Is it worth carp fishing in the UK in winter?

Now this is cold!

We thought it was about time we resurrected a select few of our winter carping posts, beginning with this piece by Shaun Harrison…

Do UK carp feed sufficiently often in the winter  to make it worth while fishing for them?   In this excellent piece Shaun gives us the benefit of his 30 years of carp fishing experience;

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.

No competition for swims when it’s this cold.

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.

Best fishes,  Shaun @ Quest Baits

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


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

  1. Paul Cooper says:

    Hi Shaun
    We are now coming up to the hardest time of the year for specimen carp fishing and this is why lots of anglers turn to looking for specimen pike. I say ‘specimen’ as there are lots of waters that are now packed to the gunnels with small carp and they class themselves as carp lakes.
    Before I go out in Winter these days I watch how my carp in my reasonably sized natural garden pond are reacting. I have seen your garden pond and you cannot get anything more natural than the one that you have created. I am sure that you check on your own carp reactions before you get out your warm Winter gear.
    I agree with you. There are only small windows of opportunity to catch carp in feeding mode in Winter and if you miss this window, which may be only a few hours each week, you will have some heavy blanks.
    Best of luck this Winter

  2. Shaun Harrison says:

    I do take note of how my fish at home are behaving but so long as the water temperature is 39 f or 3.9 c in new money (just remember the all important 3 and 9) or above I am happy to fish for carp in any conditions during the winter months. Often the conditions experienced out on the bank are much worse than the carp are actually experiencing. I have caught carp from several waters now from gaps in the ice when they have been frozen over. To us these conditions can appear to be particularly extreme but in reality the water tends to warm due to the greenhouse effect once they have a covering of ice due to the bright sunny days which usually accompany the bitterly cold nights.
    Yes, my carp at home give me a good idea but my thermometer is my biggest asset in winter.
    Current conditions are incredible, if anyone gets the chance to get out this week then grab it with both hands.

  3. Paul Cooper says:

    Tomorrow evening ( 18th December ), the air pressure is dropping to 988 Millibars. Wet and windy perfect conditions. Wish I could be there.

  4. Shaun Harrison says: 986 mb for a while in my area. I have added this link as it has been the most consistently correct weather station I use.

    The beauty of the short 2 – 3 hour sessions I have limited myself to this year on the local front is that I can generally find time and juggle the work a little to allow when conditions appear right. Certainly a close watch on the weather helps no end at any time of the year but particularly so during the winter.

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