Image of Ken Townley holding a large carp on the lakeside

Spring Fishing Tips Part One: Early Season Strategies and Techniques

March 1st already! Spring is just around the corner and the carp are starting to wake up after their torpid existence through the winter. As the sun climbs higher in the sky with each passing day so the warmer water stirs the rich soup of lake water into life.

Natural food is burgeoning and the carp are on the move and ready for a big meal. Spawning time is not far off and they need plenty of good nourishing sustenance to build up their strength prior to the rigours of reproduction. Now is the time to get the bait going in.

I always use this time of the year to try to discover new patrol routes and to renew my acquaintance with established ones. Carp usually react very visually to the steady increase in water temperature so I am always on the lookout for fish showing at the surface. They may crash out or simply show their head and shoulders but in time you will be able to spot the areas where they show the most as they move along their patrol routes.

Lakes that have been frozen for several weeks take some time to thaw fully and while the air temperature may reach, say 20 degrees, the water temperature may still be below 10 degrees, especially in the deeper water. Temperature stratification will affect all lakes and the deeper they are the more this stratification will have an effect on fishing. The temperature difference between the surface of the lake, basking in 20 degree sunshine and the lakebed, perhaps as much as 5m below, may well be as much as 5 degrees, so you don’t need to be a genius to figure out which areas of the lake the carp are going to prefer. Yes, that’s right…the shallows!

It is a characteristic of water that it warms up quicker than it cools down so often the shallower areas of the lake will attract carp early in the season. Warm spring sunshine will encourage early weed growth and though you may not be able to see them at the surface yet, the long stems of the lily pads will be pushing towards the surface. If you know the lake well and in particular are familiar with the whereabouts of the lily pads and other weed beds from the previous years, now is a good time to fish the emerging weeds.

Carp will take advantage of any cover no matter how sparse and even the thin shoots of springtime will attract them to the natural food that will start to congregate as soon as the tendrils start to climb towards the surface. Other types of beneficial weed like water milfoil will also be starting to clump together and this very rich species of weed will invariable attract carp.

Wherever possible try to look in on the fish as they go about their day-to-day lives. You can learn so much about the habits of the carp simply by climbing an overhanging tree and you’ll be astonished at how much more underwater life is revealed from the upper branches of a handy tree. You can usually spot the fish themselves and also pinpoint the position of weed beds, shallows, bars and plateaux and so on. A pair of polarising glasses helps cut through the surface glare still more. I can learn more from watching carp for and hour than I can in a lifetime of fishing for them without seeing them!

Successful carp fishing early in the year is very much driven by the weather, as spawning activity is very much geared to water temperature and the timing of the spawning period can play a vital role in deciding the success or failure of a fishing trip. However, there is no avoiding Mother Nature’s purpose and once the water temperature hits 17 degrees Celsius she triggers the usual frantic burst of spawning activity that can last several days.

If you have watched carp spawn you will know just how hard they go at it, and if you were going at it like they do, would you feel like eating? Most probably not! But what about once all that rampant sex is over? Well, the carp need to replenish all that lost energy as soon as possible and they also need to feed so as to repair body tissue that might have been damaged while they were spawning.

You cannot really miss carp’s spawning activity but generally speaking keep an eye on areas of shallows and on weed beds in particular, as the warmer water to be found there will attract the carp. I know many folks often think that fish are impossible to catch when they are spawning, but they can’t keep at it forever and the carp usually have a good feed to build up lost energy post-spawning. In addition they usually go on a pre-spawning feeding spree in preparation for the rigours of reproduction.

Bait choice at this time of the season as the carp build up condition prior to spawning. The water temperatures will be climbing and you can use the extra warmth to help release the natural oils that exist in many particles and seeds so and oil-rich bait like hemp seed is the ideal mass bait for this time of the year.

Here is a quick and easy way to prepare a good quantity of hempseed using a freezer box.

Place the hempseed in a large saucepan (or three!) and soak it in cold water overnight.

Next morning bring the hempseed to the boil.

As soon as it has come to the boil transfer it to a good quality freezer box with a tight-fitting lid.

The next morning the hempseed will be ready to use.

Now is the time to add any extras you may feel will help. The most popular are salt and chilli flakes. Frankly I doubt if they will make any difference!

One attractor that really will boost the pulling power of hemp seed is N-Butyric Acid. Add 1ml to a kilo (dry weight) of hemp.

The freezer box acts like a giant Thermos flask and after an overnight soak in the boiling water the hemp seed will be cooked to perfection. (A word of warning: If you decide to take my tip about using the Butyric, be warned that the freezer box will be ruined for any other use for all eternity due to the acids pungent pong!)

When baiting up with hemp seed it is much better to create a large and widely spread bait carpet, rather than a densely packed one. Carp actively search out every last grain of seed so you want them ranging over a wide area looking for food. The larger the feeding area the more carp are likely to be drawn into the zone and carp will start to feed more and more aggressively. This is just what you want as the harder and more competitively they feed the less suspicious they are of the hookbait or the baiting situation. 

Image of Superred fishing bait in the palm of someones hand

Now’s the time to get the bait going in. Give SuperRed™ at try this spring. It is perfect for warmer water temperatures. 

Image of a carp on the surface of the water

Get a better view of the fish and the lakebed by climbing a tree…it’s amazing the extra detail you can see. 

The margins are always worth fishing even on hard pressured lakes when you might expect all then fish to be well out of range. 

Image of seeds and particles in the palm of someones hand

Seeds and particles are particularly suited to margin fishing. 

Image of Ken Townley stood in the lake, waist high in the water

Baiting up between the weed beds trying to tempt the carp on the shallows to feed. 

Image of soaked adzuki beans in the palm of someones hand

High energy foods help carp prepare for spawning. These are soaked and simmered adzuki beans. 

Image of Ken Townley holding a large carp

This brace of thirties fell to stalking tactics using hempseed with tiger nuts. 

Image of a white container of N-Butyric acid

I am still uncertain if salt or chilli flakes make any difference to hemp seed’s pulling power, but adding N-Butyric acid most definitely give the bait a boost. 

Plastic red spoon full of Robin Red

Robin Red® will also add stiff further to the attraction of hemp seed. You don’t need much! 

Image of red pellets in the palm of someones han

If the carp are really on the munch try enticing them to feed using pellets.

Click here to read Spring - Part 2

Written by Ken Townley

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