Fishing in cold weather: 8 top tips

Cold weather fishing
Cold weather fishing (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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Cold weather makes fishing that little bit harder… so get prepared!

In my mind, once we have had the first frosts and a few leaves start to fall off the trees it’s into the final season of the year.

But don’t pack up your gear until the thermometers start to rise again as you may miss out on some great sport.

There are just a few things you need to remember that could help you catch a few fish during the colder parts of the year.

In fact, if you get tactics and feeding right winter can give you some massive bags of fish.

Here are eight cold weather fishing tips that may help you catch when a blank looked likely…

1. Just because you haven’t had a bite after a few hours don’t pack up and go home to watch the football on the telly. Winter fish can shoal up tight and leave vast areas without any finned friends. Try another spot.

Cold weather fishing

You won’t catch anything back home on the sofa, mate. (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

2. As I have said above, fish can shoal up tight at this time of the year which means you can totally bag up whilst the guy next door can’t even raise an enquiry. That’s another reason for moving, adapting what you are doing and trying to enjoy that red letter day.

3. Time of day can be crucial in the colder weather. You may get an instant fish early morning when there is still frost about but it is more likely you will catch later in the day when the temperatures have risen – and the final hour of daylight when it starts to get darker is a brilliant time. It might start getting cold again but this is usually when fish have a late dinner!

Cold weather fishing

Summer baits won’t always work in winter. Natural baits are usually much more effective with worms, casters, maggots and bread often having the edge over those pellets and pastes that were so good in summer. (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

4. Highly visible baits will often snatch a fish or two when other offerings fail. Bread and sweetcorn – which used to be regarded as a summer only bait – stand out in clear water and can be spotted more easily by the fish. As they are vividly coloured they may also cause a not-so-interested-in-feeding fish into being a bit greedy.

5. White or light orange casters can be great bait in winter for perch. Darker casters, even those that float, are loved by roach. The floating bait helps hold up your hook giving the offering a very tempting slow fall through the water.

Cold weather fishing

Fluoro pinkies in singles or doubles can often catch when all else fails. It’s worth getting some specialist bait dyes to make them even more vividly coloured. They really are a bait you have to try. (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

6. Groundbait isn’t always the kiss of death you might expect it to be in the cold weather. But unlike your hookbaits it is worth using a darker feed rather than light. The dark colour means fish are keener to feed over it that a light bait over which they would stand out to predators like perch and pike. Riddle out the lumps that could feed fish up very quickly.

7. The natural instinct in winter is to use smaller baits in a bid to tempt reluctant fish. You could be surprised how a change to bigger baits (on bigger hooks of course) can pull a bite when all else has failed. Again, I think it is the greed factor that you bring out in the fish.

Cold weather fishing

Autumn reeds – they might be going brown but don’t you be green…. fish are still likely to be mooching round them! (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

8. Swim cover in the form of trees, bushes, moored boats and other features are still very important to finding fish. But sometimes the fish will move away from these into open water where the temperatures could be higher because of a rare glimpse of sun. The fish often avoid being under trees where leaves have dropped into the water and rotted but you will still find them lurking in the areas where there were beds of reeds, lilies and rushes showing in the better weather.

Angler's Mail

Running from 1964 until 2020, Angler's Mail was the UK's leading weekly magazine devoted to coarse fishing, telling readers everything they needed to know about which fish to catch, where to catch them, and what kit they needed to do it. Now, loads of the magazine's expert advice can be found on, as a helpful resource for angling newcomers and experts alike.