The next month or so usually coincides with the coldest period of the year, and fishing can be more a test of endurance than skill. But unless you’re fishing in matches or have just one, pre-determined day at your disposal each week, watching the weather can bring big dividends.
Periods of low pressure in winter tend to be associated with warmer air temperatures. It may be windy or wet (or both), but the temperature rises can trigger torpid fish to at least snack for a while. They may not move far from the places where they feel comfortable, and on stillwaters deeper areas, banks that face the wind, inflows and areas of cover are all likely holding areas.
It pays to move - several times perhaps - if bites are not forthcoming. You are aiming to drop onto fish because they are unlikely to be swimming far in search of food. The usual advice is valid – keep baits small and visible, with a minimum of loose feed. Winter groundbaits that attract but don’t feed fish are a great help.
Any visual indication of fish present should noted. Roach, for example, will sometimes ‘head-and-shoulder’ gently at the surface, and feeding pike will often produce swirls. You should make a point of presenting a bait when and where such tell-tale signs occur.
In high pressure conditions – typified by sunny days and cold (or freezing) after-dark temperatures - the warmth of the sun may also stimulate fish to rise in the water. Look for areas that are open to the sun, not those shrouded in shadow. The water in many stillwaters will be very clear in winter now that any suspended algae has died, and finer lines, smaller hooks and more subtle rigs are the order of the day.
It follows that suspended or popped-up baits stand a good chance of being taken if they are directly in front of fish. Aside from pop-up boilies, most baits can be made to rise in the water by adding bits of cork or foam. The amount to use should be determined by testing the baited rig in the lake margins (or in a bucket of water). Brightly-coloured and flavoured baits also stand out and help fish home in on your hookbait.
Fishing partially iced-over lakes can be particularly slow and non-productive… with one notable exception – pike. The day a lake begins to ice over and, especially, the day a prolonged period of ice melts can provide incredible pike fishing … as long as you’re in the right spot!