How to Catch Carp in The Winter?

Carp fishing is one of the best challenges and fish that any angler can make the decision to target.

Whether it’s winter, spring or summer a few rules always apply and a few can change.

Learning how to catch carp in the winter may take just a bit more patience, but it’s worth the wait once you have learned the ropes and built up some skills and knowledge.

All in all, carp fishing during the winter months can prove to be just as fruitful as the rest of the year. This will ,however, depend on many factors. Everything from the time of the day to bait selection can impact if the fish decide to bite when it’s cold and gloomy outside.

My goal here with this blog is to cover some of the essential tips and tricks of the trade that can ultimately lead to you catching more carp this winter. We will cover where to find them, what bait to use to get them moving and a few other tips I’ve been able to learn over the last few years.

As always, all my active readers know I’m not an expert on some of the areas of carp fishing, so a lot of this information is purely off trial and error and my experiences so far into the hobby.

Or should I say trial and “failure”? None the less, as a few more months and seasons pass by, I’m beginning to believe I can remove my disclaimer of not being an expert carp fisherman and at least reword it to “somewhat experienced.”

The tips I’ve put together here have been compiled over the last 5 years or so and only roughly about 3 of those years attempting to locate and effectively catch carp in the winter. Yes, I didn’t know it could be done for a few years either and before many failures of attempting to winter fish for carp.

Anyways, without further ado. Let’s get Started.

Can You Catch Carp When It’s Cold?

Do fish bite when it’s cold? The answer is yes, they do, but it’s not always going to be easy. The carp’s metabolism is naturally slower than other seasons throughout the year. You are going to have to provide a reason for the carp to want to get moving around. This isn’t always easy or for the faint of heart.

You’re going to need to try different methods to get the job done in the winter. Fish tend to leave the areas we are using to seeing them in the winter. They may not be hanging out around the shallow covered areas that you just spent 9 months having great luck with.

The carp may have begun migrating to some deep waters but not always. We will cover all of this in depth. Don’t worry.

So, to reiterate just in case some of got lost with my explanation. Yes fish, do still bite when it’s cold, and yes, it’s still worth pursuing carp in the cold weather as well.

Do Carp Bite when it’s cold?

So, we know that fish on the grand scale continue to bite for the most part, but what about carp? Will they still bite in the winter?

Yes, they do. Otherwise, this blog wouldn’t exist and neither would ice fishing for carp.

Carp will still bite when it’s cold. It just takes an excellent remedy for many factors coming together to make it happen.

More on to Catch Carp in the Winter

Now that we know that fish are willing to stay somewhat active and keep feeding in the winter let’s cover specifically how we can continue to catch carp in the winter. To effectively catch carp in the winter, we are going to need a few significant things.

Everything from understanding where the carp are in the lake or pond that we are fishing to what time of the day the carp will be feeding is going to play out to be some substantial crucial first steps in the process.

Winter Carp Fishing at Night

So fishing for carp at night in the winter takes even more skill and patience.

If you choose to try this, you need to go prepared with the correct gear. A bite alarm is critical for night fishing in the winter for carp.

Make sure to dress warm enough to keep you in the game and stay comfortable, and you can definitely have success in the winter during the night hours fishing for carp.

Winter River Carp Fishing

If you want to target the river in the winter for carp fishing, your best bet is to find the mouth of the river where bait/food may be naturally washing to or look for water discharges where warmer water may still be present.

The warm water will encourage the carp to stay active and feeding. It keeps the metabolism’s a little more ramped up and in gear which ultimately leads you to catch more fish, even in the winter.

At What Temperature do Carp Stop Feeding?

Although carp don’t have a hard shut down time for feeding, it has been shown in many areas that around 40 degrees is when carp take a significant downturn in feeding habits.

They are beginning to become lethargic, and the metabolism is at the lowest possible point for the year.

Keep this in mind when carp fishing and when reading this blog in general. This blog is about catching carp in the winter and how to do it. Just meaning, winter time can have 100% different temperatures and climate elements depending on where you live.

40 degrees in Illinois for me may happen way sooner in the winter than someone carp fishing in the UK or another state in the country with warmer overall climates.

If you are fishing for carp through the winter and often have days above 40 degrees, then carp fishing can still be 100% doable and at pretty high successful levels.

If however, you think you’re going to catch baskets of them with the temperatures below the 40-degree mark, then I’m sorry to say, this probably just isn’t the case and I wouldn’t have your expectation bar set so high.

At least it wasn’t for me or hasn’t proven to be this way for me so far.

If you have luck during these temperatures be sure to leave a comment below to let all of us readers know how exactly you were able to have that kind of success, because for me so far in my somewhat young carp fishing career, I’ve typically had way less luck with temperatures this low.

14 Top Winter Fishing Tips For Carp Anglers

#1 Reapply Bait Often

This rule is simple in nature. Anything in life I try and accomplish I always try and reverse engineer the thinking behind it. Does this always work? Obviously not but for carp fishing, it’s seemed to work for me.

If I’m naturally not very hungry or it’s a time of day I typically don’t eat, you better make sure you are appealing to all my senses to get the job done.

A beautiful 12 piece of buffalo wings on a Sunday football weekend will work just fine for me. Think of carp fishing the same way. You’re targeting a fish that naturally doesn’t eat very often during this time of the year. You need to appeal to all the fishes’ sensitive smell and sight receptors.

Re-bait often and try and hit your mark when casting. If you are all over the place with every cast, you aren’t grouping your scent discharge very well. If however, you had an excellent scouting report for the day ahead of time, and you can keep hitting your mark on the cast, re-baiting often could be your secret winning formula.

You’re constantly just letting off the same scent and bright colors. Eventually, you can get the carp to reach a point where it just can’t resist any longer.

So to recap, hit your mark with your cast and re-bait early and often.

#2 Alter Your Timing: Early, Midday and Late Evening

This tip is just merely playing the game and abiding by a statistical formula that has been around for decades. Play the game of the “law of large numbers”.

You have to gather a ton of data before really knowing what works statistically. If you only go carp fishing at 4pm everyday and maybe catch 1 or strike out every time, you really have no statistical data to show that you are not making the right call on your fishing time.

Also, it’s just been shown and discussed by many other anglers that early morning and late evening can still be prime-time to fish for carp during the winter. If you’re having bad luck with one or the other, be sure to change things up for success.

#3 Go Overboard with Bait if Need Be

This is recapping for tip #1. It’s time to bring out the heavy machinery. We aren’t looking for tiny pieces of bread here for carp fishing in the winter.

Spoiler alert. I’m going to contradict myself a bit here because bread does work in the winter. Here’s a blog post about my love for bread when carp fishing in general.

Bread may need some additional attractants to work well in the winter. I vote to bring the entire ammo hold out for winter carp fishing. Get the smell and sight activated for these carp to get them into over-drive if possible.

PVA bags or any other larger bright methods of using bait will get the job done as well. Have fun with it and get creative. You will be surprised what you get to work.

#4 Don’t Ignore Your Scouting Report

It only takes one sighting. The scouting report as still remains one of the top steps that carp anglers sometimes leave out.

Going to your chosen spot to fish without effectively locating a good place that may work is a huge NO NO. You need to look around. Use the same rules you do before fishing during any other season.

If the sun is shining and the temperature is a little warmer, you can still spot them near the shallows and weed area of the water. This gives you a good indicator and information about the area you are choosing to fish.

I know it’s cold outside and the last thing any of us want to do is walk around a pond or a lake on a breezy day but if you don’t want to, just stay home because carp fishing uses some strategy, not just blind luck to get the job done.

#5 Branches, Brush, Coverings, Snags, and Trees

This key is big. This also depends a lot on the area you fishing and the overall climate and weather conditions you are fishing in. If the temperature is right, just because its winter doesn’t mean they don’t go back to what you see the carp usually doing the rest of the year.

Windy days with some sunshine can get the carp actively feeding or nearing the surface to search out more oxygen and actively feeding. Fishing snags and coverings can still prove to increase your catch count. Be sure to scout these areas.

If you get lucky and find a good day to fish with the weather elements playing in your favor these spots can be crawling with carp.

#6 Be Patient

Being patient is going to help you any time of the year when carp fishing but’s even more crucial with winter carp fishing. Besides re baiting often, you are going to strike out more often than spring, summer or fall carp fishing. It’s just how it works.

If you’re a true angler and enjoy the challenge, this probably won’t impact your overall mood too much but in winter, be prepared to wait longer times between bites and have days where you just can’t seem to land anything.

#7 Appeal to the Babies as Well

Don’t always be targeting the monster carp during the winter.

They are the ones more likely to be in deeper waters doing virtually nothing. Keep the bait scents heavy and bright, but you don’t need to overkill your rig set up to only attract the big boys. You want the little fellas as well. They put up a great fight too so don’t ignore them.

Sometimes in winter you can target the smaller carp and increase your luck. At least so far for me, this has held true. If anyone has caught some of the monsters using alternative methods in the winter, be sure to leave a comment below.

#8 Try New Locations

We have already touched on this bit discussing the scouting report for catching carp in the winter. Don’t be afraid to change it up during your fishing trip. If you are striking out in one spot, having too much patience may be your silent killer.

Be willing to try a new spot. If you have been fishing the shallows or the covered brush tactics, try going deep and see if that improves your bite rate any. Long story short, try new spots often if you are having bad luck.

As anglers, I feel like we know the spots sometimes when we really don’t or need to make a change.

Don’t get stuck in the mindset in the winter that where you posted up is necessarily the best possible location you can be fishing on whichever body of water you are fishing. Change can be useful from time to time so make sure mix things up.

#9 Don’t Ignore Shallow Water

Not trying to beat a dead horse here but I believe the misconception is that its deep water or nothing in the winter to catch carp in which we have already discussed just isn’t true.

Depending on the weather carp may be higher up than you think. Try fishing the shallows, the covered areas and don’t always go straight to bottom fishing.

At the very least, if you start the fishing adventure by bottom fishing, have other rigs in mind that can allow you to change height or depths to maximize results and give you the best shot at success during winter.

#10 Take Small Victories

In the winter, everything is a lot more difficult. The elements are no fun to deal with, your cold, and not in the best of moods. Start the day with effectively scouting and pat yourself on the back when you complete anything necessary toward effectively catching carp in the winter.

If you had a successful scouting report developed and possibly found some carp activity in the weed or margins, that’s a small win. Sometimes you won’t even get this lucky.

If you catch a smaller carp in the winter, that’s still a win. Don’t discount any form of success when fishing for carp in the winter. It’s more challenging than some people believe, but it’s also an excellent adventure and skill to learn.

Especially if your anything like me and prefers not to put away the fishing gear any time of the year.

#11 Dress Accordingly & Use Common Sense

It’s going to be cold. Spend the money on the proper gear to stay comfortable and to stay in the hunt. It’s a patience game, so if getting too cold for comfort knocks you out of the ballgame to soon, it could be a wasted trip which is no fun for anyone.

Leaving right after priming the carp to bite by hitting the same spot with bait repeatedly is the last thing you want to do. If you can outlast the elements, you have a much stronger chance at being successful catching carp in the winter.

#12 Don’t Waste the Entire Day. Pull the Plug Early or Go Late

We have already discussed that you most likely aren’t going to get bites at rapid fire rates. This is crucial and goes back to dressing warmly.

Don’t go for the full day if you want to have success. Besides fighting the elements you also fighting your own thoughts. If you go to early or for the entire day, you may mentally give up right before the fishing gets good.

Carp seem much more likely to bite early morning and closer to evening in the winter so wait around all day at home and then set up shop late afternoon so you don’t burn out right before you would have landed your first carp for the day.

#13 Use Liquid Baits

As stated numerous times, it’s going to be a bit more challenging to get the carp’s attention in the winter, so bait selection is crucial. Metabolisms are slow during the winter for carp. They need way less to eat to survive.

Using the liquid bait and PVA bag methods can be a huge advantage for you in the winter. It’s allowed me to garnish more activity than I thought was possible and I highly recommend giving it a try.

You won’t be sorry that you did. If you looking for other bait alternatives in the winter for carp fishing, you can always check my top carp baits here.

#14 Choosing the Best Winter Carp Fishing Rigs

Zig rigs still prove highly useful in the winter for carp fishing for several reasons. You want to be able to hit the mid waters if possible in the winter. The carp won’t always be feeding the shallows or even the deep water.

As stated before a beautiful day with some wind or higher air pressure can get the carp moving around but always targeting the bottom or margins near weed, will eventually not work during certain times of the year or depending on the weather on any given day.

Give zig rigs a try to get the carp excited to bite. It can be effective regardless of the time of the year. My advice would be using multiple rods and trying multiple depths in various locations.

Once you have a strike at one depth, then you can consider altering the rigs to all be at the depth of the zig rig that’s having success. This is what I call collecting data and playing the numbers into your favor.

Additional Bait Ideas For Winter Carp Fishing

I am not going to pretend to know which bait recipe is going to yield the most carp ultimately in your net by the end of a day fishing. I will, however, tell you, just like we discussed previously that some of the same baits that work all year round still work in the winter.

Especially sweet corn. I think it’s the vibrant yellow and the sodium added as a preservative allows it to remain a top bait for carp in the winter.

Here are some homemade recipes/ alternative bait options you could undoubtedly consider for winter carp fishing.

#1 Hemp

Make sure always to try getting hemp into your bait or have it part of the mix. Hemp gets the oil going in the waters, and gets some strong scents being put off in your designated area that you are fishing.

If you follow the cast advice I provided earlier about hitting your mark with consistency on the cast, hemp can work great in the winter.

#2 The Peanut Butter Dough Balls

Peanut Butter doughballs have proven to be somewhat successful for me in the winter as well.

I’d recommend adding some additional sodium or maybe even a spice just to give it a little more punch in the winter, but the homemade peanut butter doughball always stands a chance at catching a carp regardless of the time of year.

#3 Night Crawlers

Nightcrawlers once again make the top of my list for a bait you can use. Especially for winter carp fishing. The reason night crawlers can work great still in the winter is that you can target the low feeding carp with ease.

In addition to the movement a nightcrawler can give off to catch the carp’s attention, it’s close to the natural diet and usual insect/grub the carp tend to eat off the water floor.

You Can Never Go Wrong With the Night Crawler!

Winter Carp Fishing Gear

Now comes the time for us to discuss the gear needed to be successful with catching carp in the winter.

It’s not a terribly long list of necessary equipment but the listed items will help keep you prepared, and some of the gear will just add to the ability to catch more carp consistently.

First things first.

You need to have the apparel and clothing squared away just to stay warm. A bare minimum of proper clothing is necessary for fishing for carp during the winter. Some of the clothing items would include the following.

Fishing Tackle for Carp in the Winter

As far as the tackle itself, you can stick to what you most likely already have from your carp fishing gear collection from the other months out of the year.

Your regular gear will work just fine unless ice fishing for carp than you may want to change your rod selection to a shorter more sensitive rod.

Underwater Camera for Winter Carp Fishing

This could play out to be a huge advantage for you if you have the money to splurge a bit on a camera.

I discuss the benefits of these cameras in depth in my blog post, best ice fishing fish finders in 2024.

Underwater cameras are just amazing. Especially in the winter. The waters are calmer and more clear which gives extreme quality and visibility to the cameras.

If you can get down into the water and spot where the fish may be, you are going to dramatically increase your odds of casting in the perfect place to land some trophy carp size carp whether it’s winter time or not.

I highly recommend considering the use of one of these. Especially for winter fishing or ice fishing for carp. They are game-changing.

Last Words For Winter Carp Fishing

I’ve attempted to lay out what I believe to be your guide to beginning a successful journey into winter carp fishing and I sincerely hope it can at least help you get started.

If you’re a beginner with carp angling, I understand the struggles you may be encountering because I’ve been there and it’s not been that long since I was in your shoes.

Remain patient and diligent about developing your skills and knowledge about the carp and continue to try methods and learn as much as possible along the way.

It’s a fish that was once hated, that’s now becoming one of the top game fish anglers target and who can blame them?

They put up a hell of a fight and are a significant challenge to learn and develop the skills necessary to target them which keeps the sport fun and exciting.

If you have any additional tactics or recommendations for the readers, I’m sure they would appreciate the comments below and I would like too. Make sure to drop a comment if you have anything to add.

Otherwise, thanks for reading and I appreciate you.

Happy Winter Carp Fishing. Cheers.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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