In the first article we covered location and approach so hopefully you have now identified a target water or two and have decided on how you are going to tackle to area. I want to stress again that winter fishing is very much about attitude! If you go with the attitude that you will not catch then most likely you will chop and change tactics and come away disappointed, whereas if you get the location right and go with a positive attitude you will have a much better chance of success. It may take you a few sessions to track down the fish, but once you locate them you can now set about refining your approach to make the most out of your time on the bank.

The mouth of a river where it feeds into a large lake has fish present year round

HOOKBAITS

Having found some fish the next part of the equation is presenting a bait to them. Most european carp anglers will bait very lightly and at times will use a single hook bait only approach. These generally tend to be high attract bottom baits or pop-ups or my personal favorite, glugged hookbaits. The idea is to either attract the carp without any food value items present or to arouse their natural curiosity with a very visual hook bait.

Some of my favorite Dynamite hook baits

On word of caution with glugged or dipped baits. As the water is considerably colder in the winter, you will need to pay attention to what you actually use as a dip or glug. Oils will solidify in cold water and congeal, leaving an ineffective presentation. You will also find that traditional glugs will not be as effective as the leakage will also slow down. At this time of year I prefer ‘alcohol’ based products. You can find essential oils and ethol alcohol flavors for this exact use. One way to make your maize or corn baits (fake plastics as well) more effective in the winter is to soak your hook baits in whiskey. I prefer a good single malt, but any brand will do a good job of boosting attraction in the winter.

One of my favorites for both soaking bait and for drinking!

While the single bait approach can be very successful my own preference is to initially bait fairly lightly when I am fishing, but to give the fish a fair amount of bait when I conclude each session. My main reason for this is that I want the fish to be actively feeding and looking for bait, rather than sitting ‘torpid’ for large periods of time. If you are successful in getting them to feed then they are more likely to start looking for food with regularity and thus become more active and easier to catch!

FEEDING THE FISH – Get on the Boilies

While any bait can be used to catch fish in the winter my own preference for feeding the carp is boilies. While corn, maize or particles can also be used my own experience tells me that boilies are far more effective in giving the carp a nutritional food value and thus will result in them becoming more active.  Similar to dips and glugs, not all boilies are as effective in the winter. Fishmeal based baits are much more effective in the spring and summer whereas birdfood and milk protein based baits really come into their own during the fall and winter. While there are exceptions to every rule, fishmeals are usually harder to digest (unless they are the more expensive pre-digested varieties) and do not leak flavors as easily, as the fishmeal base itself is the main attractor. Birdfood baits are very good at releasing flavors and with the added inclusion of a milk protein will be far easier for the fish to digest and breakdown.

A few of the dry ingredients for my winter boilies

My own approach this year is to make up a fairly nutritional bait that is easy for the fish to digest but also very attractive and has a fast breakdown in the water. As I have been making my own baits for over 20 years it was not too hard to come up with a couple of recipes and then put them to the test over the course of a few sessions. I wanted to make a boilie that was both nutritional and had a fast breakdown and so I decided to replace some of the egg content with another liquid (in this case, Jello) and to air dry the baits rather than boil them. So in essence I would be using hardened paste baits! To achieve this I made the following mix up:

Some of the ingredients to my ‘paste’ bait

The basic wet ingredients consisted of; 2 eggs, 1 tspn betaine powder, 1 packet of Jello dissolved in half a cup of boiling water, crushed star anise. These were whisked and then 2 cups of birdfood base mix (ground birdfood feed), 1 cup of sweet beets powder and 1-2 cups of milk protein powder (could substitute soy meal or semolina flour) were mixed in to form a paste.

Dry mix being added to the liquid content

The mix was then hand rolled into sausages and chopped at which point I roughly rolled them into boilies. I like this approach with small batches of bait as it allows me to vary the size and shape of the boilies, but if preferred you could use a sausage gun and rolling table. The baits were then spread out and air dried for 48 hours, before use. When using these baits I also include a large ball of the paste to use as an extra attractant around the hook bait.

Paste wrap – a great winter ‘edge’

As well as using this mix to great effect on a local river for small carp I also took several kilo’s with me to my recent trip to the Seneca River. I mixed it up with a selection of 20mm Dynamite boilies and over the course of 48 hours used around 4kg of ‘soluble’ boilies which resulted in just over 30 carp gracing my net. The beauty of the ‘soluble’ baits is that they break down very quickly in the water. Having tested them both on the hook and in the margins I know they dissolve into a paste mush within three hours, which is perfect for the winter as I want my bait to be leaking off flavors constantly.

Soluble boilie breaking down after only 30 minutes

PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Over the last couple of winters I have caught a large number of fish on a number of differing tactics and have been fortunate to catch some stunning specimens. While you can catch on almost any bait, I would urge you to think about your approach and up the attraction of your hook bait while also giving the fish some free bait to encourage more activity (preferably at the end of your sessions). I would also caution US anglers of using too much method/pack mix, especially if you prefer an oat based mix. While it is good to offer some additional attraction around the hook bait, offering a huge ball of pack will in a lot of cases be the kiss of death to your catch rate. I personally change my groundbait mixes throughout the year, preferring to use liquidized bread and grits approach in the colder months and also reducing the amount of mix I use.

A nice winter carp taken over ‘soluble’ boilies

Winter 30 proving high attract baits work

In the final part of the series I will highlight some of the rigs I prefer to use in the winter months and how subtle changes is presentation can turn a blank session into a red letter day. Until then, get out on the banks and try some winter fishing. You don’t know what you are missing!

 

 

 

 

 

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