In recent years I’ve had some great winter’s fishing on the park. Believe or not but the shallow nature of the lakes means the fish respond to changes in weather conditions and in late winter and early spring the lengthening days much quicker than if the lakes were deep. This together with milder than average winter’s has meant I have had some of the most enjoyable fishing I’ve had all year.
This winter I have found the fishing to be much harder than in recent years. As everyone will know this winter has been particularly long and hard with a combination of early heavy rain causing flooding with all the associated problems of high and very dirty water levels, then snow and ice. A lot of people don’t realise the problems of snow melt on not only the rivers but also the lakes which on high waters levels are linked to the rivers by balance pipes. Not only does the snow melt cause super cooling – in the same way as putting ice cubes in a drink, but of course the roads in Northamptonshire / Buckinghamshire are heavily gritted/salted and with the run off into both rivers you would be surprised what the salinity levels rise to. Then late winter and early spring was freezing with minus temperatures and at times more snow.
Topped off with the coldest March recorded for 50 years. Nobody knows this better than me, working outside on the park every day throughout the winter in all weather’s. I’ve never known a raw easterly – north easterly wind to blow so hard for some many months. With the temperature hovering around 0oC on most days, the wind chill factor regularly dropped the temperature even further to -5oC or -6oC. All these things put fish off the feed big time, for weeks on end. That’s not to say that I haven’t caught fish, but I’ve had to work particularly hard for them this winter. Obviously I am fortunate that working on the park I can keep a day to day eye on the lakes and rivers and take any advantage I can, particularly of changing weather and water conditions. Also I have been lucky in that the very rare sighting of fish during the winter has led me to some good catches and one or two nice individual fish.
I normally like to keep my ear as close to the ground as possible, keeping you informed with catches on this blog, but to be quite honest I have received no reports this winter other than a couple of carp and tench catches not long after the park closed. Steve Knight did have a very unusually marked half albino / half normally marked pike. Steve is very keen on his winter fishing, but like me struggled with the changeable conditions.
As you may have gathered from the above, this winter has been very frustrating at times. Normally I like to try something a little different during each season of the year, but this winter the weather has conspired to spoil many of my plans. I have caught plenty of nice carp including numerous doubles, fishing four different lakes, but a lot of my plans will have to postponed for another time. Early in the winter I had got my ‘pike head’ on, but flooding stopped that. My piking reached its low point when a beautiful winter’s day was spoilt with not only the park being closed due to flooding, but the only lake that I could fish was frozen over – blast!!
Although my own piking results were restricted to just a few ‘Jacks’ I was chuffed for resident James Birch when a little info from me resulted in a very nice Ski Lake pike. During the Christmas holidays with the park closed I had a wet and windy, but very enjoyable pole fishing session after the silver fish on Kingfisher Lake. Struggling to fish at more than 11m due to the wind I had more bites on double red maggot on an 18 than on pinkies on a 22. After landing around 50 roach and perch to about 6oz the inevitable happened and I struck into a similar bite to have my no5 elastic pull out about 10 feet and a big fish moved slowly away. I don’t even think it knew it was hooked when my .10 (1.1lb) hook length parted. Talking of roach, I did have a couple of very cold - blank after-work sessions after a big roach on the Ski Lake. I tried to remain keen but to be quite honest I think I was flogging a dead horse as it was only the wind that was keeping the lake from freezing over. I was disappointed not to be able to spend a little more time after that elusive 2lb-er. The weather took a short lived turn for the better in late December and early January and I was well chuffed when on 4th January my first day session of the new year produced a 14lb mirror carp in all its winter colours on a single pop-up fished at long range.
Despite the cold temperatures and the biting winds throughout the late winter and early spring I did have a good run of carp over the first three Friday’s in March. I had been trickling a little bait in one or two spots that have been kind to me over the last few years and although the water temperature was only 4oC I was rewarded with 8 stunning carp including 6 doubles to 17lb 11oz and a couple of nice early season tench. One interesting point was the last couple of doubles I landed - on laying them on my unhooking mat ‘crapped’ out my bait all mushed up indicating they were well ‘on’ the bait at least for some of the time. Although I was putting a little bait in several times a week, I was not baiting whilst actually fishing, just sticking to singles and small PVA bags.
‘Looking forward to April’
Although the park was due to open over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, the weather continued to make its presence felt. Nobody was more disappointed than me when due to the very boggy ground conditions the opening was postponed for touring caravans sited on the Eastern side of the park. The final decision was left until the week leading up to Easter, but no one knows better than me how wet and boggy a lot of tourer pitches (including my own) are. Hopefully the weather conditions during the first week in April will be kind, allowing the ground to dry enough to get the tourers sited without causing too much damage to the grass.The season for the ‘static’ residents opened over the Easter weekend but with the continuing cold conditions - fishing I’m sure will prove to be hard. Until the weather does warm up a little I would continue my approach as I have done all the winter, in other words for the carp, stick to bright coloured – over flavoured singles or small highly attractive PVA bags made up with boilie crumb and small pellets etc. Make them as power packed and as attractive as possible, but stay away from heavy oil based attractor’s until the water temperature warms enough to allow them to work properly. One little edge I have used to good effect over the last few winter’s is a bright over flavoured pop-up, but on a bottom bait rig with a shot on the hair underneath the boilie to anchor it tight to the bottom. I balance the shot to the baits buoyancy making it critically balanced.
It can take a few minutes to get the buoyancy spot on, but it is worth the effort. Superb bottom lip hook holds prove the rig has very good mechanics. Until the weather takes a turn for the better the fish tend to steer clear of the marginal areas, especially with extra human activity associated with the park opening. Although the long range weather forecast for April is not good with the cold conditions continuing, hopefully at some stage the weather must take a turn for the better. This is the time to turn your attentions to tench. April can be a really good month for tench and all the lakes on the park hold loads of tench including some very big fish. Although you can catch a lot of tench on carp gear and boilies, my favourite approach by far is using feeder tackle. Although you can use quiver tip gear, I prefer to use a multi rod set up on ‘buzzers’. My 1.5lb tc barbel rods allow me to cast reasonable distances when I need to and by using 8lb mainline still gives me a good chance of landing any rogue carp that comes along.
Although scaled down carp rigs catch a lot of fish, for me the ultimate has to be 3 red maggots fished on a 14 hook fished in conjunction with a block-end swim-feeder. For fishing at distance I use a little ‘helicopter’ rig with the fluorocarbon hook-length rotating above the feeder, but for closer ranges currently I like to use the new Drennan inline feeders. With the weather still cold I would just rely on the feeder to deposit my bait to the swim, but as the conditions improve I start to spod/spomb a bit of bait out. Tench love particles and my mix consists of hemp, pellets, casters and dead maggots together with a little ground bait. During March we stocked most of the lakes with a good quantity of carp, hopefully mot only will these new fish feed heavily, but will also stir the existing stock into action. They maybe only small at the moment in the 1lb to 3lb class, but they are absolutely stunning little fish and should provide good sport for pleasure and match anglers alike and of course in no more than 5 or 6 years these little but very fast grow carp could easily be 20lb.
‘2013 Match Dates’
I have now published the match dates for 2013. As in previous year I will be running a 10 match series open to all ‘residents’. The definition of residents for match entry is any angler who is visiting the park legally, in other words the matches are open to all existing residents, weekend visitors, family and friends. Entry to the matches held on Mallard and Grebe Lakes is £5 and is limited to 23 and will be on a first come first served basis, so book early.
The draw will be at 7.30am, fishing from 8.30am until 1.30pm. Although each match will be fished in its own right, points will be awarded - 12 to the winner, 11 for 2nd, 10 for 3rd and so on, with the best points score from 6 matches added up to find the top angler of the year and a trophy for this and the biggest match caught fish of the year will be awarded at the presentation evening held in October after the last match.
Match dates: - 20/04/13, 04/05/13, 18/05/13, 01/06/13, 22/06/13, 13/07/13, 03/08/13, 17/08/13, 14/09/13 and 05/10/13.
With the park now open Cosgrove Caster’s blog will resume its monthly format, so I hope to bring you info on all things ’fishy’ on the park. You may see me about the park but if you need any advice or have any success please pass on the details and any pictures. I can always be contacted at gary@cosgrovepark.Co.uk