Many anglers give up carp fishing through the colder months, either hanging the rods away until spring or going out after other species. This is sometimes understandable but even in the colder months I still like to carry on trying to catch a carp or two.
It can be made enjoyable, but it's all about adjusting what you want from your carp fishing. I am going to give you a little insight to how I go about my winter fishing, and how I keep it as enjoyable as possible.
First of all is venue choice. Don't get me wrong, if you are after a particular target fish then you have to put all effort into catching it. That could mean a lot of blanks and a lot of long nights sat out in the cold. If you do succeed then yes it's an achievement for sure but it can be hard work staying motivated.
I’m a little different; I like to get bites which keeps me active and warm. I choose to fish well-stocked lakes where the average size of the carp are smaller with the chance of catching a 20lber keeping it spicy.
I also look to fish shallow venues as they warm up a lot quicker which in turn sees the carp moving and more active when conditions are favourable. Doing day sessions rather than nights also helps to keep the motivation and activity levels high.
Watercraft and locating the fish is a vital piece of the jigsaw.
Most of the carp will tend to be holding up in particular areas of the lake. Snaggy areas and reedy areas as well as offering cover will hold heat from the sun, and these features are always a good bet when the sun is out during those winter days. Sheltered spots on the back of the wind, especially a cold one, are always a good choice. When you do locate the carp it will often be in numbers.
When the carp’s metabolism starts to slow down there is no need to be smashing loads of bait out into the lake. It can actually ruin your chances as you will just fill them up. On well stocked venues a little more bait can be applied, but keeping it to a bare minimum to get a bite is my favoured approach. I use little parcels of bait, such as small PVA bags or sticks with a highly attractive mix in them such as the Citruz fizzing stick mix. This fizzes away whilst giving off food signals - perfect to get the attention of a carp and with a mouthful of bait gives you enough just to get that all important bite.
Personally my favourite tactic in the winter is to use single hookbaits, namely bright and high attract pops ups. Pink and white are my chosen colours, and I opt to use sweet, fruity flavours such as Citruz. Carp sweets I like to call them! When you are not hungry you wouldn't want a full Sunday roast put in front of you but if someone put say a Starburst in front of you, the chances are you would have it. That's no different to an opportunist cold water carp.
When single hook bait fishing I like to recast the rods a lot even if it does and sometimes with the intention of spooking the fish. I believe this can get the dormant carp moving around and if you move you are burning off energy consequently mean that you will need to eat!
I tend to keep all my rigs as simple as I can. I might scale down on hook size from a size 5 to a 7 or shorten the rig, knocking a couple of inches off the hook link, but other than that it will be the same that I use all year. One change I do make in winter is to alter my lead set up. Autumn brings leaf litter, dying weed and other debris which ends up on the bottom of any lake. Opting for a helicopter setup gives you a better rig presentation and allows the hook link to settle on top of any debris on the lakebed.
Don't forget to try a zig too. I have found carp don't spend half as much time on the bottom as most of you'd think in the colder months. More often they are sat mid water or a few foot off the bottom just dropping down to feed occasionally. Find them at the right depth and zigs can be awesome.
The biggest buzz kill in winter is the cold. I always take my brew kit, it's the one thing that will always keep you warm and active between bites. A good quality jacket, bib and brace and boots is also advisable. If you are cold you won't enjoy your fishing, so be prepared and buy the best you can afford.
If like me and can only go on set days the weather means not a lot but if you are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose your days according to the weather then that's a big edge. If you see a warm front due in after a cold spell it's a no brainier really; you need to act on it and get yourself out on the bank!