What does this mean for you?
Carp are cold blooded and therefore, when the water temperature drops over the winter, so does their body temperature. When the temperature of carp drops in this way, unlike humans, they cannot heat themselves up by moving about. In fact, in these conditions, carp actually move a lot less and their metabolism is reduced. When a cold period goes on for a long time, carp can sit more or less motionless at certain times in the day.
For this reason, they do not take on nearly as much food as they would in warmer months. This change in feeding behaviour is at its peak typically in January and February. It does not mean that it is impossible to fish for carp at this time, but just that you should have realistic aims and possibly that a few changes might need to be made to your approach.
Although it is true that carp will need to eat less during the colder months, it should be said that they will continue to feed in every month of the year. It is very rare that you could locate an area where none of the carp feed at all within a 24-hour period. Carp have been recorded feeding at water temperatures as low as 3 degrees. Research has shown that they remain more active in cold waters than was once thought, but that this activity is limited to a reduced space in the water.
Therefore, even more so when it is colder, carp angling will still be heavily contingent on working out when the feeding period is and where in the water the fish are likely to be feeding. As carp do get into a routine, they will still likely have a set feeding window in the day, despite the fact that they may not be interested in consuming as much.
When the waters have dropped in temperature, it becomes important for the carp to find certain comfortable areas where perhaps it remains slightly warmer. Such areas that it might be work looking for to locate the most carp are snags, weed beds or fresh water springs.
Even though carp will often frequent deeper areas of water as shallower ones will be more susceptible to change when the weather turns, the most comfortable spots within those areas for carp in these conditions are not by definition the deepest points in the water and may still be where a food source usually is, even in the winter. Pre-baiting can therefore still be effective to ensure one area of a lake becomes full of active carp before you decide to get out your rod.
It is crucial not to overfeed in the winter as obviously the carp will not be interested after a certain amount of food has been made available due to their reduced need at this time. For this reason, it can be worth reducing the size of the baits to 10-14mm rather than using a 20mm mouthful. You can keep the carp keen with titbits rather than fulfilling their appetite too quickly.
When you do catch some good carp, and want to hold them out of the water, it is worth knowing that it will be a very uncomfortable experience for the fish if you have warm hands at this time. It is therefore worth holding your hands underneath the water for a while to wet them and cool them down. This way you will find that you will not take off the layer of protective mucus and the fish will not squirm away out of your hands.