Can you successfully fish for carp all year round? The answer is yes. However, you may have to manage your expectations. Carp’s behaviour changes depending on the seasons and the time of day. Today we’ve assembled a quick guide that will tell you when the best time for carp fishing is and what you can expect.
The best time for carp fishing is in the late summer months when the water is warmer. Carp are cold-blooded, so they are more active with higher water temperatures. The best times to fish in summer are early in the morning and late in the evening. Nighttime in summer can also be really productive.
Each season brings different challenges for carp fishing. Here’s our guide by season to help you understand a little about fish behaviour, so you can plan your session accordingly.
Carp Fishing in Spring
At a Glance: –
- Fish in the shallows
- Fish after midday
- Expect poor results during spawning
As spring arrives, the water begins to warm significantly. After three months of little food and hunkering down, the carp will begin to feed quite actively. Deeper areas of the lake will still maintain colder temperatures, with the shallower areas of still water warming most quickly.
As a result of the above, margins will have the most life, with underwater creatures and plant life flourishing.
Carp Behavior and Tactics in Spring
Carp also start to spawn towards the end of spring. So you may have a good period beforehand where they eat to get their energy up, then a lull for a week or two, then they slowly start to pick up.
Because carp spawn in the shallows and because the water is warmer there, these are the areas that you should target to stand the highest chance of success. Float fishing can work well, as can feeding small amounts in the margins.
Avoid overfeeding or using big baits. Carp will still be emerging from their winter torp and recovering from spawning. Feed little and often, and if the bites stop, don’t be tempted to keep adding more.
Best Time of Day for Carp
While spring may be warm during the day, it still cools down quickly in the evening. To allow the water to warm up sufficiently, any time after midday into the early evening should offer the best results.
Carp Fishing in Summer
At a Glance: –
- Fish in deeper water and cover
- Early morning and early evening are the best times
- Expect fewer bites around midday
As the summer arrives, all areas of still water start to warm. Unlike in the spring when the deeper parts of the water were the coldest, now they might represent the optimum places to try for carp. Areas in the shallows may become too warm and deoxygenated, pushing the carp over to deeper areas.
Spawning season is over, and the carp will concentrate on taking advantage of all of the food, which will be in abundance.
Carp Behavior and Tactics in Summer
It can be a mixed bag on sunny days and dependent on the venue. Often you will see carp up in the water column slashing at insects on the surface. If there are signs of fish on top, floating baits, such as dog biscuits, can be an excellent choice.
Keep a good lookout for bubbles on the surface too. This normally means that carp are stirring up mud below as they feed on the bottom.
Carp are cautious creatures and will try and avoid being seen by predators in shallow water in strong sunlight. If it is a clear day, focus your efforts on deep water or under overhanging shady features. Layers of lilypads are often where can take refuge when the weather is bright.
Feed as often as you can if fish are showing. If you are struggling to catch and there are obvious signs of fish present, try moving up and down in the water column until you find the fish. Alternatively, switch baits. Often in summer, carp become accustomed to ‘the usual favourites’ cast from ‘fair weather anglers’, so switch it up a little.
Best Time of Day for Carp in Summer
If it is a particularly hot day, you can expect a lull from around midday onwards. The best times to try for carp are in the morning before the water gets too warm, and they turn lethargic, or in the early evening into the night when the water begins to cool to optimum levels.
Carp Fishing in Autumn
At a Glance: –
- Stick to deeper water
- Fish during the brighter parts of the day
- Try to avoid overfeeding if the fish aren’t active
Autumn can be an excellent time for carp fishing. While the water temperature drops slightly, it isn’t too cold to inhibit carp’s feeding, and autumn can produce solid results all day. Fish will know that winter is on the way and will be trying their hardest, ready to put on as much mass as they can for the slower season.
The start of autumn will offer the best results, with the catch rate steadily declining as the season turns cooler.
Carp Behaviour and Tactics in Autumn
Again, this can vary depending on venue, but generally, the carp should be active most of the day.
With autumnal weather comes slightly duller days, and as a result, the fish will be located all over the venue.
At the start of the season, you should be able to employ similar tactics as you did in the summer. However, as the weather turns cooler, you will want to reduce how much feed you add to the swim as the carp’s metabolism slows down slightly.
Whereas in spring, the shallows were the first to heat up, they are the first to cool down in autumn. As a result, the best places to fish will again be deeper water, which maintains a more even temperature, especially in the cooler parts of the day.
Best Time of Day for Carp Fishing in Autumn
The best time of day for carp fishing in autumn will be during the warmer periods, from mid-morning up until early evening. You can expect feeding to taper off towards nighttime. Deeper venues tend to feel this effect less.
Carp Fishing in Winter
At a Glance: –
- Be patient and manage your expectations
- Fish from early afternoon onwards
- Use smaller baits
There are things in your favour and things against you in winter.
In your favour is that there won’t be many other anglers around, giving you a prime pick of the best pegs. The downside is that cold-blooded carp slow down dramatically when the water turns cold.
Most fish enter a sort of ‘stasis’ in very cold water and may only feed (if they do at all) for around 30 minutes in 24 hours.
To be successful, you’ll want to be fishing when the water is at its warmest. This tends to be when the sun has had the most opportunity to heat the water.
Carp Behavior and Tactics in Winter
Because the fish are lethargic, they won’t really be moving anywhere. Gone are the days of carp prowling the margins and crashing on the surface. Instead, they are going to stay put under cover.
The good news is in winter, carp all congregate in the same spots, so if you can work out where these are, you have the best possible chance of success.
Aside from knowing your venue intimately, you will have to be spot on with your casting accuracy. Also, bait presentation is everything. The carp may only eat once per day, so you don’t want to put them off with shoddy presentation.
Avoid baiting your swim often, as carp will be less inclined to follow bait trails, and if they have eaten their meagre fill already, your hook bait won’t be in with a chance. Really cut down on the size of your baits too, smaller versions of successful summer baits are often a good technique to use.
Best Time of Day
As we said above, the best time of day to fish in winter is when the water is at its warmest and has the greatest opportunity to peak. This means that mid-afternoon is the best time to try your luck.
Manage your expectations and keep warm. It can be slow going when carp fishing in winter.
What Time of Year Are Carp Most Active?
Carp are most active from late spring through until early autumn. The combination of warmer water, plentiful food, and post spawning behaviour means that there is plenty of time for great carp fishing from around May through September.
What is the best time for carp fishing? Well, you can, in theory at least, catch carp all year round. The most optimum time is from late spring through until mid-autumn. It is possible outside of those periods but is significantly slower (and colder). Regardless of the season, you will want to be prepared. Why not check out a few of our guides for the greatest chance of success?
Mike has over 30 years of fishing experience in carp fishing and general coarse fishing. He is always looking for the latest fishing kit to try out and talk about and needs a bigger shed due to all the fishing tackle he owns. You can read more about him here.