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The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishing

OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishingConsidering continuing your fishing adventures during the winter months?

We’re here to tell you there’s no reason you shouldn’t!  

In fact, there are a couple of obvious advantages to winter fishing in the UK.

First of all, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have less ‘competition’ from other anglers. Many people trade fishing for hunting during the winter, and many just don’t fancy spending hours out in the cold.

There’s also a common misconception that it’s much more difficult during the winter.

Now, we’re not denying that winter fishing is more tough than other times other the year. But, it’s also the time of the year when many freshwater species tend to group together. That, coupled with the fact that there’ll be less people doing, it, is likely to result in more fish for all you winter anglers.

While winter fishing does have its advantages, you definitely need to follow tips for preparation and planning to truly make the most of it. You also need to pack the right gear to keep your belongings and equipment nice and safe from the harsher winter elements.

Read on for our ultimate guide, packed full of useful winter fishing tips and useful videos.

Winter fishing tips and things to keep in mind

Location, location, location

First things first, start preparing for your winter fishing trip by picking the right spot to go to. Knowing where to go is a crucial step for a successful fishing trip any time of the year, regardless of which species you’re looking to target.

Check out this resource on what to look for when trying to find winter fish, You could also check out online tools such as fisheries.co.uk and Fishing Info from the Angling Trust which have been created to guide anglers to good fishing spots.

Avoid rivers or lakes with elevated currents. Not only will it make fishing more difficult, but it can also be a safety issue. Opt for lakes and rivers that have a naturally stable current, even during winter.

Look up the current conditions online before you set off on your trip. Remember, good preparation and research means you’re saving yourself hours of potentially wasted time in the cold!

Pick the right day and time to go

OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishing - Pick the right time to goWeather needs to be an even more important consideration when planning fishing trips during the winter. Keep an eye on the forecast and plan your winter river fishing trip around it. And it’s not just about comfort levels. There are certain conditions that can improve your odds of successful catching.

Weather fronts play a big part in how active many freshwater species are. Generally, fish are less active after a front. To boost your chances of success, plan your winter fishing trip before a cold front passing. And even though it’s the British winter and the chances of sun are limited, try to find the brightest and sunniest days to go. Take some Polaroids to help with visibility issues - they can help you spot any signs of fish in the bright winter sun.

Time wise, you should aim to go between 10 in the morning to around 4 in the afternoon. That’s when fish are more likely to be actively feeding.  Sure, you may catch the odd fish outside of these times, but you’re much more likely to see the most activity then.

Get all your fishing equipment in order

OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishing - EquipmentWinter fishing can result in additional strain on all your precious equipment. Once you’ve decided on your location and day, make sure all your fishing gear is up to the task.

Start by checking your reels. Clean and lubricate your reel bearings, as the chilly weather can lead to them being stiff and difficult to use. You don’t want to be unable to reel in a fish you’ve hooked after spending hours outside on a cold morning!

You can find professionals to disassemble and clean your reels for a fairly low price in repair shops. This is highly recommended before you start river fishing in cold weather at the start of the season. 

Condition your lines to keep them supple and prevent twisting. You can also use the same line conditioner to stop water from freezing on your rod guides, which can happen if it’s cold enough.

You’re also much more likely to expose your belongings to rain and moisture in the winter. Make sure you have a sturdy dry bag to keep your things safe and protected from the elements.

Select the right bait

Choosing the best winter fishing lures can be tough - but a few tips will help boost your chances of success:

  • Opt for live bait. Since the fish themselves are moving more slowly in the cold water, artificial bait that moves too quickly will turn them away.

If you do decide to go for artificial, do your best to slow down so you can mimic the sluggish methods of these species in the winter. This can be tough to do accurately, so we’d recommend just going for live bait, such as minnows or live worms.OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishing - Select The Right Bait

  • Go for lures that are good at catching more than one species. For instance, herring or shad are attractive forage for many freshwater species in the winter. There are other forage species, such as crawfish, that will be hibernating in the winter and won’t work as a lure.
  • Baits made of soft plastic, including grubs and tube baits, can also be effective in the winter. Just opt for those colours that are most similar to actual winter forage, such as silver and white with specks of colour.

Make sure your bait is highly visible- opting for bait that is vividly coloured and can be spotted easily is more likely to attract the attention of feeding (and non-feeding) fish. Gold or chrome would also work well.

  • If you do go for artificial bait, select those with feathers. These work well in cold water conditions, as opposed to soft plastic baits that can turn stiff and immobile if the temperature dips too low. Feathers and hair help the bait to move quickly and naturally without the need of much movement from the angler.
  • Another winter fishing tactic is to use a smaller sized lure. During these colder months, a fish doesn’t need to feed as often, and they find smaller prey easier to digest and catch. If you present them with something small and slow, you’re mimicking their natural feeding preferences during this season.

Size wise, go for baits that are between 2 - 4 inches. Keep your bait in a tight area for the best chances of success.

Keep your safety in mind while winter fishing

Let’s start with the obvious. Dress in warm and comfortable layers while going winter fishing. Thermal undergarments are recommended. Don’t underestimate just how cold it can get when you’re spending a few hours in the same spot during the British winter. In fact, take a few extra layers along in a waterproof bag. You won’t regret it.

OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishing - Keep your safety in mindOnce you have your timing and location all set, let a friend know where you’re going to be and for how long. In case something goes wrong, it helps speed up the process of recovery if someone knows exactly where you’re in trouble.

Target species that tend to feed better in colder temperatures

As mentioned above, the metabolism of fish is much slower in the winter, and there isn’t a need to ‘overfeed’. Though you may be used to targeting certain species during the summer months, you’ll find it much more fruitful to focus on those that are winter feeding, such as chub, dace, pike or perch.

Add a little bit of flavour to boost your bait

You could even just use a flavoured hook bait to add some appeal. A bit of alcohol based flavour can work wonders in hooking a fish in during the winter, without the need to use any feed at all.

Try different depths to find feeding fish

Rather than sending your hook bait straight to the bottom, it’s worth trying to change depths to find the best spot where the fish are actually feeding. This doesn’t just work for float fishers - it’s also a good winter carp fishing bait tip. In fact, carp anglers can see great success winter fishing with adjustable zig rigs.

Use light tackle

So, you’re probably aware by now that fish are more lethargic and sluggish in the winter. This means there’s less vegetation in the waters, and you don’t need to use a heavy tackle.

Winter fishing bait ideas

OverBoard Blog - The ultimate beginners guide to winter fishingTo tempt lethargic winter fish, read on for some ideas on winter fishing lure to cajole and hook them successfully:

Spices

Well known for being one of the best winter bass fishing lures, spicy flavours can make your baits a lot more tempting in an instant. Try the below spices to get started:

  • Turmeric
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground chilli
  • Garam masala

 Salt

Salt is a great way to attract fish at this time of the year.

Opt for rock or salt instead of table salt which is usually laden with chemicals. Sprinkle it onto maggots or pellets or corn and you’ll be able to attract fish in a smaller radius.

You can also use bags of rock salt with your hook bait - try it and you’ll be surprised at just how effective this can be during the winter.

Sweetcorn

One of the most effective baits for winter saltwater fishing, a few grains of sweetcorn are a great choice as they are easy for fish to digest and they’re also easily visible.

All you need is a couple of grains, and they make a great bait choice for winter carp fishing too.

For more winter carp fishing tips, check out this video:

Sliced bread

One of the top choices for winter fishing bat, (especial for winter chub fishing) is to use simple sliced bread. For the colder months, we’d recommend using a liquidised white loaf. If you want an even finer mix, just get rid of the crusts first.

For more winter chub fishing tips, check out this video

Maggots

Looking for effective winter carp fishing bait? Maggots in a mesh bag is a simple and reliable choice. They’re easy for carp to digest, and highly visible thanks to their colours.

Add a rubber grub or two onto your rig to add some balance when casting.

Peperami

It’s not surprising that this popular meat snack is such a good option for winter fishing bait. Peperami is spice and attractive to species such as carp and chub thanks to its colours.

For the best results, slice the outer skin off and chop it up into small chunks before casting.

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If you remain mindful of your conditions and follow the necessary safety protocol, winter-time can be a great time for skilled anglers who know how to take advantage of a quiet fishing season.

Sure, you’ll have work a little harder, but with the right planning and prep, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a super successful fishing adventure during the winter months. Just remember to research your location and have a clear plan for your target species and the bait that’ll work for them. Take the right equipment along (and dry bags for your own belongings).

If you follow these winter fishing tips, you’ll find that fishing can be even more rewarding at this time of the year.

 

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