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Garth Ethelston’s Winter Tips

Winter is without doubt the hardest time of year to catch carp. The water temperature has dropped, there is a lack of daylight to keep the carp active and the natural food larders have all but fallen back. This can cause the carp to become torpid, their bodies shutting down for what could be described as a kind of hibernation. They are catchable, though, and at times it can be quite amazing how many bites you can get in temperatures below freezing. There are many ways to help you achieve this during these winter conditions and I am going to give you my top nine.

Keeping warm is very important, so make sure to bring plenty of clothing and the tea kit!

Winter tip 1

Keeping warm is one of the more important factors in winter carp fishing; your comfort and well-being must be the number one priority. It’s no good catching a few carp but being ill for three weeks afterwards because you didn’t wrap up properly! Being warm and comfortable will enable you to keep motivated, which is very important when times are hard. I recommend taking a spare pair of trousers and a jumper, a warm waterproof coat and some waterproof trousers. Waterproofs will ensure you don’t get damp and cold. The air carries more moisture in winter and it doesn’t necessarily need to be raining for your clothes to become saturated. A stove is another must have in my eyes – warm food and drink will go a long way in the winter!

Winter is hard enough as it is, so choose a venue with a decent stock of fish

Winter tip 2

2Choosing the correct water will have a very big impact on how many carp you catch in winter. Fishing a low-stock 20-acre pit isn’t exactly the easy route to go down; they may be catchable but it will be a struggle. By flicking through the carp mags and using the Internet you will be able to find some more suitable winter venues. I would try and find a lake that isn’t too massive and holds a good head of carp. More carp in less water equals more bites. You can use this scale to decide how much of a challenge you want this winter.

A steady supply of decent boilies can keep the carp feeding throughout the colder months

Winter tip 3

3Once you have chosen a lake to target it is well worth trying to regularly apply some bait. This only really applies if you are going to do some kind of campaign. If you are just doing the odd day here and there on different venues then applying a food source will be out of the equation. However, if you have chosen one water to concentrate your efforts on throughout the winter then I would strongly advise that you start applying some boilies at regular intervals. You need to choose a bait that can be digested well, a birdfood or milk protein based boilie, but nothing that contains too much fish oil. It doesn’t have to be a lot of bait, but when applied regularly you can keep the carp feeding throughout the winter months. Once the bait stops being applied the fish will become dormant and start eating a lot less. This I why I think a lot of lakes seem to shut up shop after Christmas; the angling pressure ceases for a few weeks and so does the application of bait. This is long enough for the carp to stop eating and shut down.

Maggots will often produce in the winter when all else fails

Winter tip 4

4Maggots have been the downfall of many carp during winter. They seem to produce consistently on any water they are used, providing they haven’t been battered on them for too long; even then, though, you will still pick the odd one up. Rob Maylin’s exploits with the mag-aligner are probably the best example I can think of how destructive maggots can be. A simple PVA stocking of maggots is enough and when cast at signs of carp it really can change your fishing. Maggots are available in many colours and can be flavoured with whatever you like. Give them a go.

Sweetcorn never stops working!

Winter tip 5

5The golden grain, sweetcorn, is a bait that has a truly outstanding carp catching record. The colour is the obvious reason, but there is without doubt something in the taste and texture they like. I’m not too sure what exactly it is about this stuff that has made it arguably one of the greatest carp baits of all time, but there is definitely something about it they like. By using a fake grain on the hair you will be able to fish at range with it too, as a fake grain will not pull off the hair on a big cast like real ones can. Simply spod the free offerings out over the top of a fake grain. The list of carp that have fallen to a piece of corn would run for miles. Be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, sweetcorn will produce bites.

Bright pop-ups are great for casting around in search of a winter bite

Winter tip 6

6Single, high-attract pop-ups are a big part of my fishing during the colder months. They have scored well for years and with great consistency from one water to the next all over the country, so it is very rare for me not to have one on at least one rod. When using this type of bait you will find that it is possible to make them feed when they weren’t really planning to. Curiosity will often get the better of them and hopefully be their downfall when they take your hookbait up into their mouth for inspection. Due to their colour you won’t need freebies to draw the carp in, and with rigs like the chod rig now being so widely used you really can capitalise on their use when casting to showing fish.

With the water clarity at its best use fluorocarbon line and clear leaders

Winter tip 7

7In the winter many lakes become extremely clear with good water clarity down to as much as 15ft on some waters. With the waters becoming so clear the carp will find it much easier to suss things out. Your line lay and the concealment of your leaders is something that must have your full attention. Your rigs can be in the perfect place but if the carp realize they are being angled for they will spook. By using fluorocarbon main line and clear Safezone Leaders I know that the fish will have extreme difficulties finding my rig and line.

Small PVA sticks are a good option – just a mouthful will often be enough

Winter tip 8

8A PVA bag is a great option when fishing during the winter. They are best kept small; golf ball size is about as big as I would go. The reason they work so well when it’s cold is because they are an easy mouthful of bait for the fish. The carp are not actively searching out masses of food like they are during the autumn and instead can be quite reluctant to actually feed. A small PVA bag, though, is an easy and welcome meal. You can put whatever you like in the bags but I tend to use either boilie crumb, maggots or low-oil pellets. This is another one that’s great for snatching a bite when the carp give away their presence.

Fining down can bring more action

Winter tip 9

Fining down my end tackle is something I always try and do for the winter. With the arrival of cold weather you will often notice that the weed dies right back to an almost non-existent state. Providing there are no snags or major weedbeds I will drop both my hook size and line diameter down as low as I can. As I said before, the carp feed less aggressively so bulkier rig items can often be your downfall. By changing to light mono hooklinks such as N-Gauge and small hooks I think I can achieve more bites whilst safely landing them at the same time. In the summer it is essential at times that you have really strong hooklinks and large hooks, but during the winter you can scale down somewhat now that the danger is gone. Don’t go too low, though; something like 8-9lb hooklinks and size 10 hooks is perfect in a venue free from any obstacles that may obstruct your line.

Garth’s fine-tuned winter carp catcher

  • STEP 1: The components you will need
  • STEP 2: Tie a loop in the end of a length of N-Gauge
  • STEP 3: Add your hookbait – a piece of pink Fake Food Corn in this instance
  • STEP 4: Begin whipping down the shank – making the first turn on the opposite side of the eye closure
  • STEP 5: Whip around the shank 12-14 times
  • STEP 6: Slide on two small sinkers to ensure the rig is pinned down nicely
  • STEP 7: Decide on your rig length and attach a Link Loop
  • STEP 8: Slip a piece of 3mm silicone on to the hooklink and then attach the whole lot to a Safezone Leader via a Kwik Link
  • STEP 9: The finished rig, with a small PVA stick added, is nice and subtle

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