When the temperature plummets and the days are at their shortest, Stillwater coarse fishing takes a noticeable change in direction and can leave many Anglers scratching for bites as well as their heads. With a little careful planning and knowledge you can make the most of your fishing session on even the coldest of winter days, here are a few things to think about and try next time you decide to brave the elements at this time of year.
Fish Activity – It’s probably the single most important factor to realise that in cold weather fish tend to become lethargic, moving around much less to conserve energy than they would in warmer weather. The result is they need less food and are likely to feed less often. To save energy fish will often “hole up” in a spot they know is beneficial to them, places which are warmer, contain natural food items or plenty of cover are all likely sanctuaries you will locate fish in the cold winter months.
Locate the fish – A good knowledge of the water you intend to fish can pay massive dividends, fish holding features in summer are often great fish hideouts during winter, however it is at this time of year that vegetation such as weed and lily beds die back, leaving their root systems submerged well below the water and often invisible from the surface. If you know such features existed in summer then give them a go as these are great natural food sources for winter fish. Other great areas to look for are deep water and drop offs as these too can hold natural food stocks which the fish will take advantage of during harsh weather. Areas protected from cold winds or that get the miniscule amount of sunshine available at this time of year may also hold a few extra fish. Try to find areas of the fishery that have some, if not all these options available to you when selecting your peg.
A pre-bait can be great – As we know fish are less active and need less energy when temperatures are low, so it follows that fish need less food in lower temperatures. That said fish will feed and feed harder if conditions are right for them. To give yourself the best chance of catching fish at this potentially tricky time of year you may consider pre-baiting your swim in advance of your session, by introducing a few loose offerings into your chosen spot over the course of a week or so you will effectively create an artificial larder for the fish to feed on. If pre-baiting is not a practical option for you, choosing pegs which are fished regularly are a great alternative, ask the bailiff, other people fishing, walkers or anyone who might be able to indicate recent fishing activity, in the absence of this then look on the bank for discarded bait, mud patches, brolly holes or dare I say even litter. Fish these pegs and find to the fish holding features within them to increase your chance of catching.
Tackle – Keeping your tackle light where possible will help get extra bite’s, the reason is that as fish activity drops, so does the water colour. As the water clarity improves, fish rely less on their sense of smell and more on vision to locate food items and avoid potential threats, so keeping rigs simple and small will prevent the fish from spotting your trap. Identify the size of your target species to give yourself the best chance of landing the fish when you hook them, scale your line and hook to your target fish. For example if the fish you are after are Carp and the majority of Carp in your fishery are around 3lb, use a 3lb line with say a size 18 hook, for fish double that size, say 6lb line with size 14 hook, there are no hard a fast rules and you can change to smaller hooks if you fail to get bites, you can even reduce the line breaking strain or diameter although it is advisable to use hook lengths to avoid leaving large fish trailing rigs should you have a break off, particularly when fishing swims with snags hook lengths are better for the fish and will save you the cost of losing your whole rig.
Food for thought – Whether Carp fishing or general coarse fishing, giving yourself several options to catch fish will always increase your chances of a result. Choose your swims carefully and fish as many as you feel comfortable with, not forgetting that you will need to feed all the swims little and often throughout your session. Starting to introduce bait into your swim can make or break the swim, the old adage you can put in but you cannot take out is extremely important in winter and starting with very small amounts of bait say 3 maggots or casters every 5 minutes is plenty to start, you can always increase slightly as you start to catch fish, introduce too much feed and the fish that are in your swim may well become full and not feed for several hours if at all.
Hamper not Hampered – The correct choice of bait is another critical factor in ensuring you catch well, a good selection of baits in your hamper will not hamper your catch. Smaller more natural baits will work better in the colder clear water conditions, as the fish are more wary and feeding more by vision, smell will play a factor too, the use of highly soluble additives may help although natural baits that move such as worms, various colour maggots or their smaller cousins pinkies are essential, once you start to catch on these then increasing the bait size and use of static baits could produce larger bonus fish. Particular bright baits such as bread and corn can catch the eye of fish as they drop through the clear water and tempt a few extra bites on even the hardest day. Ground-bait can be a great attractor in winter and tailoring your ground-bait to the colour of the lake bottom is key to prevent wary fish from being an obvious target to its predators, imagine a white whale on a black background, obvious really that a lethargic fish wouldn’t want to waste un-necessary energy escaping from a predator that it could have hidden from, had the bed of ground-bait not been so bright.
By taking into account some or all of the points mentioned you too can increase your chances of catching in cold weather. Rather than put off that fishing session until the weather improves why not grab your tackle and go, as a wise man once said
there is no such thing as poor weather only poor clothing
so wrap up warm and get yourself on the bank. Tightlines