Do You Feed Your Carp In The Winter?

Common carp with great fin colour

Great fin colour on this Bletiere common – a result of the food it eats?

“Do you feed your carp in winter?” I often get asked this by guests taking their fishing holidays here at Bletiere – with what and when do I feed the carp, especially in the winter, and how do I know how much to put in?

Luckily I had a lot of experience in the uk before we moved because I kept koi.  Now I don’t claim to be a koi expert, but when you spend up to £300 for a koi that’s only 6 inches long you soon learn to read books and seek out advice and  join clubs where you can learn so much from other enthusiasts.

The hobby of koi keeping is a great way to be able to watch and observe how fish react and behave.  I have to be honest and say it was a great way to see if fish liked the bait you planned to use up the local lake.  Being able to watch fish all year round it gave you a great opportunity to observe the feeding habits of fish and also the way they fed.  It also taught you when to feed and gave you a great insight into how much food to put in.

The big advantage to a large garden pond is that you can see what’s not eaten but also get back out any food that’s left.  In a murky lake you don’t have those luxuries and overfeeding can soon lead to all sorts of problems, not just in garden ponds but in lakes as well.  With my koi hobby I was in the position that I could afford to buy the best food and the best treatments for my fish, but in a lake and running a business you have to be more money focused and remember its your living.

So we moved to France and I suddenly had a very big garden pond and a lot of very hungry big carp that needed feeding all year round!  This is where for me my 20 years koi keeping experience came good.  I also had a lot of friends who were in the fish business to call on for help and advice.  While we waited for our fish to be delivered I went about sourcing a supply of carp pellets to use as feed and to obviously supplement the natural food in the lake that was never going to be enough to sustain the growth we wanted for our fish.  After a lot of internet surfing and seeking advice from whoever I could find I decided on a company that specialized in animal feeds and fish food for fish farmers.  The one I chose had the balance of the food in the ingredients I wanted and they were a competitive price – the only down side was you had to order a ton at a time…& that hits the bank balance!

Carp Pellet IngredientsThe Ingredients in Our Carp Pellets

There is a lot of talk about fish foods especially in the koi hobby area and you would regularly see a super new high growth food with loads of secret ingredients in them.  To be honest over the years I often made the mistake of buying them & I learnt that most of them were a waste of money.  Frankly they were no better than some of the cheaper foods.

You can see from the photo above of our pellet sack label that the balance of the food in these pellets is good (trust me, it is) and it has all you need in a pellet to ensure your fish get a boost with their diet.  You can then supplement the pellets with other foods – more of this later.

When we lived in Bournemouth I was lucky enough to meet and become good friends with a guy who ran a koi shop.  He only sold top quality fish and foods, and it was from him that I learnt some of the ways to save money and still give your fish the best. The one thing he would always  lecture his customers about was the amount of protein a fish can absorb in the time it’s in its body before its passed out, and he always said anything over 34% protein was a waste of your money as the fish does not have time to take more before nature takes it course.

Just as an aside, and me rambling a bit, if you keep koi in the UK don’t buy the expensive koi foods – try “Go Cat” dry cat food in the fish flavors.  If you don’t believe me look at the ingredients on the box and then compare to the box of koi food you use that probably cost 2 or 3 times more!  I used it all the time for my koi and they loved it and it never did them any harm.  The carp in our lake love them as well.  It contains most essential ingredients pond fish need to grow and be content.

Back to France now and the feeding of our carp.  I’ve told you about the pellets I use, not cheap that’s for sure, but it was a way that I was certain the fish were getting some help with their feeding.   But then I had a lucky break.

I was lucky enough to one day to find a fish farm near to us.  He’s the guy I buy all my carp from.  His name is Sebastian & he owns Blue Lake ( I introduced him to Angling Lines & Blue Lake is open to anglers for the first time this year).  It’s from Sebastian that I learnt something that saves me a lot of money in food… and makes for better looking fish.

Winter carp food

On one of our  fish buying trip’s I happened to ask Sebastian what pellets he fed to his fish, as I thought they might be cheaper than the ones I use.  He looked at me surprised and said with all his lakes he could not afford to feed pellets and he only fed “mais casse”, which is crushed up French maize.

Sebastian then showed me his stock… he had a barn full of it!  He went onto explain how he feeds –  simply row a boat out into the lake and tip 25kgs sacks of the uncooked maize into the lake.

This maize is really crushed small, so please don’t think it’s like the whole uncooked maize that he’s tipping into the lake.  It’s definitely not and that would be extremely dangerous for the carp (and your health if you got caught!)

I actually saw Sebastian feeding the fish at Blue Lake once and he just tipped in 150kgs of the stuff, left it for a few days and then checked if it had been eaten – which it had.

This seemed too good a way to save money on feeding to ignore, so I checked with a few friends in the UK.  One of them had a friend who was a lecture at a famous college that teaches fish management and also carries out studies on fish feeding and production to help poorer countries.  He confirmed to me that maize was a great source of food for carp, as was wheat, as they both helped develop the muscles in fish and don’t  just bloat the fish out, producing those fat, ugly (my view only) carp you see that are fed kilos of boilies.  As an added advantage it also produces amazing colours in the carp as well – take a look at the photo at the start of this post to see what I mean.

So armed with all this information I now feed my fish a mixture of both.  I do boil my seed  as the wheat has to be softened.  It  helps with growth, makes the fish grow leaner with more muscle and, especially in the commons, gives rise to great colour in the fins.

I feed the fish daily even when it’s cold. I have to be honest and say that the amount of food I put in is nowhere near enough to feed all our carp as the college told me that you should feed 10% of the biomass of the fish a day, or in other words 10% of the weight of fish.  As you can imagine that would be a lot of food and costs.

I believe I have got the feeding just about correct as we are achieving some great weight gains and some stunning looking carp, especially the commons (my favorites).

The pellets are a slow dissolving pellets so that gives the carp a chance to find them. I sell them to our guest as feed as it makes sense to bait up with something the fish know as a food source.  We get a lot of fish caught on them as they stay on the hair for a long time.  I sell them at a good price as I would rather know what’s going in the lake than a lot of cheap pellets that do not do the fish or water quality much good.

I hope this has been of interest and will answer one of the questions that I get asked often.  Tight lines and look forward to seeing some of you soon,

John, La Bletiere

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