Where do our fish go in the cold?

Lee Richards

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Where do the starving Carp go on those Commies that have so many fish they have to eat or die and will eat everything.?

It's a mystery.
 

Silverfisher

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Spot on; fished team matches in summer at Medley in the past when the instruction was not to feed the waggler line for the first 5 to 10 minutes, so that those next to you who did would pull all the bleak in.
When they are bad I'm sure they come to the splash of the float as well even without feeding, many a time ended up lowering pole rig with a big olivette straight down under the pole tip so as not to make the slightest disturbance and give myself a chance of the bait getting down. .

As to where they go in the winter I suspect that as you say they don't go anywhere,. A mild day especially with a bit of colour in the water can get them showing again
Medley isnt too bad for bleak these days compared to some stretches around here. You couldn't float fish maggot effectively in high summer due to them but by September you can sometimes can whereas elsewhere it's usually into October before they slow down. Obviously hemp is the way to avoid them but sometimes it is nice to be able to fish maggot early doors when sometimes you have to wait for hemp to start working. You can usually get a maggot on the feeder mostly through them there even in high summer though whereas even that can be impossible on some stretches let alone on the float. Makes me laugh when people say a big bulk of shot will beat the bleak as whilst it often helps there are days that a oz plus feeder won't go through them let alone any sort of shot!

I remember fishing a small lake/pond that had lots of small carp in, this was before commercials it was Cold and the lake was clear and all the carp were in a big shoal swimming around the pond not feeding.
Fished a place like that last winter. Gin clear with visibly nothing in it (you could almost see every inch of it) other than pods of carp that just mooched around the lake not really interested in anything. I did get one but that was the only fish caught on the whole place on the day so was bizarre how they were expending that much energy without feeding. The place used to have F1 that you'd always catch however cold but if they are still in there now they must be very good at hiding!
 
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Robwooly

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I was walking down the canal as recently as two weeks ago in the morning and there was a heavy frost which made all the spiders webs look like those spray on halloween jobbies. With it the clearest I had ever seen it I scanned the bottom looking mainly at the bits of metal some of the magnet users had dumped in the margins, looking at the gravel bottom, where it turned to silt etc etc not expecting to see much. Then into sight came some small chub, followed by roach and even some perch, right in by the bank near the cover of a bridge but on the towpath side, I was taken aback and I towered over these fish watching them drift in and out of view. It was at a bit when the shallow margin dropped off. They weren't clinging to the bottom nor were they dormant and the only reason I could see them was because I was on a high bit where the bank juts out.

It dawned on me that sometimes I just don't think we look hard enough or have the vantage points to do so, after all what percentage of the water can we really see?
 

The Runner

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I remember a match on the L[angollen Canal the water had gone gin clear (winter) and as we looked into the water you could see the bottom right to the far bank
I thought what a waste of time this is going to be, all in shouts and over I go with bread punch to see a silver flash under the water and the float go under the fish were there but you couldn't see them on the dark bottom of the canal until they showed going for the bread punch.
Was often the same on what used to be my local Slough Canal.
And on teh R Colne, have weighed double figures of dace from a swim where could see every bit of gravel on the bottom in only a foot of water. And never saw a fish until it flashed when hooked...
 

smiffy

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That's something that's always puzzled me, why do fish move up some rivers in winter. The Yare and the river Hull are both tidal, so why is it only winter when they tend to move up river? I mean if it's to escape the bracken water, you get big tides right throughout the year, yet they don't migrate until the back end. There's no warmer water to attract them either, any info anyone?
I think it’s because they still have to work as hard as they do in summer,being tidal, but manage with a lot less natural food. They do run a series of winter matches on the Yare so there must be a few fish that don’t migrate to the boatyards. I think the big autumn salt tides are often driven by storms that you don’t get in summer.
 

Silverfisher

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I have had a bit of an insight into why you don’t catch many tench in the winter recently. Got 2 golden ones in my pond that I hadn’t seen in weeks which was a bit curious as thought how they have been eaten when they dwell on the bottom when the Orfe haven’t up in the water. Had just presumed they had gone as it’s crystal clear now so thought how would I see the Orfe of similar colour but not the tench especially as I could also see the much less visible Rudd and crucians. Anyway in the last few weeks when we’ve had less wind I’ve set about clearing all the leaves that went in during the mega windy spell of about a month ago. Turns out the tench completely bury themselves in the leaves! Have scooped them out amongst the leaves twice now as they seem to just bury themselves and go dormant. They go back strongly so must be fine but I never knew they’d full on hibernate like that when the other fish which you’d still call warm water species are still relatively active even if not too keen on food now.
 
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Northantslad

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Just a short reply to this one @JLK , as i am trying to take your feedback on board:), although i did see the word Barbel, so i will try, but.....


'Fish move in a predictable way'.

If it were that easy to predict, then any angler giving it regular trips over one full season would have the fishes behaviour all mapped out to aid their results. Instead the reality is and why fishing, eluding to Barbel as the article did in the outset, can be such a challenge due to all of the permutations of the variables; water levels, water clarity, water temperatures, warm floodwater, cold floodwater etc etc

The only hard and fast knowledge needed relevant to catching the fish, is knowing when and where they will feed, but with Barbel, to always appreciate their stomachs are tiny by comparison to certainly other cyprinids and can easily put therefore, 'don't fancy feeding' or unable to actually in the extreme cold (physiological factor taking over), over have to feed in a priority order.

I reckon therefore the Barbel are rarely far away from your favoured spot (favoured because it produces regularly) unless in the extremes of the variables, where water levels may be so low and clear they seek out safer sanctuary or in high strong water where energy taken in is less than energy needing to be expended to stay there.

Just because a session was fruitless (where catching or not is what measures the effectiveness of swim selection), doesn't mean they weren't there, sometimes the best efforts can't 'make' them feed.

Light levels are a factor, but not up there with water temperatures and to a degree nowadays angling pressure i feel, where yes, the fish may exploit the its dark and the hooks have all gone home now (day waters only), but only when temperatures or a favourable trend of temperatures will inspire them. Regarding the angling pressure and what you see on day and night permitted stretches to those that are just day is one of things i am regularly mulling over the advantages and disadvantages of, in how the fishing might be or if the fishing can be predicted and follow patterns based around business of a stretch.

The witching hour, although a cosy thought when you sit there, only exists when temperatures allow, in other words when, in the points of the year that the last hour of dark sees the water temperature peaking for the day. Conversely, there are also plenty of points of the year, yes largely colder months, where it has peaked hours before dark starts to rear its head, again, a fish behaviour not based on it being dark as is sometimes thought, but, again based on temperatures.

Look at why Sept/Oct is seen as the highlight of the Barbel season, yes, not as warm, but a need to feed takes over in the build up for feeding much less consistently or keenly through winter. Unless temperatures are milder than a typical September, its largely day time sport, as again, the end of the day sees temperatures dropping rather than peaking as they do in the warmer months. Suits me too when up the Severn in Sept, as there is good beer to be had after 6pm.

How does all of this impact on my Barbelling strategy? When conditions are within their normal range, find a favoured stretch/es and stick to it, as you may get more fish over a season suffering a few blanks, than trying to peg/swim/stretch hop with a strategy of trying to predict a fishes behaviour that is far from predictable at times, as a long travel time visitor that is, go anyway and fish and learn something, as much as i would love the convenience of step out the back door and gauge whether to go or not. Even the, i would probably go anyway.
 
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TrickyD

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A lake my old club had at Thorpe was stuffed full of small carp, commons and mirrors. You could catch them all day in the summer, up to 4oz, and have 50/60 lbs easily. Took my son there for his first go at fishing, whip to hand , he had over 70 in about 3 hours. Come the colder months they disappeared completely, you could catch bigger carp over 4lb, but no small ones at all.
 

Silverfisher

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It's definitely easier to catch bigger fish in the winter and smaller fish the rest of the year. The smaller fish are generally ravenous in the warmer months as they need to feed whilst they can easily get food so beat the bigger fish to the bait. By contrast in the winter the small fish dont need to feed much so bigger fish which still need to eat can be caught with much simpler tactics than the rest of the year as you don't have to worry about being selective.

That's kind of why I mostly fish for silvers most of the year as I like to be active so I'd rather catch say 10-20lb of fish under a pound and possibly pick up a few bonus bigger fish anyway than sit around all day for potentially only a couple bigger fish when there's definitely other fish to be caught. Switches on its head in the winter though as the small fish can get very hard to catch so I figure I might as well sit it out for bigger fish as its a no harder alternative and I'd rather catch a couple bigger fish than just 1-2lbs of small fish. It is strange here how it's goes being from many times easier to catch a double figure bag of roach than even just a couple proper chub when it's warmer to being easier to catch a couple proper chub than even a couple pounds of roach when it's cold.
 

PearTree

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Particular on canals fish, especially roach, can be in front of you but just not prepared to feed.

I‘ve lost count of the number of winter league matches we fished on the New Junction and Stainforth canals when hardly any roach were caught, but they were topping everywhere as it was coming dark and we had weighed in.

The Conroy brothers used to fish their winter Saturday matches on the Bridgewater Canal as late as possible in the day to maximise everyone’s chances of getting bites.
 

squimp

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That last point says it all.

Work with the natural cycles/behaviours and catching fish in the winter becomes much simpler.
 

Zerkalo

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I prefer the deeper swims on the couple of commercials I fish in winter, talking 7' instead of 3.5', but I'm told that sometimes it can be the opposite and shallow will out-fish deep. Makes me think there's a lot of variables involved in that though.
 

G0zzer2

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I have not the slightest doubt that on stillwaters, especially heavily-fished commercials, carp snuggle down under the land, which holds its heat. That's why so many fisheries have collapsing banks, caused by fish bulldozing their way into the land. Barbel do the same thing.

Peter Band, who used to co-own Decoy, told me once that in Winter, when the biggest carp are not caught very often, that they get under the island in the middle of Beastie.
 

smiffy

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I prefer the deeper swims on the couple of commercials I fish in winter, talking 7' instead of 3.5', but I'm told that sometimes it can be the opposite and shallow will out-fish deep. Makes me think there's a lot of variables involved in that though.
In the depths of winter I’m not sure it makes much difference but if there’s the slightest hint of heat from the sun then the surface of a lake and shallower water will warm up that tiny bit quicker. A mild breeze will have a similar effect. It could, feasibly, kick start a short feeding spell. Same thing applies to the margins. In my commie days they were always worth a try last knockings.
One thing I learnt was how quickly Carp will pop up to the surface in Springtime because there’s a bit of warmth from the sun. Even after a sharp frost?
One Bream lake I used to fish always,without exception, fished better in the shallows on sunny days after a frost. It fished rock hard but shallower pegs were the ones to draw.
 

banksy

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That's something that's always puzzled me, why do fish move up some rivers in winter. The Yare and the river Hull are both tidal, so why is it only winter when they tend to move up river? I mean if it's to escape the bracken water, you get big tides right throughout the year, yet they don't migrate until the back end. There's no warmer water to attract them either, any info anyone?

I know what you mean about the River Hull!
I have had a fair few sessions on a superb looking stretch near Arram, and not had a bite.

It's generally known that the roach move into the deep stretches near Beverley shipyards in winter, but in the last couple of months before the closed season, they are definitely on the move up towards shallower areas in preparation for spawning.

My best days were up above the tributary at Frodingham Bridge, up the canalised arm called the Old Howe. Three feet deep at the most, but stuffed with big roach in January and February. It was so popular, we used to arrive at 4am and fish by the light of a paraffin lamp. And still had about a dozen roach over 2lb. My biggest was 2lb 8oz, but I wouldn't be quite so proud of it these days, because it was full of spawn.

That arm is now blocked off - what the hell was the idea of THAT? - so I'm giving no secrets away. But the habits of the roach will not change.
The junction of Scurf Dike with the Hull near Hempholme was black with fry this year, which tells us something.
 

davylad

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Yes I agree banksy, had some fantastic roach catches back then, although sometimes you'd think there wasn't a fish within miles. Talking of roach I caught the biggest one I've ever seen, from Melton Pond. I was fishing with my brother in law, and we were having a cracking day, no one else there. I had plenty to 1lb -12oz, then I caught a monster. We weighed it and it went dead on 3lb, I said to call it 2lb - 15oz as no one would believe us. We didn't have cameras with us back then, but it was a fish of a lifetime and my first one over 2lb. Melton was renowned for massive roach in the late 50's and early 60's, with loads coming out well over 3lb, which wasn't far off the UK record.
 

baggy

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I haven’t fished there for years but a lot of the fish in the middle Exe migrated in the winter into the Exeter Canal especially the basin where it was solid with roach and skimmers until early spring
 

tipitinmick

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On the small river I fish, it's weird that morning is just as productive, if not more so than the evenings it seems at the moment, odd really when you think the water would be warmer in the evening, but the middle of the day can be a lull at all times of year but slightly better when it's overcast and low light. The sun does not even make it onto the pool in midday in winter due to trees surrounding but a blue sky can be the kiss of death. Summer evenings on the other hand are spot on, maybe I just need to fish it more around 4-5pm this time of year to really be able to tell, but first light has been brilliant.

This is more true for bigger fish but I'm also sure when the small fish don't show, they are so ravenous when they do, they have simply left the pool I fish rather than not feeding. In fact, in the two years I've been fishing there, it was only really the once for a few weeks this year that suddenly it was full of small fish. I have mentioned before though, I do like that the fish tend to move around there as it means I don't catch the same fish all the time. As happened when I caught the same shabby looking Chub 4 times in 2 sessions earlier this year, put me off fishing there for a while but pictured below.

2020-06-28 06.06.58.jpg 2020-06-28 09.49.30.jpg 2020-07-05 15.32.10.jpg 2020-07-05 16.03.43-6.jpg

One image of the four has been flipped vertically but you can see the same spot under its pectoral fin in each picture.
Not surprised Zerkalo. That chub looks like it’s starving. I hope not but, it looks like it’s gone too far. Let’s hope it sees spring.
 

OldTaff

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A lake my old club had at Thorpe was stuffed full of small carp, commons and mirrors. You could catch them all day in the summer, up to 4oz, and have 50/60 lbs easily. Took my son there for his first go at fishing, whip to hand , he had over 70 in about 3 hours. Come the colder months they disappeared completely, you could catch bigger carp over 4lb, but no small ones at all.

I'm experiencing exactly the same on my local lake (carp only) that the little ones have disappeared and I’m only getting 4-5lb or low doubles.

Maybe their size and stored reserves allow for more activity ??
 
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