Anglers are being urged to take extra care of their prized catch this summer after the tragic death of a huge 36lb 6oz pike following capture proved just how delicate even the largest specimen can be.
The massive predator, which was caught on a perch deadbait from Loch Fad, on the Isle of Bute, by Blantyre, south Lanarkshire rod David Swinburne, failed to recover from its epic battle with its captor, despite major efforts to revive it in the water.
The incident has prompted fish scientists and experts to preach caution regarding the handling of certain species, with barbel, perch and bream also making it on to the ‘fragile list’.
Loch Fad venue manager Jimmy Poole, who was part of the team which tried to revive the huge female pike, said: “It was heartbreaking.
“We stood with her in the water for over 90 minutes, gently encouraging her to take off again, but she just kept rolling over on to her side. It’s so sad to see such a huge fish die.”
Simon Scott, a fisheries lecturer at Sparsholt College who is also a fish farmer and angler, was keen to stress how delicate certain species can become in the warmer months.
“Different species are vulnerable for different reasons. Above all, anglers need to be well organised, and keep the fish wet, or preferably in the net in the water, in order to reduce the chances of any damage occurring.”
This view is shared by Mark Barratt, secretary of the Pike Anglers’ Club, who agrees that prior organisation on the anglers’ part is central to minimising tragedies such as the Loch Fad incident.
“I wouldn’t really fish for pike in the summer, but if you do, it helps to get them to the bank or boat as fast as possible, and return them as quickly as you can. Being well organised and using strong enough tackle is absolutely vital.
“But at the end of the day, a big pike is normally an old pike, and no animal is immortal. Even with carp, which are just about the hardiest of fish, large numbers of seemingly healthy specimens can and often do go belly up after spawning in the spring.”
Five vulnerable species
Tend to get hooked in areas of the gills which can sometimes cause damage to important blood vessels. Use the smallest trebles you can get away with and also make them barbless in an effort to reduce damage.
The heart of a perch is located near the throat and this makes them very susceptible to serious damage. In order to prevent injury, it is important to strike at bites early and also be extremely careful when removing hooks.
Barbel (right) require high oxygen levels and can become vulnerable if they drop. It is crucial to minimise the time they are out of the water and to also take your time releasing them back into the water once they have been caught.
Bream have similar needs to barbel in that they require high oxygen levels. When bream are released, they have a tendency not to react and float on the surface. In order to prevent this, gently coax them back into their habitat, not rushing the process.
This is a species that damages very easily. They are susceptible to losing scales quickly and when they are on the bank they will still fight very hard to escape. Keep them in the water at all times if possible, or use a highly-padded unhooking mat.