Winter Questions Answered
The Mainline Baits Team answer some commonly asked questions regarding fishing in winter...
I’m told that in winter water, the carp tend to all congregate at one end of the lake when the weather gets really cold, and that a small number of anglers dominate this area and, therefore, the captures. Why would this be and is there anything I can to to combat it?
Dave Lane says: "That is a very tricky one as carp can have very predetermined and predictable habits in the winter. It is very possible that they will follow the same pattern every year and you will not change this by heavily baiting other areas as they may not even know that you are if they do not visit them. The obvious answer is to get yourself into the better swims but, if this is not possible, try lightly and regularly baiting a different spot, one that has some form of cover or attraction such as weed or reeds for example. As I have already said, this will not move the bulk of the fish as they may be unaware but it might trip up the odd stray or maybe even a better fish or two that doesn’t hang with the pack.
Starting your baiting early, before the actual cold weather sets in will help incredibly and let the carp know that there is always a little supply of food in a certain area. I used this tactic one winter on a large and very deep gravel pit where the fish were renowned for spending the colder months at range and in a certain section of the lake. By regularly (but lightly) baiting the margins at the opposite end (where the sun hit in the mornings) I was able to catch regularly and also throughout the daytimes; which were usually considered to be not worth the effort. Also, do not ignore the shallows in winter, particularly during the middle of a sunny high pressure day. Carp will often break off from holding areas during the warmest part of the day and visit island margins or shallower more sheltered spots, such as reed beds, to soak up a bit of extra warmth.
If there are other areas at the same end of the lake as the main swims and offer a similar depth to the spots that are producing then that might well be worth baiting as well, maybe a deep corner or something like that, one that is generally overlooked in favour of the more popular areas. Carp can stay for long periods in one spot when it is cold but they still get affected by angling pressure and a free meal (one without lines and hooks) is always going to be appealing to them, this is why pre-baiting is so effective. Just fishing over a load of bait is far less likely to bring results in winter than spreading the same amount of bait out over a period of time and only fishing on it occasionally.”
Going into winter do my favourite trout and halibut pellets still work, as I have been told that they may not be as effective once the water temperature starts to dip?
Dale Turner answers: “In a word, no. They really work better in the summer, warmer months when the oils they contain can leak and disperse in the water. These oils can congeal in cold, winter water temperatures and what’s more this and the pellets themselves aren’t that easy for the fish to digest when they’re metabolism is generally at its most low. When it comes to feed in winter it’s far better to look at easily digested baits, and you won’t get much better than the proven winter record held by Mainline Cell. A light scattering of perhaps just a dozen baits around a high attract hookbait is an awesome winter tactic (Milky Toffee pop-ups are the one). If you’d to use a little pellet then I would recommend the matching Cell Response Pellets. Just enough to make a golf ball sized PVA mesh bag to nick or the hook, or perhaps mixed with a few crushed and crumbed boilies to make-up a solid bag. The pellets could also be given a coating of Stick Mix Liquid in this case in the Cell flavour. Liquid that won’t congeal in cold water. As for the Response Pellets they are much high grade pellet than trout and halibut pellets without the high oil content. In fact, they are superb bait to include in bait approach the whole year through. Great for match the flavour of boilie and bulking them out, as well as an attractive addition to spod mixes and of course great for PVA bag presentations.”
Do particles still work in winter? Do you have any tips on which ones are best and how to use them?
John Kneebone says: “Yes, some particles can still be effective in winter, in fact a couple can suit this time of year very well, a little fresh hemp, but particularly Sweetcorn. As it’s nice and soft holds water and therefore can be digested or passed by the carp at a time when you can expect they’re appetite and metabolism to be at it’s lowest. I would therefore certainly avoid any feed that doesn’t hold that type of texture or digestibility such as any kind of nut. As it’s also easy for bait to go uneaten and rot on the lakebed in winter, perhaps spoiling a productive spot or area, I also be keeping a particle feed to a minimum. Unless of course the carp are really having it.
For me, the digestibility and ‘breakdown’ of a bait is key when the water temperatures drop in winter. So other baits will generally sit above particles in my bait list; quick breakdown pellets such as the Bloodworm Stik Pellet, a pellets that begins to swell and breakdown as soon as it hits the water. Giving off heaps of attraction, but they also resemble a red maggot in shape and size as they swell – so a good addition to another good winter feed. Groundbaits are another great winter bait, giving off masses of attraction from very little feed. The Active Groundbaits from Mainline actually contain ground particles, but are also great for carrying particles such as Sweetcorn in mixed balls of baits, as well as a liquid attractor. Again liquids like the Particle & Pellet Syrups are something that will give off a food signal and sending an attractive message to the fish throughout the water column from very little feed. Combine these liquids with a Groundbait, Sweetcorn plus a quick breakdown pellet and you really have the perfect winter feed!”