There's something very exciting about fishing for big predatory fish with sharp teeth, which is why so many anglers enjoy 'piking' every year between the months of October and March (the pike season).
When the float starts to move off and disappear, or the indicator rises, you never quite know what size 'esox' could be on the other end, from a small jack to a 40lb crocodile.
And the good news is that pike will take a bait in all weather, no matter how cold. Here's our guide to getting started...
WHAT BAITs catch pike?
There are two baits that will catch pike. The first is live or dead fish, the second is to use imitation baits that resemble fish or water creatures.
Both types of bait are as productive as each other – it depends on any given day which bait produces the most fish, but generally speaking fishing with artificial baits produces the greater numbers of pike, while real fish produce the larger pike.
Also, lure fishing for pike using artificial baits is the better method to adopt to locate the pike too because lure fishing, by its very nature, covers more water and therefore there’s more chance of your bait passing a hungry pike at some point as it’s being worked around the lake, river or canal.
What essentials do i need?
A must have item of tackle for any predator angler. Those razor sharp teeth will cut your hand if you aren’t careful, and as they are so sharp it will bleed for a long time.
A pair of long-nosed forceps (generally around 12in long) are perfect for slipping between a pike’s jaws or up through its gill covers to remove hooks embedded in the jaw or mouth.
Pike teeth will easily cut through normal monofilament and braided hooklengths so to stop a fish from becoming tethered to treble hooks you must use a wire trace of at least 10is in length. That applies to both lure fishing and bait fishing methods.
Another must-have item of tackle that can be used to cut a wire trace cleanly if the need arises. They will come in extremely useful when a pike is hooked awkwardly or when a set of treble hooks become lodged within your landing net and you need to cut the wire to free the hooks.
Large landing net
An ordinary spoon landing net – the sort you’d normally use when fishing for general fishing – isn’t large enough for pike. You’ll need to invest in a large triangular specialist landing net to safely hold and cradle a large pike when lifting it from the water. A net having a strong 6ft handle coupled with folding 36ins arms will be large enough to hold specimen pike with room to spare.
First aid kit
Even the most experienced pike angler will receive cuts and grazes from the pike’s teeth and gill rakers when unhooking and landing pike. And those cuts don’t heal quickly so to save bleeding all over your rod, reel and clothing it’s best to carry a few plasters, antiseptic hand wipes and even a few tissues to help treat any wounds you may get.
Both braid and mono are ideal for pike fishing so long as they are up to the job. If you intend fishing with a mono mainline then opt for a line of 12lb or even 15lb breaking strain, and if you’re intending to use braid, go for a 30lb breaking strain.
Powerful rods and reels
The type of rod and reel that you’ll need is determined by the style of pike fishing you want to do – lure fishing or bait fishing. But regardless of the style they will need to be quite powerful because pike are hard-fighters and can reach weights of over 30lb. You’ll find more in-depth info about these below…
Lure fishing tackle for pike
Lure fishing for pike is a very mobile and active technique that requires very little tackle. All you need is a rod, reel, a few trace wires, everything from the list above and a varied selection of lures. And that’s all.
Rods for lure fishing
They are sometimes called spinning rods, sometimes called lure rods and sometimes called plugging rods – they all perform similarly in that they have plenty of power through the middle to the butt and have flexible tip sections.
They are short rods generally between 6ft and 10ft of varying power. The power of a lure rod is indicated by the rod’s casting weight. On the blank of the rod you’ll find some figures such as 5-25g, 15-40g or 30-60g. Those are the optimum weight of lures that the rod will cast, so the higher the weight, the more powerful the rod will be. Normally, the longer the lure rod is, the more powerful it tends to be.
A great starting point for a beginner to pike fishing would be a rod having a length of around 8ft and a casting weight of around 15-40g as that will provide enough power to cast most general purpose lures and also have enough power to stop and control sizeable pike.
Reels for lure fishing
There are two trains of thought when it comes to picking the perfect lure fishing reel. Most anglers prefer the simplicity of a reliable fixed spool reel, while some prefer to use multiplier reels. We would strongly suggest steering away from multiplier reels if you are a newcomer to lure fishing as they are complicated to set up correctly and can cause a lot of problems when casting.
By far the best choice would be a small fixed spool reel in the 2500 and 3000 size. A compact front drag model is ideal as they are small and lightweight, but a rear drag reel will definitely suffice.
The right line
Given the choice between using mono or braid, there is only one clear winner – braid. This supple, ultra-thin material is the perfect choice because it has no stretch, unlike mono. This means that as soon as you begin winding the reel’s handle after casting, or as soon as you flick the rod tip down, your lure will move. This enables the angler to impart truly magnificent action upon the lure, making it jerk rapidly, flick over slowly, rise up gracefully and dive down rapidly.
What’s more, as braid has no stretch you will be able to feel any plucks upon the lure because braid has the unique ability to transmit indications from the lure to the rod tip.
And finally, braid is much thinner than mono when compared like for like. A 30lb braid will be many times thinner than a 30lb mono so you’ll be able to cast loads further with braid than you would with mono.
Trace wires for lure fishing
An incredibly crucial piece of kit that every lure angler should use as they prevent the fish biting through the line and trailing lures around in their mouths. Traces can be bought at very little cost, or they can be made at home to your own specifications using only a few components.
The perfect lure fishing trace wire should be supple, 10in long, 30lb breaking strain and feature a swivel at one end and a snap link at the other so you can change your style or size of lure in a second without having to re-tie a trace.
The right lures
There are literally thousands of different lures on the market – all manner of different shapes, sizes, weights, configurations and patterns. Some are plastic, some are metal, others are rubber while some are wooden. But whatever the make-up they are all designed to do one thing – imitate an injured fish or water creature to make the pike react, think it’s an easy meal approaching and snap at it.
Bait fishing tackle for pike
Again, strong tackle is key to successful bait fishing for pike, not only because the fish can be enormous and extremely powerful, but also because the baits required to catch the fish are quite large and heavy. This means that you’ll ideally need super strong rods to cope with the stresses and strains of casting such baits as a whole roach, half a mackerel or a sardine. Here’s a typical rundown of the tackle ideal for pike fishing with bait…
Rods for bait fishing
If you have a 2.5lb test curve carp rod – or two - you’re well on your way to being able to successfully tackle pike with baits. Carp rods are widely used by pike anglers who fish at close to medium range as a 2.5lb test curve carp rod is more than capable of casting a small fish bait such as a little roach, a small smelt, a 4in section of lamprey and such like.
But if you wish to use bigger baits and be able to cast a bait a long way then you’ll need proper pike rods that have test curves of 3lb. These rods will be able to launch baits a long, long way and that will allow you to cover a lot more water and therefore stand a higher chance of catching more pike.
Reels for bait fishing
Again, carp reels are okay for pike fishing. It’s the size of the spool that’s all important as you ought to be using either 12 or 15lb mono or 30lb braid as the mainline in order to cope with catching these powerful fish, often close to weed and snags.
A large free spool reel is perfect, but those extra-large big bit style specialist reels are even better because their spools are enormous. This means that line will peel off the spools really easily, creating very little resistance and therefore increasing the distance of your casts.
Traces for bait fishing
Again, these are absolutely crucial to prevent damage to fish and breakages. You could buy traces already made up or you could tie your own. They are really simple to create.
There are two ways to achieve this. You could either floatfish or you could leger. Floatfishing will require specialist, highly buoyant balsa floats while legering requires bite alarms and drop-off indicators to clearly show when you have had a take.
There are two kinds of float used when predator fishing – those for presenting deadbaits on the bottom and those which suspend livebaits off the bottom. They are very different to one another.
The floats for deadbait fishing have swivels on the base and are very long and thin – they are often called deadbait ‘pencils’. Floats for livebaiting are short, fat floats that have a whole through the centre where the line passes. They are very buoyant in order to hold the bait off the bottom.
When legering it’s important to use a bite alarm coupled with a drop-off indicator. The alarm will provide an audible sound when you get a run and the drop-off indicator will tell you whether the pike has picked up the bait and swan away or towards you.
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.
Here's how it's done...
1. After netting the pike, place it on a cushioned unhooking mat, turn it on its side and straddle it gently. Don’t sit on it!
Put your fingers together and your hand flat. Work your hand up through the gill cover, keeping your hand pressed to the inside of the gill cover.
3. Keep your hand flat and gently prize open the pike’s mouth by pulling the gill cover outwards. This won’t harm the pike.
Now find the hooks and use your forceps to remove them quickly. You may have to pass the closed forceps through the gill rakers to reach the hooks.