BARBEL fishing in winter is not as hard as was once thought - far from it - and these tips will help.

Barbel fishing in winter can be very productive, especially for the larger specimens, which may be in top condition and weighing in at their heaviest.

The first frosts usually put a sudden end to the warm-weather sport, but once barbel become acclimatised to colder conditions, they can feed hard and be catchable all winter long.

Ideal conditions are just after the warm flush of water that accompanies some heavy rainfall, but even in a prolonged cold spell barbel can be tempted by using the right tactics for the conditions.

If you’re looking to catch a big barbel this winter, like that held by Angler’s Mail contributor Pete Reading (pictured above) then follow his advice here…

BARBEL floodwater

Floodwater conditions, with high levels and coloured water, call for a large smelly bait that will attract a barbel and stimulate it into feeding.

There is a lot to be said for keeping it simple and using a nice big lump of luncheon meat.

A large single bait can be taken within minutes of casting in with no need for baiting with particles or feeding the swim at all.

BARBEL sequence-1


Some anglers have great success with tinned meatballs, a perfect bait for floodwater conditions, and it pays to use the cheapest brands, Tesco and Sainsbury’s value range are tough and smelly.

Wash the tomato sauce off them first. Both luncheon meat and meatballs can be legered as static baits or rolled through the swim.

This technique is best suited to smaller rivers, but worth a try under the bank on a big river too!

BARBEL sequence-2

Another of my favourite baits in winter floods is a boilie wrapped in a paste of the same mix.

The paste wrap produces a much stronger scent trail, and a PVA bag of crumbled boilie or micro pellets completes the bait offerings attractiveness.

BARBEL sequence-3

Mashed pellet/groundbait in a cage feeder is another technique that works in coloured water, with pellet on the hook.

A paste wrap made from ground pellet, or a shop-bought variety wrapped around the pellets is an added attractor.


In high water, some rivers become a one big barbel swim. Swim selection is simply down to fishing an area of smooth current that you can comfortably hold in, and often areas between known swims can be very productive.

Bites can come very quickly in these conditions, and it will pay to rove around more than in summer conditions when you may know the swim contains fish anyway.

BARBEL sequence-4


Colder conditions, with low water and cooler temperatures can still produce barbel, and in this situation baits like maggot and caster come into their own.

A more subtle approach, with careful limited feeding can tempt barbel in the coldest of conditions, and either feeder-fished or even float-fished maggot can work well.

I prefer to feed regularly, but sparingly, with a baitdropper and feeder, fishing lighter than in the summer.

Barbel will take red maggots that have been trickled through a swim, when they would ignore a big hook bait.

CAUGHT A BIG FISH? Email pictures and details to: You could appear in Angler’s Mail print magazine – on sale every Tuesday.