COLIN MITCHELLEvery Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell.

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career.

He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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Nice ice baby!


IT’S a good bet that anytime over the next few weeks your local ponds and canals will be frozen over.

Get your gear out and get on the bank! Not only is fishing through holes in the ice fun but it can also offer some of the best sport of the winter!

Don’t take risks, don’t be silly…stay on the bank and don’t walk out onto ice which could easily smash and send you plummeting into very, very cold depths of water. Get yourself a good ice breaker and you are in business. I’ve got a big smash hammer on the end of a length of heavy duty chain which is then fastened to a length of rope.

The hammer is thrown high and long and smashes through some of the thickest ice. Then it is retrieved in a sawing motion to that the chain slices through the ice. I do this in lines so that I create a long, narrow channel to fish into. On canals this will stretch to the far bank. Excess ice is scooped out with my landing net or gently shoved to the side, or under remaining ice, using the cupping kit of my pole. Take care that the pole can take the pressure!

Don’t worry about all the commotion, splashing and smashing. In fact make sure that your icebreaker hits the bottom and give it a good drag along the mud, gravel or whatever else is there. The disturbance can create a cloud, often containing natural foods. And fish do not appear unduly worried by the action. More often than not I’ve had bites minutes after feeding my prepared swim.

Fishing is the same as normal…more than one area is baited, but very gingerly to begin until I start getting bites.

Bread punch with just a pigeon’s egg sized piece of liquidised is a good starting point. Chopped worm is another option. And on decent days even caster will work. You will often start very cautiously and discover that in no time you are changing to pinkies because the fish are feeding better than you could even have imagined. Perch, roach and skimmers are the usual candidates through ice with gudgeon where they are present.

I remember well the days on the Oxford Canal when there were loads of gudgeon and we all fished matches through holes in the ice and caught lots. I was there the day there was a double-figure winning weight of these tiny species and most people had 2-4lb of them. In this situation the ice was cut in holes and then placed the side of the hole the wind was blowing too. That way the breeze could still hit your piece of open water and help stop it from freezing over again.

There was also a day I fished at Stanborough Lake in Hertfordshire and as the ice receded we were able to cast out a bomb and get a steady stream of bites from roach. The fishing just got better as the day went on. The Basingstoke Canal has also been good to me fishing through ice. In fact I have caught fish on this venue from pegs that I would not really expect to fish well in good conditions!

I think there are a few reasons why fishing through ice can be better than just fishing in cold conditions, the first being that the water under the ice is a lot warmer…obvious as it is not frozen! But that ice cover also refracts the light and makes it a bit darker beneath the surface, fooling the fish into thinking it’s one of those overcast days where they feed better.

There’s also the theory that putting those holes in the ice put more oxygen in the water, in addition to the natural food your disturbance has caused. So ice can actually mean hot sport. But as mentioned earlier, don’t be tempted onto the ice, no matter how safe you might think it is!







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It’s the BIG Christmas issue of Angler’s Mail magazine, in shops from Tuesday this week spanning the period December 17-31. Including Tips of the Year pullout, Best Gear of the Year, Dick Clegg interview, Images of the Year and lots, lots more!

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