October – It’s Pike Time!

October – It’s Pike Time!

October 2005 arrived, and with it my first serious piking sessions of the season. The deadbait rods came out to accompany my lure rods as I prepared for what shall hopefully be a very successful Autumn and Winter’s pike fishing.

Sometimes pike can seem like one of the easiest fish to catch, but very often they can seem almost impossible to catch. Just when you think you’ve got the species worked out, they turn things on their head and leave you scratching yours. If you haven’t pike fished before, but would like to have a go, then please first go with an experienced pike angler, the main reason for this is pike welfare. Everything from the timing of your strike to the unhooking of pike must be done correctly because an angler can pose a serious risk to the pike’s life if they do not know what they’re doing.

I can tell you that already this autumn I’ve had some success with my piking, but to find out exactly how I’ve fared, you shall have to read on!

Due to the inconsistency of the weather, I have fished a variety of venues with my regular fishing partner, Matt. The first trip out saw me trying out a new one-treble wobbling rig which I’d invented (more on that in a future article). Within a couple of casts I’d hooked my first pike on the rig, wobbling a roach deadbait. Unfortunately, the hook snagged on the rim of my landing net and the fish shook free of the hook, inches from the bank. Not to worry though, I’d not been fishing long and I’d already proven the effectiveness of my new rig. Because of its design, the rig enabled me to recast my mangled bait and soon I had follows from another two pike and a big perch. As I was about to have another cast for the perch, my alarm sounded on the static deadbait rod and I struck into a fish of around 5 pounds. My first pike on a deadbait since February was on the bank and I was more than pleased.

Andrew's first pike of the 2005-06 season
My first pike on a deadbait for the 2005/06 season

After this fish, I decided to change my setup around. I used a lures instead of a wobbled deadbait, and instead of my legered static dead, I cast out my wobbling rig freelined, with only two swan shot pinched on the trace for weight. About half an hour after casting this out, my drop-off indicator moved and I connected with what was obviously a much bigger fish. After a couple of powerful runs, the fish came up to the surface and I saw it’s awesome length! I also saw that my one treble hook was lodged right in the corner of the mouth – or “in the scissors”, so I gently teased the fish towards my landing net and hoped it wouldn’t make another dash for freedom. My luck and my nerves held and I stared down at a stunning double-figure pike. The fish went 14lb 9oz, and was my second-largest pike of the season so far (beaten only by my spinner-caught 15 pounder).

This beautiful double-figure river pike went 14lb 9oz
A stunningly marked, very long 14lb 9oz pike

A couple more smaller fish followed this one, after I moved swims hoping for further action. I went home that night a happy man.

The next session came around and Matt and I decided to give some drains a try. After a ridiculously early start, we got to our first-choice swims to find them completely devoid of any sizeable pike. I managed to coax a small pike into taking a bare single hook! I jigged a barbless size 4 single hook (on a wire trace) in front of a fish I’d seen in the marginal weeds. It was purely out of intrigue that I attempted this! Just as the pike started to move towards the hook, another one came out of nowhere and snatched the bare hook! Much to our amusement! I hooked it cleanly in the middle of the top jaw and the fish was released quickly. We decided to move on, but Matt had a couple of worms in his bag, in case any large perch were feeling hungry. After a few small perch, a good fish was hooked and I landed yet another 2lb perch for him! The photo came out well, so here it is:

A perch of 2lb was a great start to Matt'd autumn
Matt just can’t stop catching 2lb perch.  Even on pike sessions!

We stopped off at another small drain and both had some action on lures. I had a double-figure fish take a swipe at my lure, inches from the bank! It missed and slowly sank away into the murk. We moved once more and set up the deadbait rods again. We shared a further 5 small pike and each lost a fish too. I even had a pike attack the orange top of my float as I was reeling in! Despite me trying to catch it with my goldfish-coloured lure, I didn’t see the fish again. The largest fish of the day fell to my paternostered smelt. I was using a home-made pike float and the fish was around 8lbs. In a future article I shall describe in detail how to make several types of successful pike floats yourself.

8lb jack pike from a drain
Jack Attack! On a day where we were hounded by small fish, this 8lb pike was the biggest

The next session saw me land two fish of around 6 pounds within the first hour of arriving on the bank in the middle of a downpour. One fish took a legered roach deadbait, the other took a float-paternostered sardine. Once again, I used a float I made myself. I’m currently readying 15 new floats, which I shall be using for the remainder of the season. Matt also landed a small pike on a deadbait during the morning. I’d been trying lures for a good while, with no action whatsoever. Then I clipped on a new lure I’d just purchased, called the Micro Rooter, made by Fox. It’s a small jerkbait which is light enough to be fished on medium spinning tackle. The body of the lure has no action, but the rubber tail wiggles enticingly in the water.

The one I have is yellow and green, and was completely different to the natural-coloured lures I’d previously been using. Almost instantly I had two different pike attack and miss the lure. Then a few casts later I hooked and landed a pike of around 5lbs. Unfortunately, the paint had cracked on my lure by this point, which was most disappointing, although I landed a further two pike on this lure, followed by a pike and a 1lb perch on my favourite spinner – the Mepps Aglia Long #3.

Matt, meanwhile, had a couple of dropped runs, where the pike had picked up the bait, moved off a little way with the bait in its mouth, then dropped the bait without the hooks penetrating. This was beginning to frustrate Matt, but his luck was about to change. After a tearing run, Matt struck into a fish which headed straight under an overhanging tree. The fish stayed deep, fighting more like a barbel than a pike – using it’s weight to lead Matt a merry dance! After a few minutes the fish was beaten and I slid the net under a large fish. At 15lb 14oz, it was a new personal best for Matt. We were both, unsurprisingly, elated.

Matt Liston with a new PB river pike of 15lb 4oz
What a beauty! Matt displays his new personal best pike

To follow up a trip which yields a personal best is always a tough prospect, so we decided to try yet another venue – our 4th in as many sessions. I had my own personal goal for this session. I had constructed two lures and I hoped to land a fish on either of them. If I did, then I would consider the day, and my many hours making them, a success. Here is a photograph of my first two DIY lure designs, but will they work?

Andrew's first attempts at making pike fishing lures
My first two attempts at making lures

After casting out my deadbait rod, I couldn’t resist having a few casts with my new lures. I hadn’t even tested if they swam yet! Luckily, with a few minor adjustments, I managed to get both lures working reasonably well. After a few casts with the silver monstrosity, I felt a familiar bang as a pike inhaled the lure. The fish wasn’t huge, but I was battling it in disbelief that it had actually taken a fancy for one of my own creations.! So, all the proof I needed that my lure worked was right in front of me. What a feeling it is to catch a fish on something you’ve made yourself!

My first pike caught on a lure I made myself
It seems I got the menu right with one of my lures!

Around an hour later, on my legered deadbait rod, the line was pulled from the clip on the drop-off indicator, signalling a take from a pike. A little line was pulled from the baitrunner and I stuck into a heavy fish. I hadn’t had a fight from a pike quite so powerful in a long time. At least 3 strong runs were made by the fish as it tried to head towards the dying lilies in the margins. As I eased the fish toward the net, I could see that it had a good girth. I began to get excited when I lifted it from the water and realised it was at least fifteen pounds. I quickly unhooked the fish and rested it in my landing net in the margins, to get its breath back before I weighed it. To my delight, the fish weighed in at 16lb 1oz, which made it my first pike over the 16lb mark in 5 years 9 months! I have caught plenty of doubles, but for the past few seasons 15lb has seemed to be my limit. This season is already shaping up to be extremely successful for me – both in numbers and size of pike caught. Here is that ‘sixteen’.

This sixteen pound pike was my largest of the season
My largest pike for over 5 years – 16lb 1oz

As I was battling this fish, Matt landed a smaller one of around 5lbs. The fish had another angler’s trace down it’s throat, with the hooks obstructing its digestive tract. This illustrates perfectly how vulnerable pike are to inexperienced anglers. It is impossible for a pike to swallow if it’s throat is tied together with discarded hooks. This fish was lucky, as we managed to remove the trace completely – giving the pike the chance to fight another day.

I had a couple more on lures (though sadly, manufactured ones, not my own) and a small fish on a paternostered deadbait. Matt’s swim went dead, so he moved further down the bank. After a couple of hours where neither of us had any action, Matt spotted a swirl in the water, close to a shoal of roach. He decided to investigate by dropping a bait right in that spot.

Twenty minutes later, I got a message on the walkie-talkie that he was into a really good fish. I wound in my rods and headed down to his swim with my camera and scales. The fish was recovering in the net after a dogged battle, when I arrived. The pike was probably no longer than my 16lb fish, but the girth was unbelievable. Although both of us suspected the fish might make twenty pounds, neither of us dared say it! the fateful weighing process ensued, resulting in a final weight of 18lb 6oz. This fish completely eclipsed the personal best Matt had set only a week earlier! Beating his old best by the best part of three pounds, this was a special fish for us both to witness – Matt especially.

Another new PB pike for Matt - this time at 18lb
Another PB! Just a week after breaking his pike record, Matt did it again with this chunky 18 pounder!

I shall keep you updated on all my winter exploits, continuing what has so far been a season to remember for me. Besides pike, look out for the DIY tackle tutorials and my future session chasing winter chub in the quest for my first over 6lb.

As always, you can email me with any questions or comments. Thank you to all of the people who’ve emailed me so far. By the sound of it you’re getting some admirable results too!

Tight Lines,

Andrew Kennedy

Further information about the history, life cycle and biology of Esox Lucius – the pike – can be found on Wikipedia here: Pike Wiki
And on Fishbase here: Pike on Fishbase.org.

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