Winter is here with all its might. While some of us may hate the uncomfortable cold, other carp-nuts are very determined to make the most of these conditions. It has its benefits – more room on the bank and bigger fish of course. We asked our brave contributors (and our guest Rohan Dreyer) about their winter carp fishing tactics!
My approach for winter carping doesn’t change much from what I do the rest of the year. I do change my boilie recipe a bit though – increasing the solubility and digestibility helps in the colder water. Strategically, I think a location is vital. The fish don’t move as much when the temperatures are low, so it is essential to find where they are. Another important factor would be the rig. You don’t get as many bites during winter, so when you do manage to trick a carp into taking your hookbait, you want to make sure the hook sets properly. Sharp hooks and a well-designed rig are thus crucial.
Rohan Dreyer (Guest Contributor)
I think everything starts with the venue you’re fishing and follows with a gameplan. Know where you want to fish and what the water temperatures are at different depths. I’ve seen fish hold in completely different areas at different times of the year. If I locate the areas I want to fish in wintertime, I will usually split my rods between deep and shallow waters to get an idea of where the fish are active and at what times.
With baits, I use the same method compared to summer. I like my particles, and they work for me throughout the year. I do however feed less in winter – one handful of feed (mousetrap) over my rig, where in summer I will feed three or four handfuls! As I said, find the areas where the fish hold.
I believe that location is much more important than bait. A good bait will increase your chances without a doubt, but bait placement is the key! With bait placement comes a proper rig and end tackle setup. I like to fish with a Combi Rig. Mine consist of an ACE Continental hook and I use Suffix Black Silt for the supple section. The stiff section consists of Gardner Trick-Link with a brown safety clip and leadcore. I believe brown is the best colour in South African waters and in winter, camouflage is very important with cleaner waters. The more ‘natural’ your setup, the bigger your chances to land that big fish.
As with most things in life (and fishing), I believe there are always two sides to every story. And when it comes to fishing for carp during wintertime this is definitely true. On the one hand, carp are poikilothermic; which means their bodily temperature is dependent on their environment. Therefore, when water temperatures are low, carp will maintain a slow metabolism and theoretically feed less. However, on the other hand... after winter, carp are triggered to spawn as water temperatures start to increase and photoperiods change. Fish don't all spawn at the same time and this depends from venue to venue. However, I believe carp bulk up during wintertime seeing that their minds will be preoccupied during the upcoming spawn. Moreover, wintertime is rainy season in the Western Cape, which means higher dissolved oxygen levels. And at the venue I’m currently targeting I’ve noticed that turbulence in the water (caused by wind or rain) seems to encourage the carp to feed.
Even though there are various different theories and tactics for catching carp during winter; one thing's for sure, you’ll see less anglers on the bank – so enjoy the freedom and stay warm!
I don't believe in changing too much for my winter campaign. Many people believe that fishy baits are not as soluble during the winter months because of the colder water temperatures, but does our water temperature really drop that low compared to the UK? I will however cut down on the amount of feed I put into the water. I will only fish a small PVA of method mix and perhaps a handful of boilies scattered around my hookbait – be it fruity, fishy or milky.
In the last two years, I have moved away from excessive amounts of particles, and generally fish with boilies, complemented with a small amount of tiger nuts or sweet corn. Boilies remain my main focus, especially during winter when the ‘cats’ are few.
Getting down to hookbaits: I believe in bright Fluoro popups or plastics in the same colour arrangements with my choice of boilie flavour – just something small to attract a curious carp to get its head down over my baited hook.
Winter carp fishing in South Africa is very different to carp fishing in Europe. The water never freeze and temperatures are much warmer than Europe. Thus, SA anglers can fish throughout the year without a problem, unlike the European guys who put their rods to rest (sic).
As the earth cools down, so will the water’s temperature. A carp’s metabolism is regulated by the water’s temperature and when the water cools down, their digestion will slow down as well.
There are some theories behind winter fishing in SA. One being that smaller fish are inactive during winter. Thus, the bigger fish get caught. My opinion is: bigger fish take longer to fill themselves up than the smaller fish and, therefore, are more active searching for food than the smaller fish. Bugs such as flies and mosquitoes are not laying eggs during this time and the amount of natural foods are less than in summer. Thus, carp are more active searching for food and maybe, just maybe, getting caught easier.
In wintertime, I am still baiting, but I’m not piling up kilograms after kilograms of baits. I fish with boilies 99 percent of the time, and in winter it will be 100 percent of the time as carp will be looking for nutritional baits – big value in small morsels. 🙂
Rig wise, I am not changing anything, tactics wise... I tend to see where carp would be: the last weed bed in the lake, reeds, silt beds, etc. can all attract carp and maybe in bigger numbers than in summer time. Weed beds are also dying during this time due to the lack of sunlight and seasonal cycles. This brings new fishing spots, and I use this time to explore the lakes more efficiently.
The best winter tactic I recommend is to be on the bank! Even if it’s cold outside, those big carp will be looking for your baits!
A carp’s metabolism slows down in winter, and they don't feed as aggressively as they would in the summer. Therefore, I change a few things in the colder months.
When it comes to feeding, I feed smaller amounts. Nuisance species such as tilapia, barbel, etc. seem to hassle your feed and bait much less. I usually find a spot just off the riverbed (not on the bottom), but I would look for a ledge to drop on. My hookbaits become smaller as well because there's not much small fish to contend with. I would drop my rig with a single, slightly skinned tiger nut to release more flavour and it adds to the overall visual presentation. Directly on top of that I would throw two handfuls of feed and spread another one or two handfuls of feed around the area.
I try to avoid going out on the water often because there's less carp feeding actively, and I want to avoid the chances of spooking them.
When I’m 100 percent confident with my drop and the area I’m fishing, I will simply sit and play the waiting game for up to four days. Confidence and patience are everything!