WELCOME TO this week’s Big Fish Blog. This time it’s by the Pike Anglers Club. We hope you enjoy the blog, and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the icons above!
Pike fishing secrets
The world of the specimen pike angler is a secretive one. Few pike anglers will give away the location of big pike to all but a few close fishing buddies.
This may seem a selfish move and often gives the impression of ‘elitism’ but not all is as it seems. Big pike are rare creatures, so often a lot of knowledge and effort goes into finding and catching them.
Bigger pike also play a vital role in underwater ecology and an important part of that is keeping the number of smaller pike (jacks) in check. They are also very fragile when removed from their underwater environment so careful handling and unhooking is vital if they are to be returned to the water safely.
These are just some of the reasons why pike anglers are so secretive; they understand the need to protect pike from those less experienced in handling them. Secretive when it comes to location of big pike, yes! But most experienced pikers will gladly share their knowledge with the less experienced so they are doing things right. That includes giving novices all the help they need to locate, catch and safely return, their own big pike…
To locate and catch big pike, you first need to understand what makes them tick. They are only interested in three things; survival, feeding and breeding. Understanding how they achieve these aims is the key to catching pike, particularly the bigger ones.
From a young age the pike has many predators living above and below the water line. Few will survive to adulthood or a size where the prey becomes the predator. Their biggest threat is other pike, which will not tolerate the presence of smaller pike and will attack or eat them given the opportunity. The young pike therefore has to continually run the gauntlet and will spend most of its time hiding away in weed beds and shallow areas, picking up an opportunist meal when it can.
Camouflage gives the pike the edge. Their mottled or stripy colours break up their body shape, giving them superb camouflage. This not only helps them to hide from other predators but also enables them to get close enough to their prey. They’re designed for speed but only over a short distance so the closer they can get to their prey, the best their chance of catching it.
- Target features such as weedy and snaggy areas in both deep and shallow water.
- Pike may often be laying in wait right inside reed beds so fish tight to features.
Pike are cold-blooded, which basically means that their metabolism is slow and they need very little food to survive. This means that they do not have to feed very often. A large pike is big because it’s fat and idle. It didn’t get this way by burning off all its energy chasing small prey. It’s getting a good nutritional return for the energy spent, suggesting that it’s either got an easy food source such as in a trout reservoir or it’s eating big fish, in which case it needs less of them and can spent most of its time laying-up to digest its meal. This is why those of us who target big pike are basically fishing for a non-feeding fish.
You therefore either have to be mobile and find these or figure out their feeding patterns and movements. It’s often easier to figure out where the prey fish are. For example, after a few heavy frosts the water temperature drops so prey fish head for deeper water where the oxygen levels are higher. Understand the topography of a water, i.e. know where the deeper water is, and you’ll know where to present a bait in readiness for the pike coming in to feed.
Big pike will always go for the easier, more vulnerable individual within a shoal, which will inevitably be your static deadbait or anchored/paternostered livebait. Remember, the pike’s favourite meal is other pike. Big pike will actively seek out the smaller ones in November and December, as the weed starts to die off, leaving the jacks rather vulnerable.
- Use large baits around 10 inches long
- Put dead baits in full view by popping them up above weed beds
- Paternoster live baits in mid-water
- In Nov/Dec target the shallows and deeper water alongside shallow areas
Big pike will only tolerate the presence of the smaller ‘jacks’ during spawning. Around the end of March to early April, the jacks will gather in the shallow areas to await the arrival of the bigger females. The females will hold off in the deeper water until they’re ready to spawn and will then join the jacks in the shallows or snaggy, weedy spawning areas. Spawning will only take place when the water temperature reaches around 7 degrees.
Know the water temperature and where these spawning areas are and you’ll have a good idea of when and where the females (big pike) will be at this time of year. There may be several different spawning grounds on larger waters, which complicates matters somewhat but that’s all part of the challenge. Different waters vary in virtually every aspect so there’s no substitute for experience. Study the water and you’ll soon build a reliable picture. During the actual spawning, pike will rarely feed but will be ready for a good feast immediately afterwards.
- Keep a check on water temperatures
- During Mar/Apr target areas where the females may travel on their way to spawning grounds
- Pike are at their biggest on the lead up to spawning
Understanding a little about the pike’s biology and senses will help you to understand how to present baits in a way they will be found easier. The pike’s senses of hearing (vibration), smell and sight are very advanced. Indeed they need to be to give them the advantage over their prey.
Pike hear by using their lateral line to detect vibrations in the water. I have no doubt that the pike’s environment is full of noise but they will be able to select from this, any sudden activity of fish, movement of a shoal, and more importantly the vibration made by an injured or distressed fish. This is the easy meal they want.
I also think pike are inquisitive and will investigate anything unusual. We can take advantage of this by using vibrating lures or presenting paternostered livebaits, which will give off tempting signals from a great distance.
- Vibration from lures or paternostered livebaits can be detected over great distances
Pike have advanced senses of smell, provided by their nostrils, which consist of two blind holes on the front of their snout. Some suggest that a pike’s sense of smell is similar to that of a shark. I doubt that is the case but there is no doubt that pike can smell scent trails in the water over a considerable distance. We can enhance our deadbaits by injecting them with concentrated oils, giving us another edge.
- Inject concentrated oils into deadbaits to enhance the scent trail
The pike has large eyes and superb eyesight. They also have grooves on the top of their mouths, in front of their eyes, which act like ‘sights’ on a rifle. There is no doubt that they are designed for seeing over a long distance and zeroing in on an individual fish. All predators single out a vulnerable-looking prey item to give themselves the best chance of catching it and ultimately surviving.
- Pop-up baits and add colouring dye to make them stand out from the crowd
Putting it all together…
You may be lucky enough to turn up at a new water, throw any old bait in and drop it straight to a big pike at a time that it’s feeding. However, if you want to consistently catch big pike, you have to do your homework. Try to think ‘pike’. Study and understand the theory and learn to apply this in practical terms to a given water and your catch rate will double. Of course you can’t catch a pike from the comfort of your sofa so get out there and brave the elements in search of monster pike.
- REMAIN OPEN-MINDED – Don’t become too fixated on any aspect of piking such as feeding times, bait or a particular method no matter how successful it is. Big pike or bonus fish will often feed at a different time to other pike and be tempted by a completely different bait, presented in a different way. Give yourself the best chance by using a couple of rods to presenting different baits, via different methods and in different types of swim.
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