English Carp Heritage Organisation - ECHO
Short Session Bait Strategies for Europe - by Chris Woodrow and Tommy De Cleen
Back to basics - Issue 2. Carp and their habits - by Peter Jenkins
Moving carp in winter - by Paul Selman
English Carp Heritage Organisation
English Carp Heritage Organisation
is the only carp angling body that is dedicated to the history and the
protection of carp and carp angling in England. We are totally opposed to the
illegal importation of carp and will lobby for tougher legislation governing
carp imported into this country, legal or otherwise. We intend to protect the
best of this country's unique carp and carp angling heritage for the benefit of
both ourselves and future generations.
- The Official Newsletter of the English Carp Heritage Organisation
Tommy `Blackwater` De Cleen ECHO MEMBER
Recent Events in France
Since our very first meeting with the redoubtable Ian 'Chilly'Chilcott and his like-minded colleagues, we at CEFAS have been ever more impressed with the determination and dedication of ECHO members to influence the efforts being made to protect our indigenous fish stocks, particularly of course carp, from the threat of disease. It is one thing to talk about it, but something quite different to go out on a limb and actually do something about it, particularly where illegal imports are concerned.
From the outset ECHO made it very clear that they rejected the common view that foreign fish were here and that it was too late to do anything about it. They aligned themselves publicly with the anti-smuggling aims of my organisation, CEFAS (which is responsible to DEFRA for the prevention of serious fish disease in England and Wales). This was not something which was likely to make them too many friends amongst a section of the angling, fishery owners and dealers fraternity. It was a bold, brave step by ECHO and one for which all carp anglers should be very grateful. However, there was always a slight suspicion that deeds would not match words - that it was all well intentioned, but it may never achieve results. Wrong!
Shortly before the weekend of 27th/28th September we received reliable information from ECHO which we were able to pass on immediately to the French authorities. The information related to the activities of some UK 'anglers' at Chanteqoc, the popular French destination of many UK carp anglers. As a direct result of this information the Garde de Peche and the local gendarmerie were able to prevent the removal from the lake of a significant number of carp, weighing between 10 and 15 kgs each. The fish had been put into sacks and were awaiting collection. Fortunately, they were discovered by the Garde de Peche officers and returned to the water, thus preventing the possible smuggling of the fish into the UK. This prompt action by the Garde saved the fish from further cruelty, and from their likely destruction if they had they been intercepted coming into the UK.
The people involved have been identified by the French authorities who have
expressed their gratitude for the tip off and they have made it very clear that
they will be taking firm action against anyone found stealing or removing their
fish in future. It is also possible that attempts will be made to change their
regulations to overcome current anomalies and tighten up the law to prevent
further offences. For our part we will be doing all we can to assist them in
their efforts to identify anyone involved in such offences, or in illegally
importing live fish into this country.
Be in no doubt that this kind of situation will arise again and again in the future, not only in France but in other countries, such as Holland where local anglers are fed up with the theft and removal of their fish. They and the Dutch authorities have been in contact with CEFAS and have made clear their intention to stop this illegal activity. However, in due course the problem is likely to extend beyond western Europe. There are clear indications that fish originating in eastern European countries are finding their way to our shores, and bringing with them a further threat of disease.
This latest incident at Chantecqoc, and other recent similar incidents, has highlighted the illegal activities of a small number of British visitors and has, I understand, led to the banning of all British anglers from the lake, at least in the short term. How unfair that the vast majority of honest UK anglers have to suffer for the greed of a small minority. But how predicable it was! So many people, some of whom make a very good living out of carp fishing, are prepared to milk the sport for all they can get but put nothing back into it. They turn a blind eye to the problem, knowing a lot but saying very little.
Fortunately, ECHO is now changing this philosophy. Slowly but surely more and more people are seeing that the stance they have adopted over illegal imports is right. It is right for carp, right for the environment, right for the sport of angling and right for the reputation of our anglers. Keep up the good work ECHO.
Short Session Bait Strategies for Europe
been asked many times in the past, what to do to with respect to bait
application and baiting strategy to the achieve best results whilst fishing a
short session on the Continent.
going on and talking more specifically about particle fishing, I think it would
be a good idea to briefly discuss the basics of particle preparation. Dehydrated
particles require soaking in water, normally overnight, or for at least, say 12
hours. Most swell up to at least double their size so you'll need to consider
this when selecting bucket size and level of water in it. It is also worth
adding a flavour / oil / enhancer to the liquid at this point so that the bait
absorbs it during the soaking process. Colour, if required, can also be added at
In Belgium and France we have hard waters, easy waters, canals, rivers and so on.
Successful bait application depends on the water you fish!
Let's look at the river Lot in France. Here I bait a lot to start with on the first day of the session. I bait up the swim with about 10kg of particles(hemp, pellets and Partiblend and Red Band) and about 6kg of boilies of mixed sizes (18mm,16mm and 12mm) in a large area - about the size of a tennis field. After every fish I catch, I bait up the spot with 1kg particles and half a kg boilies.
On a lake where I fish, I pre-bait for one or two weeks, with about 2kg boilies (mixed sizes) every other day. I do this to establish a good regular food source.
When Iím fishing I bait up to start with 1kg per rod (it depends on the time of year etc) but from September I do this, and after catching, I top up the spot with 50-60 free offerings. I always put a funnel web bag on with some trout pellets in!
On canals itís different. On some I bait 2kg in a length of maybe 200 metres to the right and 200 metres to the left. But on canals like the Kempish, I only need about 100 boilies for the whole week-end! On this canal, I bait and scatter about fifteen boilies around the hookbait. I put some boilies in canal water to soak for about 2 to 3 hours here as the fish are very hard to catch. I do all this, is because it works for me this way! I also fish with single hookbaits sometimes - bottom baits as well as pop-ups.
The fishing here is different from English lakes. We have a lot of deep sand pits and clay pits and I can tell you that most of my bigger fish come from deep water of between 6 to 12 metres.
Good Luck to you all!
Back to basics - Issue 2. Carp and their habits
species of carp most frequently found throughout Britain is known as the common
carp. There are three cultivated varieties of this species - leather, mirror and
common - and a wild type.
Most common carp have broad, deep bodies and brown backs. Their flanks range from the deep brown and yellow of most leathers to the golden sheen of wildies.
Compared to the more frequently fished cultivated varieties of carp, true wild carp are more barbel-like in shape. Long and lean-bodied, they look every inch a hard fighting, fast moving fish. They lack the distinctive hump behind the head of the cultivated carp and weigh less, rarely reaching 16lb.
Wild carp are descendants of the original stocks of carp kept as food fish in the Middle Ages. Once prolific, true wildies are now in decline, being found in only a few isolated waters, as interbreeding with cultivated carp has diluted the pure strain.
Other species of carp found in Britain include the crucian carp, common in eastern counties and the south of England, and the grass carp, a native of eastern China and Russia, which was introduced into European waters in the 1970's to control weed growth.
Carp fry feed on plankton and water fleas, but adult carp, with their sensitive feelers (barbels) and vacuum-like mouths, are best suited to bottom feeding.
They spend most of their time rooting around in the mud at the bottom of lakes and rivers, and nothing that lives on or in the mud, including snails, crayfish, bloodworms, mussels and shrimps, is safe from the digging of carp. But as any angler can tell you, carp also feed in mid-water and come up to the surface for floating food.
Though not strictly predators, large carp have on occasion been known to eat other fish. They have extremely sensitive taste and smell receptors and can distinguish one sort of shellfish from another. This is what enables them to avoid baits on which they have been caught before. They can be spooked easily, so be careful - and quiet - when approaching shallow waters.
Temperature also affects feeding. If the water is colder than 14C (57F), carp feed less readily. However, canny anglers have proved that carp can still be persuaded to feed even in winter. Well-aerated water - the shallows and the surface during windy weather also encourages feeding.
Carp only spawn when the water temperature is between 18-20C (64-68F), usually in late May and early June, as you would expect with a fish introduced from the warmer climes of the Continent.
Often the young carp do not have enough time to build up reserves of fat before winter sets in, and so die. Although this prevents them from taking over many waters, carp are so long-lived, surviving for 40 years or more, that even the few which do reach adulthood ensure the survival of the species.
When the water is warm enough, each female lays over one million eggs among the weeds in the shallows. The eggs, small, sticky and yellowish, hatch in three to eight days, again depending on temperature. The larvae live off their yolk sacs for a few days. After that, they begin to feed on tiny water organisms.
Growth is rapid where the water is warm and rich in food. They can reach 0.9kg (2lb) in a year and continue to grow at that rate indefinitely, but many of the waters in Britain are too cold to encourage maximum size.
Fishing for carp
Carp inspire great dedication in a large group of anglers. To catch successfully and regularly, you must start with a thorough knowledge of basic carp fishing. There is no shortcut to catching specimens.
Read everything you can about the species. Spend time studying the various rigs and methods, and - most importantly for the novice carp angler - the sorts of features in a water which appeal to carp.
If you are a beginner, you should try a water with a large head of carp - where bites (or 'runs') are not too scarce. An easy water, heavily stocked with carp up to 3.6kg (8lb) is ideal - what you learn about carp behaviour from these small specimens you'll be able to use to catch bigger ones later on. You will find that tackle dealers and anglers are only too happy to tell you about the carp waters you can fish in your area.
The more experienced angler may prefer the challenge of a water with fewer carp but of a higher average weight. These fish will be wary and more difficult to hook. If you are to get one on the bank you must be prepared to put in the hours.
Lakes are generally best for really big fish. Canals and rivers are neglected and can be worth a try; few of the carp in these waters have been caught before so they often fall to less sophisticated baits and methods.
Finding the fish is the secret to catching them. Walk around the water looking for tell-tale signs. Patches of bubbles and small areas of muddy water indicating feeding carp. Look out for fish topping, rolling or feeding on the surface, too.
During daylight carp retreat to the cover of islands, lily beds, weedbeds and overhanging or sunken trees. A bait cast tight up to these fish-holding areas often produce runs.
On gravel pits it is worth trying a bait along the bottom of gravel bars. You can precisely pin down the location of these by careful plumbing with a float or by casting a lead and timing the drop.
Questions to tackle
To start with, any through-action, 3.3-3.6m (11-12ft) rod with a 0.9kg (2lb) test curve and a decent fixed-spool reel filled with 200m (220yd) of 2.7-3.6kg (6-8lb) line is fine for most carp on most waters, especially at short to medium range. However, if you take up the challenge of carp in earnest you are going to need some specialized tackle.
Before selecting your gear you should ask yourself a few questions. For instance, are you going to fish the margins or at long range. Is the water snaggy? What size fish are you after? If in doubt, get advice from a tackle dealer or an experienced carp angler - especially one who knows the water you want to fish.
For long-range work, you need a rod with a fast taper and a tip action. Long casting also calls for heavier weights, which in turn mean more powerful rods. A test curve of 1.1kg (2Ĺlb) is about right for weights over 57g (2oz). For lighter weights, use a 0.9kg (2lb) test curve rod and for margin fishing with small weights use a rod with a 0.8kg (1ĺlb) test curve.
The reel should be of a sturdy, open-faced design and have a spool with a capacity of at least 140m (153yd) of 3.6kg (8lb) line. It should lay the line evenly on the spool, so that a running fish is able to take line easily. A baitrunner facility is useful - it allows the taking fish to run without your needing to take the bail arm off.
On most waters you can catch well using traditional baits. Carp love maggots and caster and are extremely fond of sweetcorn, trout pellets and trout pellet paste. Luncheon meat and sausage meat are also very good, especially when fished over a bed of hemp or sweetcorn.
Carp also like bread, both in the form of flake and floating crust. Dog and cat biscuits make good floating baits, too, though you need to soak them for a few minutes before they are soft enough to put on the hook.
The other great carp baits are boilies. They have the advantage that smaller fish, such as roach, bream and tench, are less likely to take them. You can buy boilies or make them at home. The range of flavours and colours is so wide that it's impossible to say which are best. You must experiment to find out which ones the carp on your water prefer.
Legering, surface fishing and float fishing all catch carp. Legering is the most popular method because it's easy and effective. Start with a simple link leger - you can move on to more complicated rigs in later seasons when you're after bigger, better educated carp.
If the fish are hard to hook, you can try a hair rig. Here, you don't put the bait directly on the hook, instead you thread it on a short length of line (up to 5cm/2in), which is tied to the hook shank. It works well because the hook is entirely free - so there is a much greater chance of it catching in the carp's mouth.
The hair rig works well with the bolt rig. This is a 'self-hooking' leger - the carp bolts when it feels the hook and hooks itself against the lead, which needs to be at least 57g(2oz).
One of the simplest and best bolt rigs is the semi-fixed leger. Here the leger boom which holds the lead has a short section of silicone rubber tubing which fits snugly over the swivel used to attach your hooklength.
This effectively attaches the lead to the swivel and hence to the main line. So when the carp bolts, the fixed lead pulls the hook home. However, if the line breaks while you are playing a fish, the silicone rubber tubing will pull off in the first snag, so the carp is not doomed to tow the lead around with it, as it might with a fully fixed rig or a paternoster rig. You can buy leger booms with the silicone rubber tubing attached in most tackle shops.
Surface fishing is very simple. Cut a piece of crust from a fresh loaf and fish it freelined or as an anchored floater. You can also use pet food mixers, cereals or floating boilies as surface baits. For float fishing, use a simple float rig that gets the bait down to the carp.
Whichever method you are using, accurate casting and feeding is always important. Find a likely fish-holding spot and cast close to it. Encourage the fish to feed by using a catapult, throwing stick or bait dropper to present free offerings around your hookbait. Sometimes it is possible to intercept margin-feeding fish by dropping a bait right in its path.
When carp fishing, patience is a virtue but if you are not getting results and you can see signs of fish in another part of the water, don't hang about - move on.
One of the greatest aids to success in modern carp fishing is knowing how to make up and use different rigs. In most carp waters, the standard running-link leger method with a hair rig is all you need to catch bottom feeding carp.
However, in more difficult lakes where the fish are caught frequently and have become wary of baits on the bottom, experimenting with more advanced rigs can make all the difference between blanking and catching big fish. But how do you know when to switch to a different rig?
If most anglers on your water are catching more than you, if you get a lot of small bite indications which don't produce proper takes, if you are frequently losing fish because they come off, or if the fish you catch are hooked just outside the mouth - then it's time to change.
If you get lots of twitches, slacken the line so it lies along the bottom, making sure they're not line bites. If the twitches continue, try to make sure they're not caused by small fish, perhaps by trying a smaller bait - small fish often suck at a bait too large for them. If you don't start catching small fish, it's time to change your set-up.
Softer is better
Firstly, if you are using a monofilament hooklength, you should try changing it for braided or multistrand line. Mono is much stiffer than these other lines and affects the way your bait behaves when a wary carp sucks it in and blows it out before taking it properly. It may also be that carp can feel stiffer hooklengths more easily with their lips. Whatever, the reason, soft hooklengths certainly work.
The only problem with these types of line is that they are so soft that they are prone to tangles. You should definitely consider using an anti-tangle rig or one of the anti-tangle gels you can buy in tackle shops. These gels stiffen the hooklength for the cast, but dissolve in water, leaving the line soft and supple again.
There are broadly two sorts of anti-tangle
rigs - legers and helicopter rigs. With the leger type, a drilled (in-line) lead
or bomb is attached to a length of stiff tubing which is longer than the
hooklength. This prevents the hooklength tangling with the line.
The lead and tubing is stopped in the usual way with a swivel. You can fish this type of arrangement semi-fixed or free-running as with the standard leger. With a semi-fixed leger the weight is attached to a short length of soft silicone rubber tubing which is wedged over the swivel. This fixes the lead in position, making the set-up a bolt rig, but if you snap off on a carp, the lead pulls off the swivel easily, so the carp doesn't have to tow the lead around with it.
The helicopter rig is basically a paternoster rig in which the hooklength is free to rotate around the main line on a swivel - hence the name. The hooklength comes off above the lead, making it ideal for soft, silty lake beds where the lead may well sink. With a standard leger, the lead may pull the bait into the mud, making it harder for the carp to find.
If you do use a helicopter set-up, you should use one based on the CV-safety rig. Like the semi-fixed leger, this allows the fish to shed the weight in case of a snap-off.
Whatever type of set-up you are using, even anti-tangle gear, try retrieving it quickly a few times after casting, to see if it tangles. If it does, make the necessary adjustment until it stops doing so.
The original bolt rig was a running leger fished with a tight line in a drag clip. When the fish bolted, it was hooked by the resistance of the tight line. An important variant was the semi-fixed lead where the weight of the lead pulled the hook home.
Carp in heavily fished waters have become wary of sweet-smelling bright balls of food lying on the lake bed or wafting around a few inches off it (as in pop-ups). Screaming runs are rare. Carp no longer belt off when they feel the weight of a heavy lead pulling a hook into their mouths.
Instead of fleeing in panic, they stay absolutely still, mouths working furiously as they suck and blow at the lightly lodged hook. Nine times out of ten they get rid of it.
The first thing to try is a running leger, fished with a light lead on a slack line and light bobbin indicator. However, there are times when even this provides too much resistance for the cautious carp.
But all is not lost. If you think the carp have become too clever on your lake, try extending confidence rigs, which allow a cautious carp to take a few inches of line before it feels the lead - and may fool it into taking the bait deeper into its mouth.
The first rig involves the use of Kryston Super-Stiff, a dissolving anti-tangle gel. First tie your preferred hook and hair-rig arrangement to one end of a 60-75cm (24-30in) length of Dacron, Silkworm or Multi-Strand. Tie a swivel to the other end. Then fold the hook link back on itself to make a flattened S-shape. Tie the top bend of the S to the eye of the swivel with PVA string, then tie the other bend to the hook link, also with PVA. Finally smear the whole hook link with Super-Stiff, allow it to dry, then apply another coat. When this has dried completely you have a stiff, 25-30cm (10-12in) hook link that extends to its full 75cm (30in) once it has been cast out and the Super-Stiff and the PVA has melted. It's simple but devastating.
A second rig works in a similar way. You need an in-line lead such as a Comet or Zipp drilled lead. Cut a 3-4cm (1-1Ĺin) length of 2mm diameter tubing and Superglue it to the rear section of the lead. Then tie on your preferred hooklength using a swivel, with a shock bead to protect the knot in casting.
Thread a baiting needle through the glued-on piece of tubing to pick up the hook link and draw it back through the tube. Then secure the loop of hook link that has been pulled through to the back of the lead or around the main line with PVA string.
In both cases, when the fish sucks at the bait from a distance, expecting it to pull tight before it reaches its lips, the exact opposite happens - and the hookbait goes right into the fish's mouth!
Similarly, if the fish picks up the hook bait and backs off, the extending link fools it into thinking that the hook bait is one of the free offerings, giving it the confidence to take the bait into its mouth. Sneaky, isn't it.
Carp tend to run with a bait This means that for legering, bite indicators that allow the fish to run are often best. Bobbins, monkey climbers and swingers all do this.
All three rise when the fish runs away from you, taking line, and fall when the fish runs towards you - a drop-back bite. Monkey climbers and swingers are simply developments of the original bobbin principle.
A swinger is in effect a bobbin on a fixed arm which allows it to swing upwards or downwards when the fish takes - hence the name. The monkey climber consists of two parts. The 'monkey' is a plastic cylinder free to slide up and down a vertical metal needle. The top of the needle is usually enlarged to stop the monkey flying off. The line passes between the climber and the needle. When you strike, the line is freed from the indicator.
All three types of indicator can be fitted with glowing isotopes so you can see them while night fishing. They work especially well when fished with electronic bite alarms.
A big thank you to Brian Poole
Winter carp fishing is difficult, especially on the big fish waters.
Leaving aside the issue of baits, rigs and tackle, the main issue for the winter carp fisher has to be location. Only once you find the fish do any of the other factors come into play.
One of the major clues to locating carp in the winter is any movement by the carp themselves. Iíve probably fished somewhere in the region of twenty different carp lakes in winter and in all of them at one time or other in the winter months, Iíve experienced carp jumping or swirling.
It seems to be the case that carp like each others company far more in the winter than in summer, so that itís likely that if you notice a carp jump or swirl beneath the surface then itís a good bet that thereís a number of carp in the area. Looking back, some of my best winter catches have come when a carp has showed, and Iíve then re-positioned my hookbaits to where the carp showed. It is important never to ignore a moving winter carp. Never, ever, assume the carp are going to come to your bait or baited area - cover any movement of fish with at least one rod.
One of the interesting things Iíve found is that for whatever reason, carp seem to leap and swirl more after dark in the winter months. They often donít show at all during the daylight hours, and so the angler must remain alert and watchful for as long as possible after dark for carp movement. Those who retreat to the confines of the bivvy and then switch on the TV or radio, often miss out!
Another thing Iíve found on many of the northern waters is that carp leap more after dark during very cold, high pressure nights. Why that is, is puzzling, for if you think about it thereís not a lot of logic about carp preferring to leap at the coldest part of the day. Nevertheless it happens. On Birch Grove, for example, during high pressure, freezing cold conditions, you can almost guarantee hearing carp jumping between midnight and 2pm.
Often, also they jump in very shallow water in very cold, still conditions. On Redmire some years ago, I fished a three-night session in January. I set-up in the Stumps Swim, for this allowed me to fish the deep water in the pool to my left and also cover the shallows if necessary to my right and the islands to my right and opposite. To the right of the swim the water was so clear down to the shallows that it was possible to clearly see the bottom. There were no carp to be seen in this stretch of water during the day, but I guessed the odd fish might be found in the shallows after dark. The first night was very cold and I was awakened after midnight by the sound of carp crashing. The carp were crashing in just inches of water right down in the far shallows.
ďWhat the hell are they doing down there?Ē I asked myself.
Assuming it was a one-off instance, I concentrating on the water in front of The Stumps the following night, too. I was woken up again during the night by the sound of carp crashing out - and, youíve guessed it - they were right down in the shallows again! For the last night I decided to move down to the shallows, as I hadnít had a pick-up from the deeper water. As I set-up I could clearly see the bottom at this end of the pool, and there were no carp present, so I felt a tad foolish. However, I was confident the fish would once again, show up after dark. I sat up all night, expecting the buzzer to sound at any time. Sodís Law! I never had as much as a bleep, and neither did any of those very cute Redmire carp show! However, this episode shows that you should never rule out shallow water even in freezing conditions.
A moving carp is expending energy, and therefore is more likely to feed than a carp that is semi-torpid and lying still on the bottom. Sometimes, it is possible to get the carp moving yourself, and it is my experience that once a torpid carp begins to move it immediately starts to feed. Iíve had some excellent catches following smashing up the ice, especially on shallow waters. On the excellent Hawk Lake in Shropshire, I had two major hits after really smashing up the ice vigorously and causing great turbulence in quite shallow water Ė three to four feet. All that disturbance must have stirred up the carp and got them moving, and they swept up any baits in front of them as they moved, including my hookbaits. Once on Birch, I was paddling around in the boat and found a number of big carp all huddled together in a shallow corner, some way away from my swim. I put the oar down and stirred it amongst them and literally moved them on with the oar. Within a few hours I landed four carp to 28lb and I am convinced that they were the carp Iíd disturbed. Iíd got them on the move again, and feeding again.
Iíve had too many takes in the winter from what I initially considered to be a coot or a duck - only to find out that it was a carp - to realise that the two are often linked. It is always worth trying an area populated by a number of diving birds. Again, it is because I think they disturb the carp and stir them up, especially coots, which swim very aggressively underwater. Where there are baits present I also think sometimes that the carp contest with the birds for them.
Simply casting baited rigs about, I also feel, can interest the carp and get them moving. Kevin Maddocks, for example, was convinced that when he fished Darenth Big Lake that the carp were attracted to the sound of baits and rigs going into the water. He exploited that by firing in stones to a similar size to his boilies but just fished hookbaits only. Iíve found this a good method too, especially on quite heavily stocked lakes, although I prefer regular re-casting. Whether it is really the Ďsoundí of the lead and bait etc hitting the water is debatable. I think what often happens is that objects entering the water disturbs the carp, moves them a little, and then they are more interested in feeding.
One final point, once you find an area through moving carp, it is vital to keep introducing bait in that area throughout the winter months. That way you keep the carp active, moving and feeding.