Where Do Carp Go Under The Ice? A Wintertime Carping Guide

It’s uncommon to fish for carp in chilly weather, but many anglers are going for it because of this exact reason; the challenge of trying the non-traditional. So, if you like a challenging task on the boat the next time you go fishing, you may like winter carping. It might also be frustrating not finding concrete answers on how to fish for carp in the winter, that’s why I’m here to give a simple wintertime carping guide to help you out.

Where do carp go under the ice? Carps seek warmer spots under the ice. They can be found in various places such as the middle of the lake, deeper waters, around weed edges, and drop-offs. Carp are sensitive to water temperature and they go wherever they feel a little warmer, or simply wherever the food is.

Keep reading to know all about winter carping underneath the ice!

Can you fish for carp under the ice?

Carp swimming to illustrate where do carp go under the ice

Some anglers call it “mission impossible”, others guarantee it is indeed possible if you located the right spots. Carp indeed go deeper in water when the winter strikes, but there are various prime spots to target instead of the general idea of deeper waters.

There are some hot spots that you can target when ice fishing for carps in winter:

  • Middle of the frozen lake can be a prime spot that carps go to to avoid the heavy boat traffic on the shore. They can be found near the surface even in colder weather conditions.
  • Shallow waters can’t be ignored. Carps tend to go deeper when the ice forms, but you don’t want to miss a chance of them roaming in the shallows. Carp will choose cover and protection over water depth every time, so make sure to look for that.
  • Big beds of reeds, especially if the reeds encroach into the lake a long way. Carps create channels through reeds which wind can’t affect. The lack of wind effect through water movement allows the sun to warm the water more, thus, attracting more carp.
  • Drop-offs make carps feel more safe going up and down in the water. Look for zigs just off the side of a gravel area in shallower water.
  • Weeds are also carps favorite place to be for the cover it provides. Don’t go deeper in weed, areas just off the edge of a weed bed are a much better spot.
  • Pro-tip: make sure to use GPS devices to locate the prime spots especially if you’re fishing at night, it can be hard to detect.

You can check out my favorite Fish Finder GPS Combos here, and believe me, these have been tested rigorously to earn their spot in my gear list, and many of the initial candidates didn’t make it, so make sure to check it out as I’m sure they will bring you the same excellent results they brought me.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Ice Fishing for Carp

Going ice fishing for carp can be a thrilling experience for both experienced anglers and rookies. However, it may have some disadvantages that you should be familiar with before you get on the ice.


  • It’s exciting

Anglers who tried this non-traditional way of catching carps guarantee that it’s a blast. Carp can be challenging to catch so spotting them accurately and finally getting them on the ice gives the angler an unmatched feeling of victory.

  • Less pressure

Not a lot of anglers pursue ice fishing, especially for carps. So that allows for less pressure to take place both on you as an angler, and the carp. The quieter stress-free environment of the frozen lake gives the carp the chance to roam freely in the open water. You’ll also have more free space that allows you to pick prime spots as you like.

  • Carps are active in winter

It might be challenging to land one because of many reasons, but not being active is not one of them. On a good day in winter, carp might be active all day. Targeting them mid-afternoon through to a couple of hours after dark is a good bet.


  • Special equipment

Locating and catching carp under the ice is a challenging task that can be frustrating so you may need special equipment such as sonar devices or an underwater fish finder. This equipment can be expensive for some people.

  • Improper hole size

This can be a bummer and you won’t even know it until you catch a big carp and have to let it go because it’s too big to get out of the smaller hole you drilled. Carp are broad, large-bodied fish with a long dorsal fin that extends along most of its back and a forked tail fin. They can grow up to 1-to-2 feet (about 30.5-to-70 cm) in length and weigh up to 1-to-8 pounds (0.8-to-3.5 kg).

  • Dangerous spots

Carps prime spots include the middle of the lake which can be dangerous to stay on. Some lakes freeze first around the shallow areas and the middle portions can have less safe ice thickness.

Can you safely land a carp through a hole in the ice for catch-and-release?

The process of landing a carp through a hole in the ice would be a very tricky maneuver, especially if you’re going for the catch and release method. Freezing conditions can be harmful to fish, and landing them on ice can lead to them freezing and die faster. 

To safely land a carp through the ice without accidentally killing it, use a landing mat, do the measurement or maybe take a quick photo then release it in less than 30 seconds back into the water.

Is prebaiting for carp through the ice a good or a bad idea?

Prebaiting for carp through the ice is a good idea only if you successfully located their natural habitat, or else you’re just dumping food at the bottom. Carp are active and heavily feed in winter, but they won’t roam much to find food so you have to make sure to spot a natural holding area to hit the nail on the head.

You can prebait using half a can of sweet corn in each hole you drill. Every time you get a take, add another handful of corn. This method is without a doubt one of the top ways to improve your catch rate.

Here are some alternatives you can use as a prebait for carp:

  • Groundbait

Groundbait is more of a paste with a consistency similar to that of coarse dirt or sand. It can also come in a variety of food such as bloodworms, corn, fishmeal, or a combination of several things, get creative! It dissolves as soon as it hits the water or shortly after.

  • Boilies

They are a good bet when it comes to cap attraction. It consists of a bloodworm mix of raspberry, pineapple, chicken, sour cream, and other flavors of your choice.

  • Pellets

Similar to boilies but smaller to cover smaller areas. Pallets can have unlimited flavor options that can attract carps and you can improvise to make your own.

Related Questions 

What Is The Best Bait for Carp in Winter?

The best bait for carp in winter is sweet corn. They can easily see and smell it in the water and get quickly attracted to it. Use soft medium-sized grains for maximum effect, you can use a couple of grains to successfully land a carp but you’ll need at least 4 grains to catch a big one.

Where Can I Find Carp?

You can find carp in various places, they prefer quiet lakes and slow moving rivers, especially those with turbid water. Try looking for them around snags, overhanging trees, and marginal areas where they seek shelter and protection from predators and anglers’ baits.

What Is The Best Time to Fish for Carp?

The best time to fish for carp is the early morning, early evening, or late at night. Carp can be caught throughout the day but these are the prime times when they’re more active and roaming the shallows feeding heavily.

Helpful Resources 

Pre-Baiting for Carp – Is it Worthwhile

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