It was bitterly cold when we arrived but we were booked on the island swims so were hoping that the deeper water might put us in with a chance. Then, almost as if someone had thrown a switch, the weather changed totally as balmy southerly winds carried a summer-like warmth all the way from the Sahara. Within 24 hours I started getting fish in the margins on boilies over a big carpet of Red Band, Hemp Seed and maize all bound together into groundbait balls using SuperRed. The bait was introduced by hand... that's how close in they came, and anyone who knows the 160-acre Chateau Lake will tell you that is unusual to say the least.
Or is it? I wonder just how many folk don’t feel confident enough to fish right under their feet when they are on a large venue? At this time of the year, when the carp’s thoughts are more on spawning than eating, you can often ambush a few in close and certainly the margins of the Island and the Boathouse have both been good to me over the years. I wonder how many more fish would be caught from the margins if just a few more anglers would try it! That spring in 2003 I caught 30 fish including a good number of thirties and a couple of forties and most came from a baited spot no more than ten yards from the bank.
Spawning can be the great leveller at this time of the year and sometimes you just need to ride your luck and cross your fingers! I know some lakes where spawning kills sport completely whereas other lakes are less drastically affected. However, there is no avoiding Mother Nature’s course and once the water temperature hits a certain point she puts her oar in and triggers a 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 they will need to replenish all that lost energy as soon as possible. In addition they quite often damage their body tissue quite badly during spawning so they also need plenty of protein rich food to help repair damaged tissue. That is why the post-spawning period can be very productive. The only trouble is, you can never tell exactly when the post-spawning binge is going to start!
It is important to understand a carp’s dietary priorities at this time of the year and now is the time when their need for energy and protein is at its greatest. You can help them recover from the rigours of spawning by incorporating these important dietary factors in their diet. I know I have said in an earlier article that carp would eat just about anything after spawning, and to a certain extent this is true. However, I still think that poor quality baits will quickly be out-fished by a bait that has at least a modicum of nutritional worthiness. In addition by giving them a decent feed you can help them to recover after they have spawned rather than offering them any old rubbish you have thrown together from the leftovers of your bait cupboard?
I have mentioned mass baits previously (Hemp Seed and Groats) but can I just make one further point on their use? In most cases it is probably better to create a fairly tight bait carpet, but early in the season I think it is probably better to scatter your bait far and wide so as to create a larger feeding area. Carp will be extremely active at this time of the year and will be feeding hard. Consequently they will search out every last grain of seed so you want them ranging over a wide area looking for food. While it usually pays to fish at least two rods right on the bait carpet, it is sometime a good idea to fish one bait well away from the main baited area.
Don’t forget the effect the warming sun has on the lake. Natural food starts to increase rapidly and 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. Once spawning is out of the way the carp will soon revert to their favourite natural larders so keep and eye out for fish showing in certain areas. If you see fish showing in a particular spot it could mean that they are showing over a food larder. Once or twice in the same place could easily be coincidence, but if you see fish showing regularly in the same general area it almost certainly means there is natural food in the area.
The warmer water temperatures will also start to encourage the weed growth and with the weed comes yet more natural food. Emergent weeds will almost certainly hold carp, as will the first shoots of floating weeds such as lily pads. Other types of beneficial weed like water milfoil now start to gather into large clumps and this very rich weed will invariably attract carp. I love fishing to areas of weed during the spring as it seems to me that drawn towards pads and other areas of food-harbouring weed more in the springtime than at any other time of the year. I love to bait up the margins, especially around weedy areas so I can keep an eye on them on a daily basis to see what’s being eaten and when. This is especially useful when trying to establish feeding areas around a lake. Often carp will come right in close to the margins after dark and if you can be up with the lark you may still find them feeding in the early morning.
Just as it gets dark I like to bait up several less busy marginal areas where I can see the bait lying on the bottom. Next morning I check to see if it has been eaten. If the bait has gone (ducks and other pests permitting!) there is every chance that the carp responsible will return the next night so make sure there’s a hookbait waiting for them.
The Island at the Chateau Lake. Most folk wouldn’t dream of fishing just one or two rod lengths out!
A blend of Red Band, Mini-Maize and Hemp Seed…Looks good doesn’t it!
Big balls of SuperRed groundbait.
The post-spawning period can be very productive. The only trouble is, you can never tell exactly when the post-spawning binge is going to start!
A few kilos of a good fishmeal bait will also help the carp quickly regain condition. These are MarineRed boilie chops.
Don’t forget the effect the warming sun has on the lake. Natural food starts to increase rapidly and as the sun climbs higher in the sky.
Emergent weeds will almost certainly hold carp, as will the first shoots of floating weeds such as these lily pads.
One of the Chateau Lake forties mentioned in the text caught during a mini heat wave that followed a few freezing days.