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Winter carp fishing – How to catch more during the colder months

fishing in the winter

Winter fishing can be very difficult at times.  The fish never seem to be as active or give themselves away as they do in the warmer months, however, I’ve had some great sessions over the winter months, if you find them you’ll catch em!

The key to winter fishing is to be more active, spending a couple hours in a swim at a time to try and locate them. (that’s one of the pluses of winter fishing is you have more of the lake to yourself) use less bait, so just singles with a few freebies over the top and remember in the winter you’re trying to catch them not feed them up!

Knowing your water

Getting as much information about the water you are going to fish can be a key factor to successful winter fishing. Personally, I tend to stick to waters I’ve fished before and I know a little about how the fish act during the colder months.

Every water is different but a lot of the tactics here work on most lakes.  Knowing how well the lake is stocked, when fishing it for the first time, or any areas the fish like to hold up can be a real edge.

A well-stocked lake, for example, means there is more competition for food. This can suggest the fish can be active and your tactics are determined by this. A low stocked venue can see the fish slow right down. This provides more of a challenge.

How does the weather affect winter carp fishing

The weather is an important factor when fishing in the colder months.  Understanding how the fish react during the winter months can help better your chances of catching.

Air pressure is particularly important so it is always worthwhile keeping an eye on air pressure leading up to your session and while at the lake.

Whilst high pressure often brings clear still and dry conditions is does normally mean colder air temperatures. During a high-pressure day with sunny spells, you may find the carp in the shallower areas of the lake enjoying some winter sun. However low pressure often brings overcast conditions with rain and warmer temperatures. During this time you are most likely to find the carp in the deeper layers of the water.

Wind direction should also be a big consideration. When the wind is colder than the water, generally with a northerly wind, it is best to fish with the wind behind you. However, where the wind is warmer than the water, often with a southerly wind, then you would have the wind in your face.

What water temperature do carp stop feeding

Water temperature massively dictates the behavior of the carp throughout the year. In the winter months, the reduction in water temperature affects how the fish feed and how active they are. Once the water temperature drops to around 15C-16C the fish start to slow down on their activities, however, they will still actively feed at those temperatures.  As the temperature continues to drop the carp move and eat less.  Once the water temperature drops below 4C the fish will fall into their dormant winter state.  At this point, your main success of catching is to drop the bait right on their nose!


Carp slow down this time of year so attracting their attention is more difficult and I have found needs different tactics. Depending on your venue most waters see you using much less bait and taking a bit more time to watch for any activity. Watch to see any signs of fish showing. Also, do what you can to understand what’s happening on the lake. Do take extra time to lead around.  Even though the weed would have died down you will find a lot of wilted weed which where there was a clear spot before is now full of dying decaying weed that has now covered that clear spot.

If your lake allows (depending on numbers) be prepared to move around. If you are set up and see fish elsewhere be prepared to move as 5 mins in the right area is better than 24hrs in the wrong area. It’s never easy moving in the winter as you have more stuff and the weather doesn’t always make it easy to move. Also, try and cover a lot of the lake if fishing with 3 rods fishing 3 areas in your swim will give you the best chance.

How much bait should you use for carp fishing in winter

Most would agree using less bait during winter as your not trying to get them on the much more just get them interested in some feeding. I have had a session where I was lucky and there were a few fish in the swim and adding bait every so often kept them there.  This resulted in me having 7 fish on the 31st December so they can feed well during the colder months. However, I would start off with just a little bit of bait maybe just 2 spombs over each rig. I’d even consider just using singles and cast around to different parts of the lake sometimes you need to drop it right on their noses!

I would always use a brighter coloured hook bait rather than matching the hatch as I want the bait to stand out if they aren’t feeding that much so hopefully, I’ll have a better chance of a bite! I tend to go for pop-ups due to the dead weed that could be covering the lake bed. A chod rig is always a good choice just to give the rig a chance to be visible. If fishing 3 rods then try 3 different rigs.  Perhaps a chod on one, maybe a stiff hinged on another and an adjustable zig for the 3rd rod.

It’s also good to make notes of what rig and coloured bait is being used on each rod so if you find pink is doing the business then switch the others over.

what bait to use for carp in winter

Sweetcorn – When winter fishing, sweetcorn can be a very good winter bait with the colour that makes it stand out, and what carp doesn’t like sweetcorn!

Maggots –  these always seem to produce when other baits fail when winter fishing, mainly due to the fact they are tasty to a carp and easy to digest, pinkys in the winter always do better than white for me.

High attract paste – A paste that high attracts can also work well when winter carp fishing due to the high leakage of attractant over the time, again if there are carp there you want to entice them with a high attract.

PVA bags and liquids – PVA bags filled with high attract liquids can work very well when winter fishing, just make sure they aren’t too oily. Add them with some crushed up boilie to have that extra attract.

Using short zigs for winter fishing

Short zigs can work really well when winter carp fishing just a 2-foot zig sometimes is all you need as the fish can just be sat in the lower layers but off the bottom. Try different colours again even more bright than dark. If you can try using an adjustable zig and alter the depths every couple of hours. So start at 1ft then increase it 1ft every couple of hours depending on how deep the lake is.

Fluro coloured hook baits

Fluro coloured hook baits can work well when winter carp fishing sometimes more than summer fishing due to the fact the fish aren’t actively looking for food this time of year so a stand out hook bait can be a great edge.

Using Tech When Winter Fishing

Now with most people now having smartphones and the introduction of technology with the deeper pro+ fish finder. Why not take advantage when it is hard to find the fish when winter fishing, this could be the difference between finding them and catching them or not finding them and blanking!

I was a little dubious on tech when fishing, however after seeing a deeper pro+ fish finder in action it’s a great addition the armory, like knowing what depths they are when zig fishing, if you knew what depth they are at at the start of your session you’ve got a great chance of catching that winter fish! Also, read up on the deeper fish finder review.

winter carp fishing deeper-pro

How to keep warm fishing in winter

Another important factor when winter fishing is keeping yourself nice and warm. It’s easy to get frustrated when the bites are not forthcoming so the last thing you need to be is cold and hungry.

Here are a few ideas that have worked for me when trying to keep warm.

Multiple layers of clothing work better than just 1 thick layer. This is because a layer of warm air is trapped between each layer of winter clothing.  Also, Winter fishing is about being prepared and so always take a spare set of clothing too.  If caught out in a sudden downpour the last you need is to be wet and soggy in the colder months.

Hands and feet! Warm and waterproof boots are an essential item. Your feet can lose a lot of your core body heat due to lack of activity. Equally, keeping your hands warm will make sure you can still build your rigs when needed. I have found hand warmers are a godsend when it is below freezing and I need to have a little bit of warmth when just my gloves are not enough.

Keep moving to get the blood flowing especially in your feet. If you are fishing open water, and it’s safe, you can walk along to the next swim to look for any fish activity or even just a friendly chat with a fellow angler. If you are unable to leave your swim, then even by standing rather than sitting you will stay a bit warmer.

A good 5 season sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold I have found over the years of winter fishing. I would not be without my Cyprinus Magmatex 5 season bag. The magic with this bag is that it has the detachable inner to make it a summer bag as well, it is also waterproof which is a bonus. Compared to other expensive brands it is amazing value for money and I’ve had mine for over 5 years and it’s never let me down.

Another essential piece of kit for staying dry and warm is a bivvy.  You want one that can breathe and also repels the water. I’ve found some bivvies better than others mainly due to some generating more condensation than others. A winter wrap will help with keeping the condensation down due to the air trap between the outer wrap and the bivvy. A good Hydrostatic head rating is something to look for when looking for a bivvy. I’ve checked the ratings on most decent brands in my bivvy reviews

Hot water bottle! Sometimes the most obvious is the cheapest answer. I’ve been taking a hot water bottle to the lake and for those times when you are really feeling the cold bite. A hot water bottle placed in your bag 30 minutes before you get in will mean your bag is already warm. It’s amazing how much difference this makes as your not using your body heat to warm up your bag. As an angler in my 50’s I would not be without this item. It only takes a kettle of boiled water then your good to go and your feet will love you for it!

Last but by no means least is hot food and drink. A packet of biscuits and a pot noodle just won’t cut it! Eating well on the bank makes it a little more comfortable and it is amazing how much warmer you can feel from the inside from a good meal. A simple stew made at home then reheated on the burner works wonders. My ridgemonkey sandwich toaster is my go-to item for cooking meals. It’s amazing what meals you can cook while on the bank. Hot drinks are important throughout the day to keep you warm and hydrated.