“I am convinced that the longer daylight hours are far more important and have a greater effect on the carp’s activity than most other things including the weather. Obviously carp are cold blooded and their metabolism is totally governed by the water temperature but the longer daylight hours see the fish becoming much more active in similar water temperatures than I have observed during the shortest days of winter. It used to seem ironic to me in the days of the old three-month close season that so many waters would hardly fish all winter then the second week in March, which was always the last week of the season everywhere I fished, the carp would suddenly start to turn up and be caught.
“Since the close season has been abolished on most still water venues, the same week continues to produce a lot more fish regardless of the weather. I am certain it is down to extended daylight hours. A reverse thing happens at the back end of the year when the days become shorter. Last year we had lovely mild weather in the early winter but the carp still adopted typical winter mode.”
“It’s a little bit of everything but unquestionably light more so than heat stimulates carp to increase their late winter activity. Primarily it’s the length of the daylight but also the fact that the sun’s rays are stronger and therefore penetrate further into the water as the sun gets higher in the sky thus kick-starting the natural cycle for the year.
“Warmth will have an effect on where they go in the pool once they have woken up but bear in mind that water takes a lot longer to warm up than air so although the air may feel warmer, the water will take longer to heat up. It’s the light that gets the bugs going and once the bottom of the food chain is moving, those creatures further up will start as well.
“Without getting too ‘hippy’, there are four points of the solar wheel. The longest and shortest days (solstices) and then the equinox. The spring (or Vernal as it is properly known) equinox takes place on the 20th March and is when the daylight and night time hours are exactly the same (i.e. 12hrs of each). Incidentally, it is one of only two times in the year when the sun rises perfectly in the east. After this date the day’s get longer much faster and this is the time for dramatic changes in animal behaviour.”
“I believe with the daylight hours getting longer as we approach spring, this has a much more marked affect on the increase in carp activity than water temperature. The water will warm up a lot slower in relation to the increased daylight; we can still get frosts right into March and April, yet by this time the carp are usually becoming quite active.
“Obviously water temperature does have an effect, you often hear people commenting about larger lakes being slower to produce in the early part of the spring because ‘they take longer to warm up’ but I think the longer days are the key element in getting the carp moving around.
“Increased light levels also dictate the renewal of natural food larders as nature begins the spring rejuvenation process and a carp’s instinct to search for food will really start to kick in.
“Good places to look in early spring are snaggy areas, especially if they get the sun, carp will often be seen rubbing up against snags to get rid of leeches that have attached themselves during the dormant winter period. Also shallow areas that again get the sun can be a very good bet for a daytime bite.”
“Water temperature and light levels, with light levels being subordinate to the water temperature. That is to say, if the water temperature is rock bottom then the fish will remain lethargic, but as the day lengths increase and the angle and intensity of the sun increases (which means more light penetration as less light is refracted off the surface) then the fish will react quicker to the improved temperatures. Oxygen saturation of the water is not normally an issue as cold water is much more readily saturated with oxygen anyway and water temperatures are very unlikely to rise to a point where this would be an issue.
“The perfect early spring conditions: calm sunny days and cloudy nights please – or four days and nights of blowy double figure temperatures – either will do!”
“In the past, in articles and on DVD’s, I’ve mentioned my observation of one specific event that seems to trigger the carp into waking up, and that is when the blackthorn comes into blossom. For those of you who are not sure, it’s the white blossom you see in hedgerows before they green up and come into leaf. I have never seen blackthorn come into flower before daylight hours exceed the hours of darkness, so this to me is a key point; i.e., nature wakes up when there are more than 12hrs of daylight. It goes without saying that the longer the day, the more the earth will warm up, so to my mind, light is the key to carp (and nature) waking up from their winter slumber. Temperature plays a role, too, because in a really cold spring, the blackthorn will come into flower later.”
“It’s very difficult to pick if it’s light or temperature which triggers the fish into their big post-winter feed but certainly they both have an effect on carp. All waters are different and two lakes quite close to one another can behave in completely different ways. From a general perspective, however, and from the many hundreds of waters I’ve fished down the years, there are a couple of guidelines which you can go by that are fairly accurate. These are: the shallower the venue, the earlier it will wake up and the further south you go, the earlier it will wake up.
“The arrival of mid-March always sees the biggies start coming out from down south, the northern ones appearing a few weeks later. This big feed happens religiously each year and lasts about ten weeks from the time it starts on your water. Whatever the weather, it is always like this and an extended winter seems to have no effect whatsoever – you only have to look through past issues of Carp-Talk to see for yourself. In some cases you can time the arrival of a certain fish by a matter of days so the best piece of advice I can give anyone is to look back at past captures of your target fish and get on the bank as much as you can around then.”