While there is definitely something special about winter carp fishing, it takes a lot more effort and concentration to tempt a bite during the colder months.
During the winter months, carp become lethargic. Their metabolism slows down, they don’t move as much and they will have built up additional fat during the autumn to utilise during the colder weather.
With that being said, all is not lost! There are plenty of tips, tricks and tweaks to keep the bites coming when the water gets icy.
How To Get Bites When The Temperature Drops
It isn’t just carp behave differently when it becomes chilly, us carp anglers are also affected by the adverse weather conditions and we can sometimes become our own worst enemy.
As they say though, effort equals reward, and there are several things that we can do to ensure that we maximise our chances of a bite when the cold snap comes around. Let’s take a look at the best tips for winter carp fishing.
Bait Tips For Winter Carp Fishing
I know some anglers who fish with the same bait all year round and produce great results. Others prefer to change things up every few months and still put fish on the bank, regardless of the weather conditions. However, there are some things that are always worth a try if bites are proving hard to come by.
1. Fish With Natural Baits
While some anglers still produce fantastic results during their winter carp angling, others are left scratching their heads about what they were doing wrong. Quite often, the main difference in their angling is the use of natural baits.
Ignored by the mainstream carp anglers for a long time, maggots have really exploded in popularity over the last decade or so as a devastating winter carp bait. They contain as much as 60% protein which, combined with their irresistible wriggling, makes carp take notice of them – even when the temperature plummets.
Another bait that produces fantastic winter carp fishing results, but often gets overlooked is the common earthworm. Packed with protein, iron and amino acids, earthworms provide much of the essential nutrients that a carp needs and, best of all, you can dig them up for free in your back garden!
2. Fish With Singles
While fishing with a single hookbait is a devastating tactic during the winter months, it shouldn’t be ignored at other times of the year, either.
As already stated, carp slow down during the winter months, so while they are happy to munch their way through a large bed of bait when conditions are better, it is the last thing that they want when the mercury is falling. This is when a single hookbait comes into its own.
Carp don’t often give themselves away during the winter, so when they do, you need to be ready to take advantage of their slip up. As soon as there is any sign of activity, casting a single hookbait into the immediate vicinity could be your best chance of a bite.
3. Enhance Your Hookbaits
Following on from the above, enhancing a single hookbait can really give you an edge.
There are an abundance of hookbait enhancements available nowadays, including glugs, liquids and bait sprays to name a few. As we don’t introduce much (if any) bait during the colder months, making your hookbait as attractive as possible will provide you with the best opportunity of nicking a bite.
Another technique that oozes attraction is to use boilie paste. It is extremely water soluble, is easy for carp to digest and will send strong signals out that can tempt the carp from their slumber. Either wrap some around your hookbait, or even make little balls and ping them out near to your rig.
4. Enhance Your Boilies
Whenever the best baits for carp fishing gets discussed, the humble boilie will often be at the top of the list. I would bet my last pound that 99% of carp anglers have used boilies at least once in their fishing.
However, during the winter months, even boilies can lose their edge and often need a helping hand to “zhuzh” them up a bit!
Scaling things down is often a sensible thing to do during the colder months, so crumbing your boilies can be an excellent tactic to employ, especially when used in a solid bag or PVA stick. This will help to create maximum attraction with minimal bait.
Rig Tips For Winter Carp Fishing
I typically use 3 rigs for most of my carp fishing, one of which is the debate-inducing Ronnie Rig.
My stance on rigs doesn’t tend to change during the winter months, though I will make some subtle adjustments here and there.
5. Adjust Your Hook Size
Scaling hook size down in the winter seems to be a common tactic, and is one that I often employ myself. However, I only do it on lakes where bites are hard to come by.
If you are fishing a tricky lake where a handful of bites from an entire winter campaign would be considered a good result, then reducing your hook size slightly to be as inconspicuous as possible might be a sensible move.
On the other hand, if you are fishing a runs water where the fish continue to feed throughout the colder months, then why would you need to change?
6. Don’t Ignore Zig Rigs
Many anglers shy away from zig rigs in the winter, thinking that it is unlikely that carp will be higher up in the water. The carp will behave differently from lake to lake, so while a zig rig won’t guarantee you a bite, it is a tactic that is certainly worth a try if nothing else is working.
Top Tip: While you might think that daytime during the winter would be the best time to try out a zig rig, you might be surprised to learn of the amount of fish that have been tripped up by a zig at 4am during a bitterly cold January session!
7. Use A Chod Rig
Once upon a time, chod rigs were one of the most “fashionable” carp fishing rigs out there. While many anglers do still use them, their popularity has dropped in recent years.
However, a chod rig can be a real edge at all times of the year, but even more so during the winter months. If you are not sure what you are fishing over, or are simply too cold to even bother casting out to have a lead around, flicking a chod rig out will ensure that you are presented and in with a chance of a cold water carp!
8. Switch To Fluorocarbon
In my opinion, this isn’t so much of a tip, rather than something to try if bites are proving hard to come by.
As the water clears during the colder weather, it makes sense to try and conceal things as much as possible. We’ve already discussed scaling the size of your hook down a little, so the superior transparency values of fluorocarbon may well give you a marginal gain versus using monofilament.
With that being said, if you are using a good quality monofilament that sinks well, there may well be no need to change things up.
How To Stay Warm When Fishing In The Winter
As the old saying goes “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”. As long as you prepare correctly and wear the appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, there is no need for a winter session to be any less comfortable the a session at any other time of the year.
9. Wear Layers
If I had to provide only one piece of advice for staying warm while carp fishing in the winter, it would be to wear a minimum of three layers:
A) A breathable base layer
The base layer should fit comfortably but not too tightly. It must also be breathable so that it can absorb moisture and keep your skin dry at all times. I always opt for a base layer constructed from merino wool.
B) An insulating middle layer
The middle layer should be insulating and trap your body heat. Again, merino wool is my personal choice, but they can be expensive, so a good quality synthetic material will suffice.
C) A waterproof outer layer
While layers 1 & 2 will absorb moisture and keep you warm, they will be useless if they get wet! Layer 3 should keep you protected from wind, rain and snow, while also acting as a shield for layers 1 & 2.
Top tip: Remember that layers 1 & 2 can be quite bulky, so ensure that you take this into consideration when choosing the size of your outer layer.
10. Invest In Some Good Quality Boots
Once the cold sets in to your feet, it can be extremely difficult to warm them up again. A pair of good quality waterproof boots can really help to lock the warmth into your toes and keep you comfortable, whether you are out for a day session or overnight.
Top tip: Wear a thin liner sock underneath your thicker socks to create a insulating layer to repel the cold.
11. Wear A Hat
I grew up believing that we lost all of our body heat through our heads, trusting that wearing a hat would miraculously keep me warm, even if other parts of my body were exposed.
While I have since understood that the above is a total myth, it is still important to keep our heads protected from the cold. A decent thermal hat is relatively cheap in comparison to some other items, so it makes sense to keep as much of our bodies covered as possible.
12. Hot Food & Drink
While it may seem like an obvious tip, I am including this on this list as it is surprising how many anglers I see on the bank during the winter eating sandwiches, crisps, cold pies/pasties and bottles of soft drink.
A cheap stove and basic pan set won’t cost you the world, but it will allow you to drink endless cups of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, while enjoying the additional burst of warmth that the stove gives off.
You can also take cans of soup or bring some leftover stew from home. Believe me, a blank session during the winter doesn’t feel so bad when you’ve had a decent warm meal.
13. Stay Mobile
While you may think that this tip refers to moving between pegs to find the fish, what it actually means is to do some stretching or light movements in order to keep the blood circulating and maintain a comfortable body temperature.
It is all-too-easy to wrap yourself up in layers and stay motionless on your comfortable chair, but getting up and down frequently and walking around your peg is a great way to stay warm.
14. Use Your Groundsheet
Again, this might seem like an obvious tip, but I have seen many anglers over the years decide against putting their groundsheet down as it is “another thing to clean”.
Yes, we all know that cleaning your gear when it is covered in mud isn’t much fun, but a groundsheet provides that extra layer of protection. If you tread carefully, it can also allow your bivvy to become a safe place away from the mud and puddles that await you on the outside.
When carp fishing during the winter, it is a given that some of your gear is going to get dirty, so suck it up, put the groundsheet down and enjoy the extra protection that it offers.
15. Buy An Overwrap (If You Don’t Already Have One)
Overwraps can be expensive, so I know it isn’t going to be possible for everyone to fork out for one, especially if you only do the odd session here and there throughout the winter months.
However, if you can afford one (or can pick one up second hand), I strongly recommend that you do so. An overwrap provides an insulating layer between your bivvy and the elements, preventing condensation and helps elevate the internal temperature slightly.
16. Store Items Under Your Bedchair
This is something that many of us do already to save space in the bivvy, but it is surprising how effective it can be.
Folding your rod bag up under the middle of your bedchair and positioning a rucksack under your head and feet can take the edge off of the cold, especially during freezing conditions.
17. Carry Essential Spares With You
I always carry a bag of essential spares with me that typically remains untouched in the boot of my car. It always contains a change of clothes, some dried/tinned food, spare gas canister, bottled water and some essential terminal tackle items.
During the winter months I will bolster it with some thermal socks and gloves, a disposable poncho, my spare gas stove and an extra towel. I have only needed to delve into it on a couple of occasions, but having those extra supplies can sometimes be the difference between having to cut your session short or soldiering on.
18. Refrain From Drinking Alcohol
Many of us enjoy a few drinks while we’re fishing, especially during social sessions. If you are stood outside together during the cold, dark evenings, it can be tempting to reach for the beers.
Without sounding like a party pooper, you would be much better off putting the kettle on and having cups of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. This is because alcohol can make you feel warm (even though you are actually getting colder), which can make you think it is a good idea to take your jacket off.
Alcohol consumption also makes you pee more, which makes you dehydrate more quickly which, in extremely cold conditions, can lead to hypothermia.
Prepare For The Upcoming Season
If you get used to staying at home in the warm once the weather gets cold, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get back out on the bank. However, if you can brave the cold for just a few hours at a time, there is still plenty of preparation that you can do for the upcoming season.
19. Map Your Lakes Out
With lakes being considerably quieter during the winter months, it can be the ideal time to get down to your local waters and do a bit of mapping out. If you spend a couple of hours at the lake each time, you can map out several swims, find some spots and write your findings down in a notebook or in your favourite app.
20. Introduce Some Bait
While it may sound odd to introduce bait when you aren’t fishing, the winter months can be a great opportunity to start trickling in a handful of boilies here and there into different spots, in the hope of building confidence among the residents.
If you can get the carp picking off the odd boilie here and there they will gain confidence in it, so when you start to fish the lake in the spring time, they are already familiar with your bait.
21. Identify Areas
Although this tip is similar to mapping your lakes out, it can be a total game changer, making it worthy of its own entry.
Much of the plant life around the lakes we fish are perennials, which means that while the leaves and stalks die off during the colder weather, the trunks and branches survive, ready to flower again the following spring.
This gives the lakes that we fish a completely different appearance during the winter months, in comparison to the spring, summer and even autumn. While you may have always thought that you are casting tight to the far margin or the island, you may realise that you are in fact as much as a rod length away.
Identifying these areas during the winter is like having a blank canvas of the lake. It is a good idea to take photographs from each peg, which will remind you of exactly what you have in front of you once the warmer weather comes around again.
Bonus Tips For Carp Fishing In Winter
The most fundamental tips for carp fishing in winter have been covered in the main part of this article, so this section is to include some bonus tips that have been submitted by readers that may give you a slight edge.
22. Set An Alarm During The Night
Chris from Sheffield says: I find that carp tend to give themselves away a lot more during the night in the winter months. I always set an alarm and wake up between 3am-4am and sit in the doorway of my bivvy and listen for signs. If I can hear a lot of activity at the other end of the lake, I will wake up again at first light and move to where the fishing have been showing (If it isn’t too cold, I will bring my rods in there and then and head down to the other end and flick a couple of singles out).
23. Keep An Eye On The Weather Forecast
Mark from Oxford says: If the temperature has been fluctuating wildly, I find that it can turn my syndicate off completely. However, a consistent temperature for several days can settle things down a bit and, if it has been particularly mild, can even switch them on for a bit of a feed.
24. Watch Plenty Of YouTube Videos!
Laszlo from Hungary says: It gets very cold in my city during the winter, and I am a self-confessed warm-weather fisherman! I spend the winter months tying new rigs, making sure I have enough hooks, swivels etc for the coming season and, most importantly, watching lots of YouTube videos! Whether I watch a specific video about a particular rig, or just a general video of someone carp fishing, I find that I always learn something new that I can incorporate into my own fishing in the future.
Winter Carp Fishing Conclusion
With the water clearing and the carp taking on their beautiful winter colours, the colder months can certainly offer some fantastic rewards – as long as you are willing to make the effort to get out on the bank.
The tips above will make those sessions a bit more comfortable and hopefully help you get a few more bites during the winter.
Do you continue carp fishing during the winter months? Have any of the tips above helped you out? If you have any of your own tips that you would like to have added to the article, please get in touch.