Location location location!
First find your fish; they may be indicated by other anglers catching fish, or come from where you caught previously. Past year’s records of hotspots and over – wintering areas can be very useful. But these can vary according to a season’s dominant prevailing winds directions and temperatures.
Also fishing pressure, food availability, changes in the lake bed caused by moving / feeding carp, other fish present, e.g.; big over – wintering catfish etc can alter ‘holding areas! Snags in the water like fallen trees, rocks etc, silt beds, gravel bars, old water lily beds, dying weed beds, water inflows, overhanging trees and bushes can all hold fish and all are worth a try.
Also investigate cut – away banks, undercut margins, shallow margins in shade or sun where rolling / bubbling fish may be observed, in winter on the end of a warmer wind or the back of a Northerly wind.
Reed beds, underwater humps, troughs, ‘food traps’ along the prevailing winds lanes, dips, smooth hard areas may well indicate a feeding area as will old silted up areas with bloodworm beds, that produced fish previously in warmer times of the year.
Try places where there are sudden changes of depth as many harbour attractive natural food. Especially gravel slopes, mud humps and ledges around islands, and at the edge of weed beds. Casting around to find underwater debris and old dying weed can help locate fish too as these areas harbour natural food.
Studying quiet, or under-fished areas, ‘un-pressured’ areas can be very revealing. Often the biggest fish are often caught in the areas where the most bait goes into a lake. I know big fish man Dave Lane would agree on this, regarding his UK fifties!!!
Often in winter carp can be located in maybe 1, 2 or just 3 areas of a lake and will be shoaled up tightly together. Casting all around the lake with a small lead and braided line methodically until you feel ‘bumps’ as you wind in (that are not there next cast) could be fish!
Moving your hook baits every hour may be productive as you may find this roving approach lands right next to a fish or disturbs them into fresh activity / or ‘hearing’ your bait land and investigate out of curiosity.
Some say use smaller baits on the hook in winter, and I agree here. I’ve had more takes on these and I use small baits in P.V.A. bags or on stringers, especially using pastes and par – boiled baits mixed with quick dissolving bait / fishmeal pellets.
Bites in winter can be very deceiving indeed and your indicators should ideally be set to maximum vibration / sensitivity as often just one or two ‘bleeps’ could be a hooked fish spinning or shaking it’s head trying to spit the hook while just ‘sitting’ in the water static without running.
‘Rod knocks’ can really produce carp that were perhaps only lightly hooked; Try quickly ‘twitching’ your rig with a swift pull on your line by hand to hook the fish!
I have found that the old traditional ground bait composed of broken up stale loaves with loads of extra highly attractive additives and extracts, like those containing alkaloid substances you would use in your boilie base mixes work very well.
This form of ground bait is not used so often these days in the UK. Added ‘live food like maggots / worms bring much needed activity to the mix, and often will attract other species to feed first which stimulates the carp to follow just in time to polish off your hook bait!
On that note using a plastic ‘feeder cage lead’ wrapped in fast dissolving / breaking down ground bait as in the popular ‘method’ is a great way to ‘build – up’ and feed your swim with fast acting attractors importantly, without feeding up the fish!
This so often can produce smaller fish too, e.g., using ‘artificial maggots or sweet corn’ on the hook, but I was at “Rainbow lake” in France when Martin Locke (boss of “Solar tackle” caught his very first 60 pound carp on ‘the method’.
Find your fish and give them some bait!
While fishing ideally use quantities of fast dissolving baits that can really turn the fish onto feeding without filling them up or suppressing their appetite! A period of pre – baiting quantities either while fishing, or introducing bait into areas where warmer winds drive into or afternoon sun can heat up, not fished at the time, or while not fishing.
Or any area that potentially could hold or be a feeding area or a ‘safety area’ where fish may move to de – leach themselves or bask in top water levels as sunshine hits the water, or in / adjacent to snags etc; I remember one winter finding fish literally ‘stacked-up’ tightly together in a depression within an extensive weed bed of dead ‘Canadian pond weed.’ at Shotgate reservoir, Essex UK 1984.
These fish were very easy to catch for a half – hour period each day and this time was like ‘clockwork for a period of about 3 weeks in December. Each day the feeding time changed by about 10 minutes so it could be charted and ‘kick-off’ could be predicted extremely precisely. It was exceptionally fruitful and exciting fishing and I kept the action going by using lots of basic, simple small roughly chopped ‘par-boiled’ and paste balls; yeast based milk protein baits with added coffee and chocolate drink powders. (For extra attractive ‘alkaloid’ content – they’re addictive!)
I think regular baiting is the major factor in long term consistent big carp fishing success especially in the winter!
Fish pulling methods to trigger fish feeding:
Try using dissolving baits, Poly Vinyl Alcohol (water soluble) stringers with baits on or P.V.A. bags. These are excellent for delivery of larger quantities of bait, maggots and even oil based liquid attractors into your swim, or even fine ground bait or pellets etc.
Add some natural butyric acid to boost your winter baits: For great added attraction, simply add finely grated parmesan or blue cheese. This is just the ‘tip of the iceberg!’
By Tim Richardson