How to catch carp in the winter – tips & tactics

It’s no mystery that carp fishing becomes harder in the winter hence why many anglers wrap up the rods and reels for the colder seasons and wait until spring before their next session. However carp don’t completely stop feeding in the winter, we believe you can capitalize on this opportunity especially with fewer anglers present at the lake.

Yes catching carp in the winter is difficult, it requires a completely different set of tactics but it doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish. We’ve had some of our best sessions in the winter and have caught some absolutely stunning fish over the last couple of years. Here are the tactics we use which have worked well for us recently. 

Stay on the lookout

We always express how important a good observation of the lake your fishing is, well it is even more so important when carp fishing in the winter. Unlike the summer, carp won’t breach the surface or show themselves much in shallow water which makes finding them very, very difficult. This means you have to keep a sharp eye on the lake when you walk around, one small sign of a fish can transform your fishing session and get you into a ton of fish very quickly. This is because in the winter carp usually stick together, making finding them harder however if you spot one fish there’s probably going to be a lot more in that area of the lake. A good few laps around of lake is tiring and tedious but worth it, if you don’t actively go out to look for the fish in the winter, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get into any. Here’s a quick video explaining how to spot fish in a lake effectively.

Downsize lakes

Fishing a big lake in the winter, where the carp are widely spread is nearly impossible. There is far too much area to cover and you’ll rarely be able to spot any signs of fish, forget catch any. This is why we prefer to stick to smaller specimen lakes in the winter which are well stocked with carp. Essentially fishing a small, heavily stocked lake will significantly increase your chances as there’s less ground to cover however still isn’t easy. Going to back to the previous point when fishing in the winter being observant is the most important thing, the rod, reel, and baits you use won’t make a difference if your rig is placed in the opposite end of the lake to where the fish actually are​

Smaller lakes usually have a smaller fish average however, still a tone of fun and should help keep you fishing successfully whilst everyone els is busy waiting for the spring.

Yes, this does mean, that you probably won’t catch any monsters but at least there will be some fish to catch! 

Loosing a passion for fishing is very probably if you try fishing those massive specimen lakes during the cold months, ensuring that you catch fish is crucial if you want to make sure this doesn’t happen, the feeling of going home empty handed again and again could cause you to lose motivation for when the summer back around.

Scents and additives 

It’s a well-known fact that carp significantly decrease feeding in the winter, so in order to make them have a go at your hook-bait, you have to give them a little extra incentive. If you’d like to learn more about what happens to carp in the winter carp and they’re feeding patterns, you can check out our article: Do carp stop feeding in the winter. This is where we go in to detail about how car feed during the year, you may also find this article helpful if you’re struggling to catch carp in the winter.

A great way to give your hook-baits a little extra attraction is to give them a quick dip in some flavourings or goos.

The flavourings give the hook-bait a deep, pungent flavour and scent which the fish will home in on, a delicious, bright boilie might just be too good for the carp to resist, especially if its been dipped in some additives. There are many different flavours on the market, some work better than others, after trying fair amount the one we find the bring is the most success is the Korda goo pineapple power smoke (check price on Amazon)

Spices are also a great way to enhance your baits as carp love hot food, we often incorporate salt and spices into out hook-baits for instance when we’re making boilies at home. However, you do have to be careful when adding salt into your baits, recent studies have shown that an overdose of salt can be harmful to the fish. 

Spices, on the other hand, are great, adding a couple of spoons of turmeric to your ground-bait can really help intensify the scent and flavour giving a  little bit of an  extra incentive for the carp to come and investigate.

In the past we have found using spices can be incorporated into many different aspects of your fishing, this can be anything from; hook baits, method mixes, pack baits, loose feed and pretty much anything els you want. Spices such as turmeric just cloud up the water with favour and scent like no other, we’d highly recommend giving it a try. If your looking for a more in-depth explanation of how you can use spices in your then you may want to check out one of our other articles: best carp baits

Baiting up 

We’ve always been strong believers in baiting up little and often regardless of what season it is, think of it like this, you can always add more bait into the lake but you can’t take any out. 

Throwing a bucket of bait into your swim may work sometimes however in the winter, the carp decrease feeding substantially and a tactic that may have worked incredibly in the summer and warmer seasons is suddenly no longer effective. 

If there is one lake in particular that you are fishing at one point, we’d recommend to slowly add a little bit of bait into your swim each day. This will keep the carp circulating in your swim and won’t raise any alarm bells. Dumping a ton bait into your swim will draw the carp in but they’ll be suspicious and wary to feed which is why we stay away from this tactic in the winter completely. 

Carp generally are more lethargic in winter, this means dumping a massive amount of bait into the water could also spook them, when fishing in the winter its best to not do anything out of the ordinary, stay calm and consistent. Believing in your strategy will help you maintain relaxed and focused on the task at hand.


If you’re thinking on going on your first winter session, be sure to put on plenty of layers and stay warm when your fishing. In these situations its very easy to quit and give-up because of the cold and the fact bites are far and few. Keeping yourself warm and well looked after really changes your mindset when your sitting on the bank for hours on end and will give the extra patience to hang in there a little longer which could be worth all the wait.


Maggots are arguably the best winter carp fishing bait out there. The pellets and oils which brought in a ton of fish in the summer are now not as effective.  In the winter months we  resort to other baits, maggots being our current favourite. 

We love incorporating them into ground bait and using them as a hook-bait. However, we would recommend that you hook on quite a few onto the shank of the hook otherwise you’ll probably be getting peppered with silverfish like bream and Rudd. However, if you’re able to tie them on to a hair rig, that’s even better, we like to slide a few onto the baiting needle at a time.


Zigs are our ‘go-to bait’ when we’re not catching pretty much any time of the year. However, we have recently noticed them to really successful when used in the winter. 

Sometimes bottom baits just won’t work and the carp aren’t interested, in cases like this we reel in our rigs and switch out our bottom baits for some zigs, it’s amazing what a small bit of black foam can do for your fishing. 

Pop-ups are also a great bait when fishing a zig-rig but our favourite at the moment is just a strip of black foam, which is super cheap and easy to get a hold of, you can find them here:

Black zig rig foam (check the current price on Amazon)

Staying mobile

As we mentioned before, there is no point in the winter, to sit behind rods and wait for the carp to come to you. You have to be alert and stay on the lookout, we generally like to fish one spot an hour to two at a time and if we’ve had no bites, we take another quick look at the lake and move swims again.

There is no point fishing an area of a lake where there aren’t any fish so may have to constantly be on the move, the good thing about this, is that when you do find the fish, the action will be red hot and you’ll be able to catch fish after fish in a matter of minutes. Trust us, the extra effort is definitely worth it. 

So there you have it, some tips about how to catch carp in the winter, if you found this article useful then check out some of our others

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