How many fish are you likely to catch if there are no fish in the swim that you are in?
Even on small ponds and lakes, the majority of the carp could be holed up in one place. Perhaps in a shoal in the middle, or amongst snags.
Fish finding techniques are so important for the carp angler
Even at the best of times it is likely that the carp will be clumped together in small groups.
Also remember that it doesn’t really help much to find where the carp are sunning themselves, or holed up.
As a carp fisherman you want to know where they are feeding, or to find a spot where the carp are likely to feed, if presented with a bait.
It is often easy to see a carp that is launching itself out of the water, or fish that seem to be cruising randomly just beneath the surface. But how often have you cast to a random jumping or cruising fish and have then caught it?
Not often I imagine.
The key is to find carp with food on their minds. I would prefer to find one carp rummaging around on the lake bed, than fifty carp cruising around with no clear pattern or sign of intention.
A classic example of this is around spawning time, where the carp are everywhere, but not willing to take a bait.
A feeding fish is often less easy to see clearly, as it is likely to be out of sight near the bottom. But there are usually signs and signals to be seen.
So, how do we go about fish finding as carpers?
This is what the rest of this article is all about.
The secret to finding carp that are feeding, or willing to feed is based on 2 principles.
- One is knowing what signs to look for
- The other is to put the time, effort and concentration in.
Want to “cheat?” take a look at the following advert and link, but I DO NOT ADVISE this. I prefer the satisfaction of finding fish the old-fashioned ways…
In a moment, I will give you a list of fish finding tactics that will help you find hungry carp.
But first of all lets cover the attitude.
(Not the attitude of the carp, your attitude.)
Have you noticed how some carp anglers always follow the same routines? They arrive at their favorite swim, put on their favorite rig and boilie, then cast out to their favorite spots?
[box]These anglers remind me of people on holiday who travel all that way, then focus on the layout of the towel, sun lounger and lotion, then spend the day lounging around the pool or beach. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is not for me to tell anyone how to spend their holiday, but there is a lot more fun and excitement that could be had on holiday.[/box]
It is the same with carp fishing, if all of your effort is involved in getting to the lake, setting your stuff up then you just crawl into your bivvy and watch TV or eat, you are missing out on a lot of potential action…
The getting there and setting up should be just the beginning of the effort.
The real fishing involves stalking and tracking your quarry, right?
Imagine a hunter just arriving, setting up their tent, then lying around talking crap with the other hunters? How will these hunters perform?
Not very well I imagine…
Now, If you have been pre-baiting a couple of spots, and have spent time in-between fishing sessions just visiting and watching the water, then you deserve to get the rods out and relax, you have already put the work in. Even then, if you are not getting action it is time to get moving and back into fish finding mode.
So, how much time should you spend fish finding?
It is up to you, of course carp fishing isn’t just about results, you have to enjoy yourself. there are carper’s who do not like to set up their rods until they find some fish that look catch-able.
On the other hand, If you have spent an hour looking for fish and can’t find any, perhaps it is a good idea to make a guesstimate then get set up, have a cup of tea, whilst keeping your eyes peeled ready to find some fish…
If you are lucky to find feeding carp right away then great. Other times fish finding will involve regular scanning of the water, and reconnaissance trips around the lake.
There is no doubt that top carpers spend a lot more time watching the water looking for signs of fish. If people come to visit you in your swim you can tell the type of angler that they are.
A newbie or “noddy” angler will be focused on looking at your tackle, or staring you right in the face as they question you or tell tall stories.
A more experienced carper will have one eye on you, and one eye on the water. If you get a slight twitch or liner from a fish, an experienced carper is likely to point it out to you. Whereas a noddy carp angler is likely to spill his tea on himself if you get a complete screaming run.
So, now that I have hopefully got the message across about how important it is to look for fish, watch the water and stay focused, The next question is how much time should you spend on this.
I would say that while you are by the water, train yourself to always look for signs of fish. After all, this is what you are here for right? You can check out the latest gear at the fishing shop, or talk rubbish to other carpers in the pub…
[box]TOP TIP: Electronic bite indicators can work as fish finders. You can cast out further, leave the line semi-tight and listen for “line bites” as carp brush against your lines.[/box]
So, what are we looking for when fish finding?
Here is a list to get you started, or to remind you of what you already know but might miss occasionally:
15 fish finding tips and techniques to locate carp
This might be the absolute best carp location tip for two reasons.
- Firstly, by getting a different view from a higher elevation, you can see right through the surface glare of the water. It is amazing how much you can see. You will see holes in weed beds, gravel bars, fish feeding and a ton of stuff that will be completely invisible from ground level.
- The second reason why it is such a great tactic is that other anglers do not like to do it. Some of then will not want to make a stain on their ultra cult camouflage fashion carp clothes. Others will be too fat with arms that are not strong enough to hold onto their body weight. Some will think that they are too young, too old or too scared to do it.
Obviously take care and realise that some trees are easier to climb than others, but whenever you get a chance to climb, take it and prepared to be pleasantly surprised. You might even find a new hotspot that is undetectable by plumbing or feature finding by dragging a lead.
This is an obvious one, but bears reminding. Keep an eye out for clouded water. Try to distinguish and figure out what has caused it. If you see a cloudy patch close in with a wet dog holding a stick in its mouth then don’t be in a rush to move into the swim.
Likewise, if you are walking around and disturb a fish in the margins that throws up silt, try to figure out whether it was a Pike, or whether you just scared a fish that is unlikely top come right back and feed.
The ideal situation is to find a combination of clouds, boils and swirls that throw up bubbles and detritus. Try to creep away carefully and control you excitement as you get your rods ready.
Reed stems moving
This is an interesting one that is often overlooked. Often carp have patrol routes and there might be reed stems that flick as the carp move past, or perhaps feed on snails that are attached to the stems.
I remember a particular swim where the carp would enter a reed bed at one end and leave at the other. The reed stems at both ends would flick as the carp moved past. A patch of bait at the exit produced a lot of fish, but bait placed anywhere else along the edge of the reed bed didn’t seem to get eaten.
Lily pads flicking
This is a similar one to the reed beds, for the same reasons. Use twitching lily pads as indicators for patrol routes and possibly even feeding areas amongst the roots. Be very careful when fishing these kinds of snaggy areas though. Strong tackle and tight drag settings on your reels are a must. As is paying close attention.
This one is an interesting one, sometimes the surface of the water seems to lift. This is not a boil or a splash, and there might not be any clouds or ripples. But when a fish changes direction, or is feeding on a hard bottom, a lifting of the water might be the only sign.
Boils are one of the best fish finding indicators. If there is a sudden boil it could be that a fish has been spooked somehow. But if you see repeated or persistent boiling on the surface this is a classic indicator of feeding fish.
A bait presented at this time is likely to be sucked up without suspicion from the carp. It is like they are already “troughing away”, and when you throw in a little extra, it is eaten without caution from the carp.
Swirls can be a sign of feeding, but not necessarily of course. Still look out for the places that they occur and then try to keep an eye on the spot, or get a different angle to try to see what is going on.
Sometimes splashes are related to spawning or the carp playing. Other times they will be feeding in shallow water and their tail will break the surface. Another possibility is that the carp are feeding hard and the splashing to dislodge silt from their gills.
Definitely something to keep an eye on when it happens.
Sunken trees vibrating
This one is a bit like the reed stems. Carp will sometimes eat snails, rub against sunken trees to remove leeches, or brush against the branches as they move around. Extra attention should be made when this is observed.
Also extra care is needed when fishing this type of area. Hit and hold tactics, or stalking with just one rod are tactics that should be utilized.
Birds disturbed or scared
All of the wildlife at the water is in competition for food sources. Imagine if you were a coot or a moorhen with your eye on a tasty bug, then a giant grey shadow comes out of the depths looking like it wants to eat YOU!
You are going to crap yourself and get out of there quickly. Scared birds can be a great give away of the carps presence.
Small fish present or other species present
This is an interesting one, match anglers or general course fishermen know that is if you keep feeding a swim on a “little and often” basis, after a while, the small fish attract the bigger fish, and the bigger fish nudge the small ones out of the way to feed.
If an area is full of natural food, or is more comfortable due to being sheltered or warmer, all fish will show a preference. If an area is teeming with other species, it is likely that the carp are also nearby.
Talk to other types of specialist anglers
Sometimes a match angler or a bream angler will experience snapped lines after getting runs that are unstoppable with the equipment that they are using. There are other types of fishermen that need to stay alert and tend to notice things.
For example someone plug fishing for pike or perch will be constantly watching the water and might have spotted carp whilst roving around. Whilst this tip involves other people observing, you can still keep an eye on other fishermen and see them get snapped up on huge fish, or excited about seeing a huge carp.
Some animals seem to have like a sixth sense. It could be that a dog, cat, fox or other type of animal might stop and look at a big carp in the water.
I once bought a dog that was supposed to sit down in a swim where carp were present. It ended up eating all of my food and I didn’t catch any extra fish 🙂
Keep an eye open for signs of natural food. This can range from flies hatching at the surface, to frog spawn, to weed beds that are full of shrimp. These areas are certainly likely to be fish holding areas.
Also, it makes sense to inspect your rigs and plumbing gear for signs of bloodworm, insects, fresh smelling silt and the like.
Keep all of the above in a diary and start to see patterns developing over time. It is likely that you will forget a lot of what you observe. If you go back to the same lake at the same time of year and weather conditions, it is likely that the carp will be in the same places as recorded last year.
Even if this is not the case it is a great starting point and stimulates tour memory. Also, building up local knowledge helps you get in the fish finding zone, where you can almost smell the carp in certain parts of the lake.
So, did I miss any important fish finding tactics?
I know that I did.
I have saved a few “Carp Guru fish finding tactics” for another article. This one has been quite a lengthy post and you are probably sick of scrolling 🙂
In any case, feel free to make comments about any carp location secrets that I might have missed and that you would like to share. You can also look forward to the Carp Guru fish finding secrets article that is half-finished and will be published soon!