Winter Baits.......

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Winter has arrived and one of the most important aspects of fishing on Cosgrove Park waters at this time of year is bait!

This month I will take you through my top 5 favourite winter baits for catching all sorts of species during the colder months not just from Cosgrove’s lakes but from the rivers as well.

1 – Maggots

My favourite red maggots - both live and frozen deads

Maggots are probably my very top winter bait for catching many different species that I like to target at this time of year. One misconception is that maggots only produce small silver fish, but this is just not true. Yes, they are widely taken by small roach and perch but by fishing the right location using the right rigs they can be deadly for the bigger species - particularly carp!

Although as you will see later, I am a big fan of boilies for carp I often tip off my carp baits with a bunch of maggots! Interestingly over the last few years I have been targeting the park’s roach and perch during the winter months mostly using maggots but I have been ‘pestered’ by quite a few carp some well into double figures that is a bit hairy on lightweight feeder gear. 

Maggots being a live bait need to be looked after even at this time of year and I have a small fridge in my garage that I use just to keep maggots in. I keep my favourite red maggots at around 5oC and this keeps them in top nick for weeks on end. One tip I would give is that if you put live maggots in the fridge in a normal maggot pot, they will sweat so I put mine in a large tub with the lid off so they can breathe normally and not sweat.

Maggots don’t have to be alive to be effective. Dead maggots can also be really good especially as feed baits. My preferred method for killing maggots is to store them in a plastic freezer bag with all the air squeezed out and put in the freezer. I have pints and pints of dead maggots stored in my bait freezer in my garage at home.

A stunning Swan Lake roach taken on double red maggots on a 16 hook

2 – Worms

There is nothing like a big juicy lobworm when targeting the park's perch or chub especially from the River’s Tove and Great Ouse. Lobworms have an uncanny knack for picking out some very big fish. Although I do collect my own lobworms from wet grass at night when they crawl out of the ground, more often I buy them now from the tackle shops.

Another species of worm that is popular and easy to obtain from your tackle shop are the dendrabena that are a foreign import but are smaller than ‘lobby’s’ but wriggle like you would not believe and in fact are the perfect size particularly roach and bream and I definitely would not go ‘tenching’ in the summer without a tub of ‘dendra’s’.

I like to store my worms in a normal maggot tub to allow them to room to breathe. At this time of year, I don’t put worms in the fridge as I have the temperature set to low for my maggots but just leave them on the garage floor and they will keep for weeks.

One top tip when using worms is not to just hook them on in the usual way. Over the last few years I have been having a lot of success with ‘hair rigging’ my worms using a ‘speed spike’ as a hair stop. These can be threaded down into the head of the worm and out through the side of the body giving plenty of hook showing and it helps stop the very active ‘dendra’ from tangling.

A hair-rigged worm (& maggot cocktail) using a 'speed-spike'

3 – Bread

Bread is another very underrated bait. It’s a bit like worms in that with the arrival of pellets and other modern ‘commercial fishery’ type baits these old traditional baits have fallen out of favour. As we get deeper and deeper into the winter bread can become even more effective. It has everything going for it, especially in clear water it is very visible and fish love slurping in a piece of sloppy bread!

For chub and roach on the rivers a piece of ‘bread flake’ squeezed around the shank of a size 10 hook is my go-to bait for getting a bite in cold water.

In recent years match anglers have been having great success using ‘popped up’ bread for carp with pieces of buoyant bait hair rigged with a long hook link (Zig Rig style) anywhere from 6” to 3’ off the bottom. In cold clear water carp tend to crowd together in the mid layers well off the bottom but can still be caught using this tactic. You have to ‘keep the faith’ and try the bait set at different depths but it does catch fish. Because carp fishing in the winter can be a waiting game, I prefer to use 2 or 3 disks of white bread made with a 10mm punch on the hair topped off with half a white pop up boilie to help keep the bread on and ensure buoyancy. As with the worms above I now use a ‘speed spike’ as a hair bait stop!

If you fancy just catching a few nice roach at this time of year especially on the pole, using punched bread can be deadly (and cheap). For hook bait you will need just a couple of slices of white bread and use 3, 4, 5 and 6mm punch’s for the hook bait. You can buy punched bread from the tackle shop but I prefer to use the wife’s kitchen blender and ‘blitz’ up enough white sliced bread into crumb to feed during your session.

4 - Boilies

The variety of boilies is almost endless - multi flavoured/coloured pop ups, frozen and shelf-life bottom baits - superb for winter carp

Over the years there has been a lot spoken about the variety of boilie to use for carp fishing in the winter months. It was always use fishmeal baits during the summer then bird food or milk protein based baits during the colder months. These days this theory doesn't really apply as most boilies you can buy from the top bait company's are really good carp catches at any time of the year.

My suggestion to you is continue to use the baits you have had success with through the warmer months. Winter fishing is all about confidence and hopefully you will have gained that using your chosen bait when the fish are easier to catch during the summer.

Although I use bottom baits as feed during the colder months for hook baits I tend to use brightly coloured and highly flavoured pop-ups or neutral buoyancy (wafter) baits. These can be fished as singles, in a pva bag or over a small bed of bottom boilies. I particularly like to use fruit flavoured baits in cold water.

One advantage with boilies over most other baits is being hard they can withstand the attentions of unwanted species. Even during winter for carp fishing I like to pre-bait with boilies. You don't need kilos of bait but I do like to spread a 100 or so baits over my chosen swims for several days leading up to my session, then on the actual fishing day I hardly feed at all!

One little tip that I touched on above is to use a bunch of maggots on top of your chosen boilie. Using a needle and bait floss I bait up with 7 maggots then tie this ball of wriggling grubs onto the hair to form the boilie stop. This trick gives movement and extra scent and can bring extra bites!

5 - Deadbaits

Straight out of my freezer - frozen mackerel, sardines and roach/rudd - top baits for pike fishing 

Although you can use deadbaits for all predator species really I only use them during the winter for pike fishing. Cosgrove Park rules state no live baiting so you must use dead baits (or lures) but this is no hardship as dead baits tend to pick out the better fish.

There are numerous species of fish to use as dead baits that can be bought at your local tackle shop but don't forget to check out your super market fish counter as some of the more exotic species that are being imported for food are really excellent pike baits.

As well as three of my favourite baits shown above I also use smelt, eel sections, lamprey, trout and sprats. These are all pretty cheap to buy and I try to have a good supply in my bait freezer at home so I can go pike fishing at any time conditions are right.

There are to many dead baiting techniques and tactics to mention in this months blog but suffice to say float fishing both on and off the bottom, ledgering or sink and draw any of these baits will catch you lots of pike including some very big fish.

A stunning Cosgrove Park pike taken on a ledgered sardine

6 - (Yes I said there was only going to be 5) Additives, Glugs, Oils and Flavours

A selection of additives, oils, flavours and glugs that I use during the Winter

I am a real fan of flavours, glugs and other additive's that I believe added to my baits give me an edge at any time of the year but in particularly during the winter.

Powdered additives - these I add particularly to my maggots. I make up my own concoctions using spices such as turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala, Chinese 5 spice and loads of others. I add a couple of tablespoons of these powders per pint of maggots or kilo of groundbait.

Liquids - oils and flavours. Be careful using oils in cold water as successful summer oils such as fish oils can thicken in cold water and become almost useless. One oil that I do use in winter is hemp oil, this I like to inject in my solid pva bags with a syringe.

Very rarely do I cast out into a winter swim without 'enhancing' my baits with a flavour of some description, whether it be injecting a pike fishing dead bait with a fishy flavour, dipping my maggots in a fruit flavour or an essential oil or 'glugging' my pop-up boilies with Goo or another powerful fruit flavour. 

Flavours are endless and over the years I've caught using all sorts I've not only bought but are homemade with concentrated fruit flavours mixed with Glycerine that is a thick sweet carrier. I've also done well using alcohol such as Baileys Cream and even Vodka!!

A beautiful November common carp caught on a 'glugged' fruit pop-up

That then is a quick overview my favourite baits to use on the park during the winter months. Of course there are other baits that you can use but using these five particularly pepped up with flavours will catch you plenty of fish.


Tight lines - Gary S 

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Venetian Marina Whilton Caravan Storage Whilton Marina
Cosgrove Park. Main Street, Cosgrove, Milton Keynes, MK19 7JP.
Phone: 01908 563360 Fax: 01908 263615