For those who don't know, carp are what's known as "cold blooded", in other words their body temperature drops with the water temperature that they live in. This is unlike "warm blooded" animals such as humans, dogs, cats etc., who's inside body temperature stays the same no matter how cold it is outside.
The effect of been "cold blooded" on the carp, is that they become less active as their body and water temperature start to drop. That means that they need less energy to move around and consequently they eat much less, which is why carp fishing in Winter is generally much harder in the Winter than the rest of the year.
What this normally means in terms of fishing is that as the carp eat a lot less, you have to use less bait. If fishing boilies, I very often tend to use just single hook baits. If it's a clean bottom I will often use a bottom bait, if there is a lot of leaves, debris etc. on the bottom I tend to use a pop-up, to get the hook etc. clear of any rubbish.
As with any thing in fishing there will always be a time when you find that you can introduce loose feed in the cold months, it's a case of getting to know your water. If I am going to loose feed I like to use a pva stringer, or a small method feeder with a ground bait that has ground trout pellets in.
Ready Made Boilies.
if you can't be bothered making any then there are some excellent ready made boilies on the market. The secret is to use ready mades that are frozen and not the shelf life ones. Frozen baits give of more flavour than shelf life baits, which is just what you want in winter.
My favourite in winter, or an excellent bait at any time of year is Richworth Tutti Frutti. It's one of the all times classic carp flavours and I just fgeel confident using it. Having said that many bait companies such as Nash, Nutrabaits, Mainline, Solar etc., produce excellent alternatives. So if you've got confidence in it, use it.
When you think about it, I just tend to use hook baits only in winter anyway, or fish over a small bed of trout pellets. That way a bag of bait costing £10.00 will last you all winter.
Ready Made Base Mixes.
Hit and Run Mix.
3.0 ml Secret Agent
1 heaped teaspoon Fizz Appetite Stimulator
1.0 ml Intense Sweetener
approx 12oz Hit and Run Mix
4 size 3 (medium) eggs.
One of my favourite winter boilie mixes , indeed one if not the best base mix that I have ever used in cold water is Rod Hutchinsons "Hit and Run Mix". It was designed to pull fish with instant attraction and has a very strong fruity / citrus type smell built in, making it ideal as a winter bait.
I believe this is due to it containing what Rod used to market as "Fizz Appetite Stimulator". This is no longer available on it's own, which is a shame, it was an excellent carp attractor.
Rod's Banana Supreme flavour makes an excellent combination.
I have also found that it makes excellent strong smelling, hard microwaved pop-ups that are ideal for any time of year, not just the winter. My favourite winter recipe is shown on the right.
Bird Food Base Mixes.
6.0 oz Semolina
4.0 oz Soya Flour
5 size 3 (medium) eggs.
Birdfoods are another favourite ingredient at this time of year, their coarse texture leads to a better flavour leakage from the boilie, my two favourites being J.E.Haith's Red Factor and Nectarblend, with or without Robin Red and RRR. The recipe being a simple one which is already described in the "Basemix" section.
If you want a spicy version add up to 2 ounces of Robin Red pr Sweet Spanish Pepper (RRR) to the mix.
Fish Meal Base Mixes.
Despite what you may read, i have a lot of faith in fishmeal base mixes in the winter. I have always done well using them as single hookbaits, or fishing over a small bed of small trout pellets. True carp cannot digest fishmeal in cold water as well as when it's warmer.
I think you need to be sensible and realise that if it's very cold then the carp may well stop feeding or just pick up an odd bait. Therefore rely on the attractiveness of your hook bait. If you go through a mild spell of weather, then you will be able to feed sparingly.
I was following a thread on one of the carp forums recently, about what was peoples favourite winter flavour. I think there were many different answers, however it was clear that Richworths Tutti Frutti got a couple more mentions than some of the others.
Bear in mind that some flavours dissolve in water better that others, which should help in cold water. The most water soluble flavour base as far as I know is ethyl alcohol (ethanol), often shortened to E.A. The least soluable will be oil based flavours. Bear in mind that some very good winter flavours are not based on ethanol. So the attractiveness of the flavour matters more than the base.
Listed on the right are a few of my favourite flavours.
Richworths Tutti Frutti.
3.0 ml Intense Sweetener
The famous Richworth Tutti. Great at any time of
year, but one of the all time favourites for winter.
Rod Hutchinsons Mega Spice.
3.0 ml Intense Sweetener
A very simple but effective flavour. Rod Hutchinsons Mega Spice is a very effective Winter flavour. The boilies smell that nice, you will have a job not to eat them yourself.
Rod Hutchinsons Mulberry Florentine.
5.0 ml Scopex
3.0 ml Intense Sweetener
Again Rod Hutchinson Flavours.
This is one of my favourite flavour combinations, Winter or
Solars Ester Strawberry and Cream.
5.0 ml Ester Cream
2.0 ml Intense Sweetener
Solars Ester Cream flavour is a noted carp catcher.
Add it to ester strawberry and it gives it a little bit of
I'm not a fan of adding oils to a bait in Winter, if you feel you must, keep the amount right down to 5 to 10ml. Be aware that some oils thicken up due to cold temperatures, which might not do much to help your flavour escape out of your boilie.
If you intend to add an oil and your not sure how it behaves in the cold, place a small sample of it in the fridge overnight. If it doesn't thicken up your OK, if it does and you still want to use it, mix a small sample with an equal amount with something like "Flora Cooking Oil". Again leave this mixture in the fridge overnight and in the morning you will probably find that it no longer thickens up. That is how you "Winterize" an oil, mix it 50/50 with a thin cooking oil.
Trout pellets are one of my favourite particles in winter, either as loose feed or on the hook.
Introduce a few catapults of loose fed pellets as tight as you can to the hook bait. If I'm fishing close in, I like to use as small a pellet as I can get away with and still be able to catapult them in a tight group around your hook bait. If you are fishing to far out to catapult pellets, then you can always use a PVA web, or drill a small hole through medium pellets and use quick dissolving PVA string. Yet another method of course is "the method".
You can make groundbait by adding boiling water to trout pellets the night before and making them into a paste. Or by adding trout pellet powder to the grounbait itself. You can also use the groundbait to "carry" loose pellets.
Regarding hook baits when using pellets as a particle, I either like to use a large pellet which has been drilled out and mounted on a hair just like a boilie, or a boilie itself.
Sweetcorn and Chickpeas.
I have also personally caught carp on
chick peas and sweetcorn in cold water.
Chick peas need to be soaked for 24 hours and then boilie for about three quarters of an hour. You must soak and cook them properly or they may well swell up inside the fish and kill them. You can buy them ready cooked in tins from Sainsbury's etc, but they are a little soft.
Another word of warning about chick peas, is that they take on smells and colours very easily. This is great if you want to dye and flavour them, but it also means that if smelly silt is present on the lake bottom, they will very quickly take on the horrible smell of the silt. For this reason I do not like to use them in these circumstances.
If you wish to flavour a tin of sweetcorn
or chickpeas yourself open a tin and pour them into a small
container so that the juice that they come in still covers
the sweetcorn or whatever. You can of coarse always leave
them in the tin. Add a small amount of powder or liquid dye
(red or orange works very well) and about 5ml of flavour.
I've found that the Nutrafruits by Nutrabaits work very
well, especially Cranberry, Strawberry, Banana or Pineapple,
in that order.
Make sure that the flavour and dye are mixed well in to the juice and leave overnight, it's as simple as that.
ONE WORD OF WARNING - sweetcorn and maize do not take on the smell of the lake bottom if you are fishing over silt, so they are OK to use in this situation. Chick peas take absorb smells very easily, which includes the smell of silt. So stay away from them if fishing over silt.