Why You MUST Try Reservoir Pike Fishing

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!


Fishing for Pike at Ladybower Reservoir
“Moody – The view over Ladybower, towards the large viaduct, taken in the early morning light”

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…

We first dropped anchor in a small but deep bay, where we had spotted the occasional trout rising, as we motored towards the largest of the two viaducts. The sight of trout feeding was too tempting to pass, and in hindsight we should have maybe stayed there longer than we did. As it was, we fished for about half an hour, and between us tried deadbaits suspended beneath drifter floats, free-roving livebaits and lures, without any success. We had a lot of lake to explore, so we reeled in the baits and trolled lures towards the viaduct. Unfortunately, I had taken mainly softbaits and large crankbaits with no internal rattle, hoping the pike would respond to visual triggers rather than sound and vibration. I hadn’t considered that the water would be tinged heavily with peat. I’ve no idea if this is usually the case – we had received a few recent downpours – but it’s worth considering when selecting your Ladybower lure arsenal.

Pike Fishing Ladybower Reservoir
My two bait rods secured in Fox adjustable rod holders, waiting for a pike bite, which could have come at any time”

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 us nothing.

Fishing for Pike at Ladybower Reservoir
“Matt pays out line as a pike picks up his bait… only for it to throw the hooks, seconds later”

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!

Pike Fishing Ladybower Reservoir
“As the light faded towards the end of the session, I used lures to try and tempt a pike”


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 around £200. For further information on the current pike fishing at Ladybower Reservoir, contact Richard Smith who runs the pike syndicate, via email here.

Other reservoirs with good pike fishing, which are fishable on day ticket, include:


Ladybower Facts:

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!

The trout season runs from 1st March until November 12th, inclusive

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 around £200. For further information on the current pike fishing at Ladybower Reservoir, contact Richard Smith who runs the pike syndicate, via email here.

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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