Why You MUST Try Reservoir Pike Fishing
By Andrew Kennedy
Since catching my first pike eight years ago on a tiny gravel pit, I have become more and more fascinated with this species and their ability to thrive in a variety of contrasting habitats. The versatility pike show has led me to constantly evolve my own pike fishing, in both technique and venue type. Along the way I have tackled rivers, drains, large & small lakes and canals in search of pike, and although I haven't exactly mastered all of these waters, I can approach the majority of smaller venues, confident that I can make the most of the conditions I'm faced with. One type of venue I had not yet attempted was one of our many large trout reservoirs. When you look at the statistics of large pike caught in the UK from the past 20 years, an astounding proportion of 35lb-plus fish have been captured from trout reservoirs. These immense, deep, mysterious waters - constantly re-stocked with protein-rich, naïve, farmed trout - provide any resident pike with a near-perfect environment for attaining huge weights. In fact, with the sheer volume of water in these reservoirs, you'd be forgiven for getting carried away, when trying to quantify their pike potential! Many reservoirs are now synonymous with producing large predators, attracting more fame for their pike fishing than for the trout they built their reputations on. The mere mention of Chew Valley, Blithfield or Llandegfedd, is guaranteed to make any piker's neck hairs stand proud. Although big pike are caught from all water types, if you want to be in with a real chance of landing a truly huge pike of 30lbs+, you really have to give the large trout reservoirs a try.
This is what brought me, and my long-time piking compadré
Matt Liston, to try Ladybower Reservoir. Situated just 10 miles West
of Sheffield; Ladybower is the most convenient reservoir with good
pike fishing, for me to travel to. For the past 4 or 5 years, at the
end of the trout fishing season in November, Ladybower has opened
to pike anglers, right through until the end of February. The lake
record pike stands at an impressive 37lb 10oz, caught by none other
than Mr pike himself - Neville Fickling. Other fish of 30lb plus have
also been caught. The trout reach sizes up to 17lb, with 2lb being
the average sized fish caught. Add these to the coarse fish population
of the lake and that's a lot for the pike to get fat on!
Making the step-up to fishing a 500 acre water is a daunting proposition for anyone, and it's difficult to know where to start, but the key is initially finding the fish. For this reason, we decided that a boat was the best way to approach Ladybower; covering plenty of water whilst looking for tell-tale signs such as rising fish or diving birds, and fish-holding features. One thing which Ladybower does not lack is features! Steep drop-offs, rocky outcrops, bridges (although depths exceed 100 feet beneath them!), fish cages, pontoons, sheltered bays... even a submerged village! You don't have to hire a boat - bank fishing is very popular, and apparently productive, for those willing to put in the time and leg-work - but I find being out in a boat quite an experience, and for someone as clumsy as me, a laugh a minute!
So we booked a mid-week day to avoid peak angling traffic, and when
we arrived the boat was already on the water, ready to go. We were
greeted by fishery manager Alan Purnell, at the purpose-built fishery
office, who gave us a few pointers and graciously answered our many
questions. To stand at the boat pontoon and watch the first rays of
sun light up the reservoir and the hills around is quite inspirational.
The sense of anticipation builds, as you stare across the watery expanse
and wonder just what lays beneath the surface of this huge lake. Well,
there was only one way to find out...
Next we headed through the viaduct and up the Derwent Arm of the
reservoir, past a few small coves and inlet streams; eventually arriving
at a large bay. Watching the echo sounder as we idled along, we'd
detected large shoals of fish holding at around 2/3 depth, in 50 feet
of water. We anchored on the crest of the drop-off and sent drifting
and free-roving baits out across the deeper water, but still no joy.
We tried a spot of lure fishing on the drift, along the Western margins,
before heading back through the viaduct, continuing into the snake
arm. After a further couple of hours' drift fishing in some seriously
wind-battered areas, time was running out, and we decided to spend
the last hour and a half anchored in a nice sheltered bay. Immediately
upon reaching the place, we thought we might have struck gold. A cormorant
- something we had only previously spotted fully airborne - took off
when it saw us approach. Suddenly the lake seemed to shrink to an
acre in size, and catching a pike seemed much more feasible. Baits
were spread out well, and we relaxed as the sun began to drop. A float
disappeared convincingly, line was paid out and this was duly taken...
Something had picked up Matt's paternostered mackerel! After a few
seconds of the fish taking line, Matt reeled in the slack and we both
held our breaths. The hooks must not have set properly, as ten seconds
into the fight, the fish was gone. I was hit by that horrible sick
feeling which one only experiences after losing the unknown; Matt
was dumbfounded. Our only chance of the day had gone, and yielded
Upon arriving back at the pontoon without the tale of a pike between
us, Alan encouraged us to cast a few baits out around the pontoon,
as this area has accounted for a few fish to bank anglers in the past.
It just wasn't our day though, so we packed up around an hour later,
with no fish to show for our efforts, but with plenty of experience
to draw on for next time. The truth is, I didn't expect to catch on
my first trip to a trout reservoir. There was always the chance, but
500 acres of water is quite a challenge, and one which requires experience
and knowledge to crack. But there's no way to gain such experience
without actually fishing the venue, so I'll be back to Ladybower as
soon as I can!
PLEASE NOTE - When I fished at Ladybower and wrote this article, it was possible to fish for pike there on a day ticket. However a change of management of the fishery has led to a change of policy and pike fishing is now only available on a syndicate basis, with tickets priced at £200. For further information on the current pike fishing at Ladybower Reservoir, Click Here.
Ladybower first opened as a trout fishery in 1943.
When full, Ladybower holds over 6,300 million gallons of water and has a surface area of some 500 acres, with around 7 miles of bank surrounding it!
The Pike season at Ladybower lasts from October until February.
The largest pike to be caught from Ladybower, was taken by Neville
Fickling in 2001, weighing 37lb 8oz!
For more information, you can visit Ladybower on the web at www.ladybowerfisheries.co.uk/,
or contact the fishery office on 01433 659712
PLEASE NOTE - When I fished at Ladybower and wrote this article, it was possible to fish for pike there on a day ticket.
However a change of management of the fishery has led to a change of policy and pike fishing is now only available on a syndicate basis, with tickets priced at £200. For further
information on the current pike fishing at Ladybower Reservoir, Click Here.