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Coarse Fishing in Winter












Hints and tips for angling during the colder months of winter.

Winter is the time of year when the days are shorter, temperature colder and by some anglers catching coarse fish is deemed nigh impossible. A lot of match and pleasure anglers put away their coarse fishing tackle until the warmer months and get out their Pike or Perch gear.

Although it may be freezing cold at this time of year and best known for its great pike, perch and zander fishing on the rivers and canals in the UK, other coarse fish, especially chub, can still be caught.

A good days coarse fishing can still be had on the coldest of winters days as long as you plan your fishing session beforehand. This page is intended to give you some basic info and tips for catching fish in the winter but don't expect to bag-up like you do in summer.


Keep Warm

Before planning a fishing trip during the coolest months of the year the first thing anyone should consider is keeping warm, comfortable and dry. There is no fun in sitting on the bankside freezing your backside off while waiting for a bite.

Also bear in mind that the info on this page is for a day fishing trip and overnight or longer sessions this will involve other considerations i.e. bivvy, cooker etc.


Choose the correct clothing
You may have read about the Layering System, this involves wearing clothing that allows you to add or remove layers depending on how warm or cold you are. Basically the Layering System is;
Base Layer - thin layer of clothing to soak up moisture away from your skin
Mid Layer - this could be a fleece or jumper to trap the warmth your body generates
Outer Layer - wind resistant, waterproof jacket to keep you dry

When it comes to keeping warm on a cold winter's day it's noted that a warm hat is obligatory because most of our body heat is lost through the top of our head. A thick woolly or good thermal hat is therefore essential and there are many fishing hats and caps to choose from; Bobble hats, woolly hats, beanies, thermal caps etc.
Body Clothing
I wear thermal long john trousers, jeans, thermal vest, long sleeve shirt and thick warm jumper. On top of this I prefer a Bib and Brace and quilted or fleece lined waterproof jacket. This is a personal choice and some anglers opt for an all in one waterproof suit or thermal padded carp suit for winter fishing.

Boots and Socks
Cold feet and you will not be able to concentrate on your fishing. Cold and wet feet and you will probably pack up and go home after a while. Invest in a good quality pair of insulated or lined boots and thermal insulated socks. These may be costly but will be well worth it.

Fingerless gloves or insulated gloves are also a good idea. Fingerless gloves are perfect for anglers because they keep your hands warm but don't getting in the way while fishing. ie setting up, baiting up. Wearing gloves will also save you from sitting with your hands in your pockets while waiting for a bite.

I always take a large vacuum flask filled with hot tea, coffee or soup. It's surprising how this helps to keep off the chill of winter away.
Additionally you might want to carry a pair of Zippo hand warmers. These are petrol fuelled and ideal to put in your pocket to keep your fingers warm when it is really cold.


Ok, your wearing the correct clothes lets go fishing.
Important: To give yourself the best chance of catching fish you must carefully choose where to go fishing. Find out where fish are being caught. Look at the winter match results online or in the angling papers or ask around to find out if anyone has been catching. Talk to fishery bailiffs or local tackle shop owners.

You have chosen where to go fishing.  What next?
Remember, at this time of the year as the weather gets colder the fish become more lethargic and to conserve energy they move around a lot less. They are normally found tightly shoaled up in certain areas. The water also becomes a lot clearer and as a result the fish are more easily spooked.

A good knowledge of the water you are fishing will be a big help but generally fish prefer deeper water in the winter; this is because the water is warmer, maybe only by a degree or two but this can make a big difference. As with other times of the year, but especially in winter, it is also important to carefully plumb the area you will be fishing to pick out any deep holes or shelves. This is where the fish will likely be found.

It is also very important to remember that fish eat less in the colder months and therefore it is critical that you get your bait and feeding correct. Too much loose feed or groundbait bait could feed the fish off.

Most anglers will know that fishing in winter can sometimes be very hard and because of this I consider it best to keep your tackle as light as possible. I rig up just the same as I do during summer but scale everything down.
Hook sizes are smaller and line diameter / breaking strain is lighter and depends on the venue I am fishing and fish I will be targeting. On a commercial it could be as low as 3lb mainline, 2lb hook length and on a canal 1.5lb mainline and 1lb hook length.

Bites can be very shy during winter so if you are pole or float fishing use a sensitive float dotted right down. If you will be feeder fishing bites can be difficult to detect so use swing tip or a rod with soft quiver tip. Cast to where you will be fishing and clip the line to the reel so that you will cast to the same spot every time. The last thing you want is bait spread all over the place.
If I am fishing with a blockend feeder in the winter I sometimes enlarge the holes to let the maggots get out quicker (they are far less lively in the winter)

Bait and Feeding
During the summer months the water is more coloured and I believe that fish search for food as much by smell as by sight. During the cold winter months when the water is sometimes gin clear I believe fish search for food more by sight and a live wriggling maggot or pinkie will tempt a fish to feed.

It's impossible for me to tell you how much bait you will need for a days winter fishing or what bait to take with you. This would depend on where you are fishing and for what species. If possible ask an angler who fishes the venue regular or at the local tackle shop. I can tell you, you will need far less bait than you do in the summer.

Remember, fish need far less food than they do during the rest of the year when they are more active so try not to overfeed your swim.
Start feeding with a dozen or or so maggots and 3 or 4 every other cast until you start to get bites. Once you start to get more bites and catch more fish you can up the feed accordingly.

If you are not getting bites do not be tempted to throw a handful of bait in thinking it will attract the fish. It will more than likely have the effect of feeding the fish off that may already be in the swim.



Get it right and you can improve your catch rate, get it wrong and that could be the end of your fishing trip for the day. In the winter months I always use a fine groundbait with a low feed content and I use it sparingly. I want to attract the fish into my swim but not feed them.

If I am float or pole fishing, especially if I am using bread as hook bait, I use liquidised white bread as groundbait. Once liquidised I add a small amount of water to make it moist enough so that it holds together when squeezed in my hand. Used this way the bread will create a cloud in the water as it falls to rest on the bottom. Hopefully this will attract the fish.


If I am feeder fishing I mix up a fine groundbait either on its own or 50 - 50 with liquidised bread. I load the open end feeder by plugging one end with groundbait and adding a few pinkies I then plug the other end with groundbait.

Tip: Don't mix the pinkies with the groundbait because if they get wet or damp they will escape in no time. see Fishing Bait section on the left.


A groundbait I regularly use during the colder months is Van Den Eynde Special. This is a fine groundbait that contains very little food content and will create a nice cloud which will hopefully attract the fish. I also use Van Den Eynde Supercup, a lightweight mix that also gives a good cloud effect but has the added attraction of a strong sweet smell. Both groundbaits can be used on their own or mixed together.

My first choice of baits for winter fishing are maggots, worms, pinkies, squat's, caster and bread but I always carry sweetcorn, luncheon meat and pellets in my box - just in case. Bait will also depend on where you are fishing. If you have chosen a commercial fishery then pellets may have been 'the' bait all summer and so will also catch during the winter. If fishing a natural water, river, canal, my first choice would be maggot.

Overall it is probably best to carry a few different hook baits when winter fishing and be prepared to experiment by swapping and changing.

Maggots of course are a year round bait and can be used as hookbait and also for feeding. In the colder months of winter only feed a few at a time though, you want to attract the fish and not feed them off. Maggots can also be used along with pinkies and squats.

Pinkies and squats are a known great winter bait especially on canals and being smaller than the maggot they can be used as hookbait on fine wire hooks. Squats are also good to add to groundbait but if mixed all at the same time they will bury themselves to the bottom or try to escape. I generally mix a sloppy groundbait, take a handful and add a few squats to it just before I throw it into the water.

When the going gets really tough, bloodworm and joker can save the day, although fishing with bloodworm and joker is mainly used by match anglers.

Caster is also a good winter bait and can be used as hookbait, loose-feed or a few added to groundbait.


Chopped worm, will tempt all fish and is a good summer and winter bait, especially if your target fish is perch or you are drop shotting.

Another good bait that I regularly use when the weather is cold and water clear is bread punch. Used in conjunction with liquidised bread this bait can be deadly for roach in the colder months. Throw a small ball of liquidised bread to where you are fishing and this will form a cloud as it falls through the clear water. This seems to give fish more confidence to feed and does not feed them.

Pellets and paste can also produce fish in the colder months and is worth trying.

see Fishing Baits

Flavourings and Spices
When fishing in winter and bites are slow it sometimes pays to add a flavouring or spices to your baits.

Although fish probably search for food more by sight than smell during the colder months a strong smelling flavour could help attract fish into the area.
Curry powder and Turmeric can both be added to your maggots / bait and I have had success with using both.
Turmeric is a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and is available from most supermarkets. Added to your maggots it will add colour to them and as with curry powder will also make them wriggle more.

I generally use Turmeric and ordinary curry powder but any spice or flavouring is worth a try and there are many to choose from.


Tight Lines and remember . . . Fishing is Fun





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