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Summer pike fishing

Nick Baggaley, one of our fisheries co-ordinators, looks at summer pike fishing - should you do it?

Pike lurking down among the pebbles

Traditionally, fishing for pike has pretty much always been a winter pursuit. In general terms, the pike ‘season' begins 1 October and runs until the close of the river coarse fishing season on 14 March.

Why the tradition?

The reason for this traditional pike ‘season' is perhaps lost in the annals of time. Maybe it's just that other fish species become harder to catch so historically people used to divert their attention to pike? It could be down to a view that pike do not respond well to being caught in the warmer months suffering from a build up of lactic acid after a titanic struggle. Or perhaps there are more selfish reasons at play ie. it's the lure of catching a pike when they are at their fattest and heaviest prior to spawning in the spring? After all, a big female pike may weigh 5 or 6lb more due to the weight of spawn.

Seasons and locations

There are of course lots of casual pike anglers who target the species at all times of the year. The current popularity of lure fishing has also meant pike see an anglers bait throughout the year. Personally, I would suggest the die-hard pike angling enthusiast ought to consider a self-enforced closed season for pike fishing. In other words, only fishing for them in the autumn/winter period.

Pike and oxygen

It is true that pike do suffer when oxygen levels are low, which they often are in the heat of summer. In fisheries which suffer from low dissolved oxygen it is usually the pike that will show signs of distress first, even in some cases being the only fish to succumb.

Of course, there are many varied fisheries all over the country and they will have different environmental factors influencing them. A shallow, non-navigable canal will heat up quickly in the summer compared to a commercial freight waterway in the north of the country. The weir pool of a large lowland river will be highly oxygenated and have cooler water than a shallow pond or lake.

Bite indication and handling

In the warmer months a fish's metabolism speeds up. They are also quicker to pick up and swallow baits. For this reason, any angler bait fishing needs to be on the ball. Accurate bite indication is a must and any take should be struck at immediately. If a take is not actioned instantly deep hooking is likely. This is not good for a pike at any time and is especially dangerous in high temperatures as this will put further stress on the fish.

Nick Baggaley handling a pike

The benefits of lure fishing

It could be argued that lure fishing is better for pike welfare as there is little chance of deep hooking. this is due to the angler hitting the take instantly, therefore resulting in the hook being set in the mouth of the fish. This in theory should mean unhooking is a swift affair and the fish is returned sooner.

There is still the problem of landing and unhooking fish in the warmer months. The method used to catch a fish is irrelevant if the angler is not prepared and does not manage to unhook and release the fish in good time, undamaged.

Unhooking in the water

The experienced angler, who is well versed in handling pike, can often unhook fish while still in the water. This, when done properly is good for fish welfare as it reduces the time spent out of water and therefore the stress on the fish.

The right kit

As with any fishing, but especially with pike, the right tackle and equipment is a must. A suitable rod and strong line (15lb BS as a minimum) is needed, and a wire trace is a necessity. Braided lines are very popular with pike anglers and lines of 40lb BS are not uncommon due to their low diameter and high strength.

Many modern specimen landing nets are rubberised. These are great for pike fishing as they are kinder to fish and much less likely to get a loose hook stuck in them. Therefore, aiding a speedy, safe return of the fish.

The value of unhooking mats

When the fish is landed it should be placed on a soft surface i.e. grass. As this is not always possible an unhooking mat should be carried and utilised to protect the fish when unhooking. Forceps or specific unhooking pliers should always be at hand.

For further guidance on summer pike fishing and other useful topics visit the Pike Anglers Club website.

Nick Baggaley's biggest pike

Last Edited: 10 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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