Streamlined, powerful but graceful, the pike is the supreme predator in our rivers and streams because of the enormous size it can reach. It leads a solitary life, lying in ambush to dart out and feed on smaller shoal fish—species such as roach, rudd and bream. The pike is built for speed, but only over short distances. It prefers to wait until an unwary fish comes within striking distance, then, in a burst of energy, launches its body forward to grasp its prey. The pike is widely distributed throughout the British Isles. It is found in both flowing and stillwaters. Lakes, especially those containing vast shoals of small fish, will hold the larger pike. Loch Lomond and similar large expanses of water have an enormous food potential. Pike there feed on salmon smolts, trout and coarse fish in large numbers. River pike, on the other hand, have to keep up a never ending battle against running water in order to breathe and maintain control over their territory before they even attempt to make a kill.
First, the rod. A model like the Mark IV carp rod is too soft, not for playing pike, but for casting the baits so commonly used in piking. However, a strengthened carp rod is ideal. Several versions of these rods are available in hollow glassfibre, but the best type are those with allthrough action as opposed to the rods whose action is at the top.
For gravel pit pike, which can reach 30 lb in the waters with prime food fish, a sturdy purposebuilt or carp rod, 1015 lb b.s. Line, and a wire trace carrying two or three treble hooks, is standard kit. Good baits are dead roach, small bream, herring and mackerel, which can be ledgered without lead on the bottom or, in breezy weather, cast out beneath a sliding float to work across water with the wind. A deadbait, cast far out and retrieved jerkily to simulate the erratic progress of a sick or injured fish, makes an effective bait when searching large areas of varying depth. Pike, like carp, regularly patrol channels and shallow bars through deep water. Such spots are always worth special attention.
When considering reels a ruthless approach cuts out thoughts of multipliers and centrepins, and homes in on the versatility of a good quality fixedspool reel.
Pike can be caught by a variety of methods. Because of the fish’s voracious appetite, it will attack both live and deadbaits. Fish, for example, can be presented either live, swimming in midwater, or as deadbait, lying on the bottom. Practically any species can be used as a livebait—even small pike are an attractive lure for the larger ones.
FISHING FOR PIKE
The most important thing is to use a lively bait that will work well, swimming strongly in order to arouse the attention of a hungry pike. However, many anglers consider the use of one live fish to catch another as cruel.
Artificial lures play an important part in pike fishing. Spinning is both a pleasurable and successful method. Almost any material can be employed in the manufacture of lures but metal is most often used.
As well as the basics, you will also need a wide range of miscellaneous items such as a large landing net with a soft, knotless mesh; 8in straight artery forceps; longhandled wire cutters; ring whipping thread for stop knots; grease to make line float, and diluted washingup liquid to make it sink and a fine file for sharpening hooks.
The present record pike weighed 40 lb when taken from Horsey Mere, Norfolk, by Peter Hancock in February 1967, but numerous specimens of over 40 lb, and one of 53 lb have been taken from Irish and Scottish waters. A 43 lb pike was caught in this country in 1974 but, following a spurious claim, the fish was never credited to its true captor whose name did not enter the record fish lists. There is some evidence for the existence of pike of up to 70 lb in British waters. Certainly, if you wish to join the recordbreakers, it is advisable to fish in the early part of the season when many of the female fish are heavy with spawn.