Successful carp fishing tips and tactics for the winter months: rigs, baiting and location.
My winter carp fishing campaign starts each year following the departure of our last clients (end of October or early November) until February. I may fish alone or with friends.
Usually the catfish have shut down for the year which gives me the opportunity to meet some of the wonderful specimen carp that reside there.
Getting back to fishing my own lake is something that I long for all year and sometimes it’s difficult to wait patiently for the last clients to leave…… cue the violins! In this article I’d like to share with you my approach and tactics and take you through some of my experiences thus far.
Here’s a video blog of my last winter carping session where I applied the same tactics as discussed below and had a fantastic session with 5 fish caught in one night in February.
Carp fishing in the winter months
Last year it was a privilege to welcome my oldest carping buddy, Bert and his father in law Ade who came over on their first carp fishing trip to France.
We did some maintenance work during the day and fished the nights with a few days of pure fishing at the end of the week as a reward for our efforts. Prior to their arrival, I’d already managed to sneak 5 nights in but only managed two carp for my efforts.
It wasn’t until the guys arrived that I made some changes and had an amazing week’s fishing! (more of that in a minute). So what did I change?
The trouble with tinkering your fishing tactics
During my first five nights, I tried various popup flavours fished tight along marginal patrol routes.
I tried fishing them singly, in solid PVA bags and sometimes dipped in a little sweetener.
Now, these are well known winter tactics but I just couldn’t get a sniff of a bite.
The only success I had was when I used my standard Beausoleil big carp rig fished over a few handfuls of whole and chopped baits and house pellet. For the session to follow I vowed to stop tinkering with other tactics and stick to what I know works!
The right rig in the right place?
The session with the guys was a real eye opener for me.
On the first night all seemed about as I would have expected. Bert lost a carp that first of all picked up one of Ade’s lines and then one of his own (that’s fishing), and then Ade took a nice mirror carp of 31.5lbs. I lost one due to mainline failure when the fish took me underneath some marginal branches and then I redeemed myself with an upper 20 early in the morning.
What happened next was incredible, over the next 2 nights I picked up three of four more upper 20’s but the guys had nothing.
The bobbins were dancing alright but not a solid pickup was to be had. The lads showed exemplary watercraft and boating skills as they used an echo sounder to hunt out spots that the fish had cleaned but it was all to no avail. Bert asked me to swap swims with him which I did without hesitation but then rubbed salt in his fishless wound by taking a 31.5lb mirror from the swim he just left!
As our work progressed it was necessary for all of us to move swims for the next night to enable us to lay gravel where we had been fishing.
After some more work in the boat the lads were happy and thought that tonight was going to be the night!
Again it just didn’t happen for them, but I added another two 30’s to my score sheet. All night long I listened to the beeps and bangs from their rods and I just couldn’t understand why they hadn’t caught. On Wednesday morning I decided that enough was enough and called an emergency carp catching meeting where I offered my thoughts on what was going on based on what I’d seen and heard.
Solving the problem
So what on earth was going on?
They were using exactly the same rig as me, they were also fishing with the same bait and the baiting strategy was identical.
They were also fishing spots that I knew produced fish, we’d even seen multiple fish over the spots. So what else was left?
Hooks straight out of the packet?
I knew that I was doing something different that was making the difference so I showed them the preparation work I was doing.
I haven’t fished with a hook straight out the packet for three years and I knew the lads had missed this trick so I shared it with them See my blog article about rig sharpening by clicking here or watch the video below.
To say they liked the result of this process would be an understatement.
I lent them my kit and they immediately set to feverishly sharpening their hooks for the night to come. Once the baits were in place I insisted that they slacken their lines right off to avoid all the false indications they were getting, then it was simply a matter of sitting back and waiting for the fruits of our labour. Within 3 hours, Bert’s bobbin locked up to the top and he was into a fish. This one turned out to be one of the stunning mirrors at 34.5lb. A new PB for Bert by about 8lbs! It was a great moment and one that he’d waited a long time for.
He then followed that with a 34lb common (another new PB) and a 31.5lb mirror.
This was all within 16 hrs of making the changes and after 4 blank nights! Unfortunately it still didn’t happen for Ade but the following night things came right when he banked an upper 20.
Now I like catching fish and continued to do so all week, but I get a huge amount of pleasure watching other people catch too!
Getting it right
There is a very fine line between getting it right and getting it wrong at Beausoleil whatever the season.
The fish are large and very clued up about lines and rigs.
They can do you all night long every night if you let them. False indications are a real pain and avoiding them at Beausoleil can be very difficult. The Beausoleil big carp rig was designed to enable you to fish very slack lines without compromising bite detection but obviously only when it’s safe to do so with regards to proximity to snags.
Baiting strategy plays a role too and by fishing small accurately placed traps this can help avoid making the issue worse. Sticking to one rig with quality bait presented on a dinner plate works time after time for me. It’s not possible to fill the fish up with this approach. The only variable left is location and so I pick three spots, bait tight and light and wait for things to happen. If it doesn’t then I move spots, it makes my fishing simple and 13 fish including 4 x 30’s in one week at the tail end of the year tells me all I need to know about its effectiveness during the winter.
Fishing in the windows
Another key part of my winter strategy is choosing when to fish.
I know some guys will go out in any conditions, be it snow or hard frost or freezing north easterly winds.
Maybe I’m getting old but it’s not for me.
That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t fish during the winter (if I didn’t, I’d never fish my own lake!). Every winter, small weather windows will open (they may only last for 24 or 48hrs) but they will occur and I plan my life around making the most of these opportunities.
Low pressure, south westerlies and mild temperatures (relative to the season) is what I’m looking for and I constantly check the weather forecast for these opportunities.
I’m very lucky in that I can organise my life to allow me to fish during these times. With tighter time constraints, only fishing the weekends during the winter no matter what the weather can be really tough and is too great a challenge for me!
My only suggestion would be that even if you don’t traditionally fish during the winter, if a weather window opens and you can go then go for it.
Certainly venue choice can make a difference but I certainly wouldn’t choose to fish an easier venue during the winter. There are bites to be had, all you need is the right approach, the right frame of mind and the right gear (if you haven’t discovered the joys of a hot water bottle while angling in the cold then you’re missing out!). So be it France or the UK this winter or next winter get out there and see if you can get amongst them!