Just because the weather has turned nasty doesn't mean you can't get out there and do some fishing. In fact, given that the annual rod licenses are good until 31 March should give some indication as to how popular winter fishing has become among many anglers in the UK. Of course, you certainly want to be prepared for some of the nastier weather that the UK has to offer, and some areas may even freeze over in the northern counties, but there are still plenty of large lakes, rivers and streams that remain open year-round.
For starters, your winter fishing strategy should take into account the different feeding habits of fish in the winter months. Generally, fish are slower and more reluctant to leave the deeper and usually warmer waters. In fact, much of the strategy of freshwater species in the wintertime revolves around finding the warmest water possible. Unless you're fishing in a nuclear cooling pond, the fish will most likely keep close to the bottom or come up to a shallow gravel patch in the event of a bright, sunny day.
Baits are also a concern with winter fishing, as they will behave differently in cold water as they would in the relatively warm water of summertime. In the cold, many that would otherwise disintegrate at a given rate and release their scent can actually stay intact and useless. Choosing a particularly stinky bait with a high protein content is often the best course of action, though many anglers have also found that something a simple a few kernels of maize also works well in cool waters.
Also, presenting a bait with a higher fat content may seem like a reasonable course of action, but this usually results in the fish filling up faster. For this reason, "ground-baiting" is often not nearly as effective in the wintertime as in other seasons.
Since they move around very little in the cold and dark, they expend far less energy as a strategy for conserving energy for the spring. Strikes are also slower when winter fishing, so your strategy for setting the hook should also change during this time of year.
There are a few regulations that limit the waters and fish species that you are allowed to take. However, coarse fish and lake trout are still available at any time of the year. Check with the Environment Agency for a current list of what fish are available in your favourite waters before heading out.
Choose your tackle carefully for items that can be pulled on and off with relative ease, even with gloves on, since your dexterity will also suffer in the cold. Given that so many fish are required to be tossed back after catching, it's also a very good idea to make sure you can reliably take the hook out without injuring the fish.