warm water, might well last 6 hours in winter conditions. A mixture of 50 percent whole egg powder with Vitamealo, and fermented shrimp powder (European) from Ccmoore for instance, makes a great bait especially with their Marine Amino Compound at the rate of 30 millilitres per kilogram of bait for instance.
Fish can move so slowly and so little in winter it is amazing we get any bites at all sometimes. Moving your baits every hours on a water searching out every possible spot, is often much better than casting out and waiting for bites from fish that may be in the vicinity, but just will not move!
Even 30 years ago it was common for me to catch fish in winter on rigs I knew were probably tangled (this was before the predominant usage of rig tubing, lead core leaders etc.) I was unwilling to move these rigs however, having cast them exactly onto known tight feeding spots. Many of these tangled rigs were effectively only 2 or 3 inches long at best but they more often than not caught fish.
It reminds me of the short length of the now popular so-called helicopter style chod rigs for example, where the hook link is very short. Years ago I used light leads mostly under 2 ounces in weight and I found the fluted flat-bottomed Arlesey bomb types of 2 ounces or under to be great fish hookers. These would end up in a tangled rig frequently, but would often not bury themselves deep in bottom silt and the short tangled rigs teamed with 5 bait stringers really worked!
I recall cutting special roller wheels for my Optonic bite alarms that had about 24 slender arms to trigger the light beam inside and indicate the least possible lime movement from very shy biting carp in winter. Using the higher vibration and sensitivity settings on modern digital alarms for example and exploiting new refined bite indicators with adjustable line pressures etc, all add up to more winter fish!
Location is of paramount importance and that is all about knowing your lake at all times of year and only personal experience can give you an instinct for this and sometimes you are right and other times wrong, perhaps due to changes in fishing pressure on a particular area, pre-baiting by other anglers, or slightly different prevalent autumn winds building-up silt and carp food items in different locations to previous years.
Fish location is an art form that requires extremely sharp senses sometimes but you can leverage bating and lines and bite alarms to locate your fish. Often in winter you might get not a single bite sound from your bite alarm. Casting around until you do get some kind of feedback is very useful indeed and from this you might locate fish, or fresh silk weed, green Canadian pond weed, or even bloodworm.
If you know your swims in very great detail and keep this knowledge very regularly up-dated, then you will also notice changes in the bottom silt and in leaf and other detritus or chod deposits. Use of a braided line and specially grooved feature-finding leads to feel for clay, gravel and silt characteristics that indicate positive changes made by carp activity are invaluable.
The lake bed hardness and textures and even depths and consistencies and smells of silts can very frequently be caused by feeding carp and be identified and exploited. Some of the changes in the bottom of a lake caused by carp activities can be far beyond the belief of the average angler! Location of certain of these features have lead to great breakthroughs in winter and early spring fishing results for me for sure.
One prominent example of the nature of winter fish location was while fishing an exposed and apparently featureless clay lined reservoir. I remember fishing 2 baits on a particular spot in a swim in early February following a period when there had not been a single carp caught for 5 weeks. This spot was only place discovered to produce fish on the whole lake for quite a while so it was kept very quiet! Using a knowledge of the food-rich thick weed beds that existed in warmer months, I could locate the edges and channels made by the old weed beds that fish used to navigate and feed along.
Much repeated casting was required to get the baited rigs tight up against the old dead weed on the bottom were the fish would feed. Often of 2 rigs cast out (less than 3 feet apart,) only 1 rod would consistently produce fish 99 percent of the time indicating the fish travelled to this spot from one angle and on a very tight path. On one occasion this spot produced 4 fish in just under an hour for me, which was a very rare winter achievement at this time on the water.
As an experiment a friend cast his rod into the spot from a different swim having blanked for days and had a take before even putting his rod in rests. Such is the nature of winter fishing!
Winter fish can feed like clockwork in various spots habitually, and inducing and exploiting this behaviour with pre-baiting is a massive edge if you have the discipline to do it regularly enough! Pre-baiting holding areas and areas that you have observed fish visiting and feeding in winter such as snags and reed beds, and swims that are warmed by afternoon sun for instance, can really make catches very much easier.
Using particle type baits and finer ground baits can be a great option in winter and you can soak them in all kinds of additives and liquids you would use for boilies. Some substances are ideally suited for maximum effective water dispersal and fish feeding stimulation in low water temperatures.
Using your own creative thinking is a very big edge most especially in regards to bait and its application at this time; when some of the biggest carp in your water are most vulnerable to capture...
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