Is it worth carp fishing in the UK in winter?

Following on from yesterdays post which definitely proves it’s worth winter carping in France, today we address the age old question – do UK carp feed sufficiently often in the winter  to make it worth while fishing for them?   In this excellent piece Shaun Harrison gives us the benefit of his 30 years of carp fishing experience;

Finally most lakes around here have eventually crept back up in water temperature to make the catching of carp a much more realistic prospect than it was a couple of weeks back.

For 30 odd years I have taken water temperatures during the winter months. I don’t mean just dangling a thermometer in a few inches of water in the edge as this will give you a false reading compared to the temperature in the depths you are fishing. I have simply cast my thermometer into the sort of depth I am fishing then simply cranked it back in quickly and taken the reading.

So, to save you many years of work before being able to come to any semi accurate conclusion I will share what I have learned after 30 years of doing this on so many different waters I would struggle to list them.

Although carp will feed in water a little bit colder, once the temperature drops below 39 degrees Fahrenheit (3.9 degrees Centigrade) their metabolism (with them being cold blooded) slows them right down and the chances of registering a take on conventional bolt rig set-up becomes very low.

In all the years I have tried to prove that you can catch carp in real cold conditions I have only ever caught 3 fish in temperatures less than 39 degrees and only ever witnessed a couple of others.

Now you will hear people state that they have caught plenty but in reality you may be surprised just how inaccurate most thermometers sold to the angling world are. I had many years in angling retail and I found it embarrassing when you lined half a dozen thermometers up and all would give a different reading.

You can check your thermometer out by crushing some ice up and seeing if it gives you a 32 deg Fahrenheit (0 degrees Centigrade) reading.

I have been lucky to have caught carp in some real extreme conditions with several from holes in the ice from several different waters but in each case the water has been 39 or above.

After such a length cold snap we have just experienced it is such a massive confidence boost for myself when I take a reading of the magical 39 fahrenheit or 3.9 centigrade. The numbers 3 and 9 being so relevant in both readings was almost meant to be!

Go on – get out there and bag yourself a true cold water carp – those temperatures are just about right.

(Before anyone corrects me I do know 39f is actually 3.888888888888888888888888c !  )

Best fishes,  Shaun.


2 thoughts on “Is it worth carp fishing in the UK in winter?

  1. Lee Johnston says:

    Hi Shaun

    I Couldn’t agree more with all that you have said here, I always stress to our early season fishermen that when that water temperature is dipping under 9deg C (48 F) you can be in for a challenging bit of fishing.

    I used to have a floating pool thermometer and used it regularly, but a few years ago I was given a Reuben Heaton one by Paul Fletcher which can measure the temperature at any depth I choose down to around 12 foot. The first time I used it showed how useless my surface one was, it also showed up how slowly a lake really reacts to air temperature, sure the surface reacts fast enough but the depth the fish are at usually doesn’t. Hence, one or two days of bright weather in the middle of winter doesn’t see the fish coming on the feed like mad!

    Although all lakes respond slightly differently to temperature, using a thermometer on lakes which you fish regularly can after a few seasons give you a good idea of when to change down to your smaller baits or winter flavours etc to give you that edge.

    I have to say thank you to Paul once again for the thermometer. I still use it in all my fishing and where ever I go it’s always in the tackle box, not to mention an important tool in understanding and running a fishery.

    An essential bit of kit every good fisherman should invest in, especially for those all year round hardcore head cases!

    Lee Johnston
    La Gléhias Coarse Fisheries Lake owner

  2. Shaun Harrison says:

    Hi Lee, thanks for the kind words. I’ll add a little more to what I wrote in the original piece.

    Your comment about the top layers warming relatively quickly but the lower layers taking much longer are the reasons I often fish shallow water during the winter, particularly when combined with high barometric pressures which will lift fish into the upper layers. There is so much at our disposal to help build the jigsaw. I keep a constant eye on temperatures, barometric pressures and moon phases. When all three come in line to my preferences I know I am safe to introduce plenty of bait. If they aren’t quite right, then I hold back.

    So many tiny pieces to the massive carp fishing jigsaw but the more you take interest in and the more you take on board helps give you those tiny edges. Lots of tiny edges all mount up into quite a big edge.

    So, the next time that angler down the bank seems to be repeatedly catching more although they are possibly using the same baits and rigs just take time to sit back and think – does he understand a little more about the climatic effects than the other anglers?

    Bait placement in the swim will vary with me depending what the conditions at the time are like. Sometimes my baits are on top of bars and sometimes a few yards away at the bottom of bars. The more pices of the jigsaw you find the easier carp are to catch.

    Best fishes

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