If the majority of pike you catch are hooked deep within the fish’s gullet, you are doing something wrong. Here’s how to ensure that the pike you catch are either lip-hooked or easy to unhook...
The ideal scenario
When pike fishing, every fish you catch should be enjoyed during the fight, unhooked quickly and safely, and returned to the water to grow on and fight another day. The only way to ensure this is to be on your guard, use the correct rigs and strike quickly as this helps prevent the recurring problem of pike being deep-hooked.
Why pike are deep hooked
There is one glaringly obvious reason why pike are deep-hooked, and that’s at the very top of this list, but there are some others too, which are easily rectified...
● You haven’t struck soon enough.
● Your rig isn’t sensitive enough.
● The method of bite indication isn’t up to scratch.
● You weren’t paying attention.
Be on your toes
We have seen it so many times; would-be pike anglers fishing large expanses of water with their rods scattered along the bankside, sometimes up to 50 yards away from their seated position. This is asking for trouble as a pike can snaffle a bait and turn it around to engulf it in a split second. If you have to run to your rods after a bite, there is a very high chance that the taking pike will have swallowed the bait and the two sets of trebles way before you pick up the rod. So what’s the alternative?
The answer is easy. If you really feel that you must fish your baits a long way away from each other, why not walk the rods up the bank, cast out and then walk then rod back again, with the bale arm open? Then you can tighten up the line, place the rods in rests – if you are float fishing, or on the alarms if you are legering – right alongside your seat. It’s so simple to do, so nobody should need to position their rods miles away from their seat. They are only asking for an accident to happen.
Use a sensitive rig
ALL PREDATORS detest resistance. If they feel a substantial force pulling back when they take a bait they will drop it immediately, so it pays to use a sensitive rig whenever pike fishing. However, a sensitive rig is more likely to prevent you deephooking a pike.
When legering use a paternoster rig that utilises a wide-bore run ring upon a long paternoster, and after you have cast out and the rig settles, tighten up as much as you can to the lead. This ensures that as soon as the bait is taken, the bite is registered at the rod end.
If you are floatfishing with your bait on the bottom, set your float a couple of feet overdepth and use an unloaded, bottom-end pike float rather than a loaded version. Unloaded floats show bites better than loaded versions as they rise and lay flat on the surface if a pike lifts the bait off the bottom.
Loaded floats won’t register this type of take as well as they will remain upright and sink only when the pike moves off with the bait. During the time between picking up the bait and moving off with it, the pike may well have turned the bait and swallowed it.
Braid certainly helps too, especially when you are legering at range as any movement on the bait will be transmitted straight to the bite alarm due to braid’s low-stretch properties.
Use the right bite detection
WE HAVE already covered floatfishing tactics earlier – unloaded floats are best for the novice predator angler – but when it comes to bite detection while legering, you are best to use a loud, sensitive alarm coupled with a drop-off indicator. Ideally use a drop-off indicator that has adjustable weights to ensure the line is kept tight when fishing at range.
Cast the rig out and tighten up as much as you can. Now release the bale arm and clip the drop-off indicator to the main line, underneath the spool. Leave at least a couple of inches of space between the indicator and the spool to allow for movement when a pike takes the bait.
Your alarm should be positioned between the butt and the second line guide and turned up to full volume. Now you’re ready to detect the slightest movement of the bait caused by a taking predator.
Be on your guard
A PIKE can engulf even the largest of deadbaits quicker than you can respond to a take, and as this can happen at absolutely any point during a session you cannot afford to take your eyes off your float. Keep those alarms turned right up and pay attention throughout the session. Radios should be left at home or kept as quiet as possible.
If you cannot concentrate on a float for a full day, invest in some bite alarms and drop-off indicators as £30 minimum is little to pay for peace of mind and ultimately the pike’s welfare.
But the best advice will come from an angler who knows how to pike-fish correctly and knows how to unhook pike, so if you can, tag along with an experienced predator angler and learn from them at the bankside. There’s simply no experience like first hand experience
HOW DO I UNHOOK PIKE SAFELY?
To remove the hooks from pike you will definitely need at least the following: a pair of long-nosed pliers, a pair of short pliers, an unhooking mat and the confidence to place your fingers within the pike’s mouth.
Removing the hooks from the gaping jaws of even the smallest pike can prove awkward, but not if you follow this step-by-step guide...
NOTE: The pike’s gill rakers are extremely delicate, and extremely sharp. Try to avoid touching them with either your hand or your forceps. Damaged gill rakers bleed profusely, putting the pike under undue stress.
When straddling a pike to unhook it pay attention to the fish. If it struggles while your hands are within the gill covers you will cut yourself. By placing your knees alongside the pike’s body you will feel when it is tensing and preparing to wriggle. Now’s the time to quickly remove your hand and fingers from the gill covers.