There are few, if any freshwater fish, which can excite, strike terror, fear or any other emotion than Pike. Even the name sounds aggressive. There is nothing cuddly about a pike. But People love it.
The Pike has reigned supreme since our earliest fishing stories and texts. Even before Medieval times.
The fish is revered and so often misunderstood; whilst it is not exactly a gentle fish the angler really must be gentle towards it.
The lovely thing about a pike is, not only is it a killer, and sinister looking – a bit like a pantomime villain; the fish – the freshwater shark – can be shy, secretive and Mysterious. The pike is a fish which commands both our respect and reverence. There is lot to love about pike – and fishing for them.
In the first of a series dedicated to this fish, leading Kent pike expert, Phil Wilkinson gives you the absolute low down on both capturing – and caring for this amazing species.
So, you want to try Pike fishing?
The best bit of advice I can give you as a starter in Pike fishing is to go with someone who is experienced in pike fishing, as Pike are a delicate fish and need handling and unhooking carefully.
I’m going to set this article out as if I’m setting up my swim upon arrival at a lake side and go through each item in tern that I use, starting with:
Landing Net: - It’s surprising how often a bait can be taken as soon as it’s cast out and no-one wants to be struggling trying to set up a net with a good fish on the line. The net should have arms at least 36inch long (80cm) to allow a large Pike to be landed in safety.
Unhooking Mat: - I place my mat in the middle of my swim as flat as the swim will allow. As Pike are a sleek long fish with a 25lb fish growing to an average length of a metre long you can see we are going to need a large mat of at least 4ft x 2ft (1m 20cm x 60cm) with good padding to protect any fish whilst being unhooked.
Unhooking tools: - Laid next to the unhooking mat. As Pike can have between 600 and 700 razor sharp teeth coated with an anticoagulant, we don’t want our fingers anywhere near a Pikes mouth so you should have a dedicated set of unhooking tools comprising of Long handled Pliers, Strong wire Cutters and forceps.
I will clamp the forceps onto a hook, twist it free with the pliers or cut the hook to free it from the Pikes mouth whilst keeping my hands and fingers always clear.
Bank Sticks or Rod Pod: - It doesn’t matter what your preference is as long as it is stable whilst fishing and will hold your rod in place when you get a bite, and a fish takes line. If I’m using banksticks I will try and set them up one either side of my swim with space in the middle of the swim for unhooking to take place if this is a problem, I will then use a Rod Pod in the middle of the swim so I can use the unhooking mat either side, this means I do not have to carry any far to get to the unhooking mat.
Alarms: - Any alarm will do for Pike fishing but remember you’ll be out in some of the worse conditions of the year so make sure they are up to the job during the winter, I have electrical tape around the battery compartment just to add a little extra waterproofing to them.
(You can get specialist Pike arms that incorporate a swinging arm and when the arm drops the alarm will sound)
(I use a drop off bobbin as an indicator but as I set my Baitrunner to very loose or fish with the bail arm open (to reduce resistance to a taking fish) I attach it to the rear rod rest and clip it on just under the spool so the line will pull out and pay off the reel or drop back if a fish comes towards me. You can get drop of indicators which have solid arms, and these can be good on windy days).
(I set my Banksticks or Rod Pod up before my rods, so I have somewhere to put the down safely in the swim and do not have to step over them whilst moving around getting set up, I have heard the distinctive and sickening crack of a broken rod when someone stands on one laid on the ground only to often).
Rods: - Any rod of around 2.75 or 3lb test curve will be fine for Pike fishing, as for length I personally prefer 11ft rods as I find they have a shorter handle which doesn’t get caught on my clothing when casting plus I don’t have long arms. I carry my rods set up in a rod sleeve in a quiver holdall almost ready to go, I find this cuts down my time between arriving and starting fishing.
Reels: - Any good reel that will hold at least 150m of 15lb Nylon or 50lb braid, they do not have to a Baitrunner style of reel as they can be fished with the bail arm open and a bobbin stopping the line from spilling off the spool.
My swim set up on a misty morning, unhooking tools are inside the unhooking mat at the ready, shortly after the picture was taken I landed a 19ib 6oz Pike on the right hand rod.
We now have our kit set out and just need to get our end tackle sorted out.
Wire Trace: - Due to Pike having the sharp teeth that will slice straight through Nylon you must always use wire for hook traces. To start out I would recommend buying readymade traces from a reputable company (but as your Piking career goes forward it can be a good feeling catching fish on traces you have made yourself).
A normal Pike Trace will have 2 treble hooks on it that can be size 6, 4 or 2. I personally use size 4 hooks unless I’m using small baits then I will use size 6 hooks.
Treble Hooks: - No matter what size Treble hooks you use it is best to use either Semi Barbed hooks (2 points with no barbs on) or crush the barbs down on 2 point, this will make unhooking a lot easier. The point with the bard left on is used as a bait holder.
(I put some Tippex on the barbed point so I can easily identify it when unhooking a fish).
Up Trace: - An uptrace is used between the hook trace and the main line on certain Pike set ups that prevents a Pike from biting through the main. (This can happen for example when float fishing as a Pike swims upwards to grab your bait as it closes its mouth it could catch on your main line (unless you have an uptrace) and cut straight through it and be left with hooks in its mouth as it swims away. An uptrace is normally twice as long at a hook trace.