Here’s our extensive fishing guide to help you keep on catching on pole, waggler and feeder on commercial carp fisheries during the colder winter months.
It’s packed with handy hints, tips and advice that is sure to keep your float going under and your quivertip slamming around.
So, whatever style of fishing you prefer, take a good look through this in-depth guide and you’ll soon know exactly what changes you need to make to ensure you keep busy on the bank throughout November to April.
WHERE TO FISH
This is absolutely key to ensuring that you continue having fairly hectic sessions that will not only boost your confidence, but help keep you warm too as there’s nothing worse than sitting motionless for hours in damp and cold conditions!
Three key tips we can give you here:
Fish a commercial that you have fished during the summer.
Fish a commercial that’s well stocked with not only carp, but also roach, skimmer bream and chub if you can.
And choose a commercial that’s not too deep – average depth of 4ft with 2ft margins will be ideal.
Here’s the reasons why we suggest you follow those tips when picking a particular winter commercial water…
If you fish a certain venue in summer you will know where the lilies are and where any weed beds might well be. You’ll also know the depths of some swims so that will provide a lot of knowledge that will put you ahead of the game when picking a swim.
Carp will hold up within or very close to submerged lily stems and weeds during the winter – and that’s well worth remembering.
Picking a venue that’s heavily stocked with fish is an obvious one, but nevertheless some anglers keep on trying to catch from venues that are already difficult to fish in the summer – they don’t stand a chance when it’s cold!
The depth of the venue is key, and if there are shallower parts and deeper areas of around 4ft you are onto a winner because the fish may well be in the deeper water first thing in the morning (as the water will be warmest there) but then if it’s a sunny day with little wind the water will warm up significantly in the shallow areas and that’s where the carp will move during the afternoon.
PICKING THE RIGHT SWIM
Watercraft, past experiences in the summer and asking the right questions will all play an absolutely crucial role in finding the fish in winter.
When you arrive at the water, ask the bailiff or the owner where the fish were caught yesterday. It’s dead simple and it could put you on masses of carp.
If there’s no-one to ask, then watercraft and previous experiences come into play.
Watch the water closely to see any signs of life. Look for swirls, clouded water, bubbles – anything that could give away the presence of any carp. Even just the one small swirl at the surface could give away a huge shoal of fish as they pack together tightly during the winter so where you find one carp you’ll normally find masses of them.
Finally, past experiences will tell you where the lilies and weeds were during the summer. If you haven’t got anyone to ask and you see no signs of fish life, head for areas that used to be weedy as the carp won’t be too far away from those spots.
WATCH THE WEATHER
If you’ve got just the one day to go fishing and you’re going to go regardless, most of this section doesn’t count as you’ll not have a choice. But if you’ve got a week off and you could go any time during that break, choose your day wisely.
The very best time to go to a commercial carp water during the winter is after a few days of settled and mild weather. That’s when the water temperature will have risen and the fish will have become a little more active.
Note any direction of wind too. A southerly breeze is perfect as it brings with it milder temperatures and the promise of better sport.
If there is a wind blowing when you arrive at your lake, opt to fish with the wind hitting your back. Not only will you be more comfortable (as you can set up a brolly for protection) but the fish may well be sitting it out in the sheltered part of the lake as it will be warmer there.
We regularly use the internet for weather forecasts and there really is none better than Metcheck. It’s a free website that has provided us with near perfect forecasts for years.
THE BAIT TO TAKE
Less is more when it comes to commercial carp water fishing when it’s cold. Basically, you won’t need much bait, and below is a list of the typical feed and hookbaits that really work on a stillwater in winter and why. We don’t recommend you take them all – three feed baits will see you through a typical session.
Two tins will be enough. This sweet-scented bait is brilliant in the cold. Why? Because the smell disperses easily and will draw fish into your swim readily, plus the bright colour can be easily seen by fish. There’s no need to flavour it – just use it straight from the can. But remember to take your can home, or bin it properly. Carp, chub, bigger roach and skimmer bream love sweetcorn.
These brightly coloured mid-sized maggots are brilliant when it’s cold as they stand out well in the clear water, they don’t fill the fish up and all commercial fishery species are fond of them. One pint of fluoro pinkies should be more than enough for a day.
One of the very best attractors during cold weather is chopped worms. Dendrobaenas are by far the best for chopping up because they can be bought in bulk fairly cheaply, they emit lots of attractive juices and the worms are large enough to provide you with a multitude of different sized pieces to use on the hook.
The chopped worm pieces can be introduced by hand in the margins, cupped in over your pole line or added to your groundbait each time you fill the feeder up or throw a ball in.
A small chunk of bread flake works wonders on clear coldwater commercials. It stands out well and because of the lightness of bread, it flutters down to the bottom very slowly, ensuring that any nearby carp, roach or skimmer bream can see it and make a move to take it.
Bread is best fished in conjunction with a punch crumb groundbait, available from all good tackle shops. This groundbait needs mixing very carefully and it should be riddled after mixing to remove any large lumps.
Both hard pellets and soft expander pellets will catch fish when its cold. If you do intend to use expander pellets on the hook, you should feed hard pellets as well to hold the fish in your swim.
Expander pellets are available pre-prepared, or you could simply pump them yourself.
The best feed pellets to catapult or cup in to your swim around your expander pellet hookbait are small ones – 4mm is about right during winter. The reason you should use smaller pellets is because they won’t fill the fish up so readily, and they break down quicker than large pellets to release a scent trail through the water.
These are well known fish-catchers when it’s cold. Half a pint of good quality casters (meaning a varied selection of light to dark colours) will be enough as they don’t wriggle into the bottom silt, so they won’t vanish out of your swim. Feed them very sparingly, or simply just use them as a change bait over the top of your loosefed fluoro pinkies or chopped worms.
Cubes of shop-bought luncheon meat work very well for winter carp. From half-centimetre to 2cm cubed chunks, they all work very well indeed. But care must be taken when fishing meat in winter as it is a very filling bait so only use chunks of meat on the hook and fish it over either small feed pellets (4mm or even micro pellets are best), or fish it over meat that has been cut into thin slices and pushed through a maggot riddle to form tiny morsels that can be squeezed into small nuggets and fed by hand, or introduced via a pole cup.
HOW TO FISH
There are a few fundamental changes you will need to take into account to ensure you keep catching throughout the winter, and they are all detailed right here…
You may well have heard this phrase mentioned a lot when anglers talk of winter fishing. Basically it means whatever tackle you used in summer, reduce it for winter fishing.
If you used size 16 hooks in summer, use size 18 or even 20 in winter. If you used 0.14mm hooklengths in summer, use 0.12mm or even 0.10mm in winter. And straight wagglers should be replace with insert wagglers as they are more delicate to help spot tentative bites.
The same goes for pole floats too – use a slightly lighter rig than you would normally use in the summer, incorporating small micro shot rather than an olivette or bulk shot.
Quivertips need scaling down too - use the lightest glass tips you have to see those shy, gentle bites. You may even need a target board positioned at the tip of your rod so that you can see the bites.
Your pole elastic and reel mainlines can be reduced in strength too as the fish aren’t going to fight anywhere near as hard during the winter. No12 elastic maximum and 4lb mainline should do the trick on most commercials during the winter.
Swap power float rods for normal waggler rods, and Method feeder rods for straightforward leger rods.
Start on the bottom
If you are float fishing, always start your session fishing with your bait set overdepth as the fish are far more likely to be swimming around close to the bottom. As the session progresses you might get more bites if you use a shirt button style shotting pattern so that your bait falls gently through the bottom half of the water to get bites on the drop.
Feed very little
Tentative feeding is key in winter. Just a pinch of fluoro pinkies, casters or pellets, or three grains of sweetcorn is all it will take when you reach for your catapult or pole pot. And only re-feed your swim after you get a fish or you may end up simply filling the fish up with your loosefeed rather than catching it!
Search the water
Finding the fish is the hardest part of winter commercial fishing, and one of the best ways to find them is to use a leger rod and an Arlesey bomb. Create a simple leger rig, use a fairly light 2ft-long hooklength of around 0.12mm diameter high-tech line and a grain of sweetcorn on as size 18 hook.
Cast the rig out to a likely looking spot a fair distance from your peg and tighten up the line gently to create a slight bend in the quivertip. Now wait for 5 minutes to see if you either get a bite or spot a line bite.
Bites will be the usual ‘pull round’ of the quivertip, while line bites are quick plucks on the tip made by fish swimming into your submerged mainline.
If you start to see line bites that means there are fish in front of you, but they are somewhere closer than where you cast, so retrieve the rig and cast 10ft or so shorter than you did before.
Keep doing this until your rig lands amongst the fish and you start to get proper bites. And when you’ve found one carp, you’re very likely to find many more as they shoal together in winter.
Many match anglers use this searching technique during the winter, and may matches have been won using it too.