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by John Bailey
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I’ll admit it, I’ve been doing a bit of summer piking. I’m aware there’s controversy about fishing for pike before October but, after weighing up all the arguments, I can’t really see why. Summer pike fishing can be hugely dramatic as the pike are more active than they are in winter and they’re frequently more hungry.
They fight dynamically as well – and perhaps there’s the rub. One of the great fears is that in high water temperatures, the pike simply wear themselves out if the battle is too protracted. You take that into account. You use appropriate gear and get the pike to the bank as quickly as possible without, again, harming the fish.
It’s all about looking after the fish, isn’t it? That’s why lure fishing is so kind. I nearly always use lures these days for pike with just a single hook and the modern rubber creations that waggle those enticing tails are just perfect. They come in different sizes, different colours and with different actions so you can really ring the changes.
If I do feel the need to go onto dead baits, then I’ll ensure that I strike very quickly, at the first indication on the float. I won’t let runs develop in the traditional way because I know summer pike can really wolf a bait down. And for that reason, I’ll probably use one or two singles rather than the more usual trebles, and probably barbless come to that.
Finally, what pike I land, I’ll try and unhook in the water so I’m not removing them from their environment for even a second. If a pike needs to be hoisted out and laid on an unhooking mat, I’ll make sure the mat is thoroughly wetted. A handy bucket of water also keeps the pike dampened whilst the dentistry bit goes on. Every now and again, you do like a pike for a photograph, especially if you are with a kid perhaps who’s just landed his PB.
So, if you take every possible care and consideration of your pike in these summer months, don’t feel too guilty about enjoying some sensational sport. And, to my mind, isn’t landing the pike fit and lean kinder to the fish than hunting her when she’s absolutely bloated with spawn? I’m not going to get contentious here. I know this column is read by non-anglers so can I finish this section of the piece by stressing that all anglers must look after all their fish, whatever species, at any time of the season.
This last pike session or two, I’ve really been mystified by the absence of anything particularly decent. I’ve made contact with a few doubles, low ones at that, and some nicely conditioned jacks but all the better fish I was expecting to catch...I just haven’t. There was one fish in the river that came close. I was using a rubber lure working it in the current rather than with any real retrieve. A very large, very beautiful-looking pike came up after it through the fronds of weed, studied it, batted it with its head and disappeared off upstream. I tried the area with a drifted dead bait for half an hour afterwards but with no response.
All my favourite spots on gravel pits and on the rivers seem surprisingly empty too. Places I would guarantee decent fish in the winter seem to be barren now. It was like all the bigger pike had moved and perhaps they had just done that very thing. Just today, I was in conversation with the fishery guys from the Environment Agency and we discussed so many topics that I’ll be covering these in next week’s piece. However, one gem really does highlight what I’m thinking about the movements of big pike. Let’s look at it this way.
Pike tend to group together rather according to their size. A five pound jack will be happy lying next to fish in the four to seven pound range because it will feel reasonably safe. A fifteen pounder, though, might really present a serious threat to our five pounder, so much so that it will try to distance itself if at all possible.
That’s why our 15 pounder is very happy in the company of fish between 12 and upper teens. Once again, our 15 doesn’t feel much threat from the pike around but if, a few yards away, there is an upper 20 or low 30 lurking, then our fifteen begins to feel distinctly uneasy.
So it’s all in the gape as I headlined this piece. Pike, whatever size until they become big, are constantly looking at the gape of their neighbours and wondering if they could possibly disappear into it.
That’s surely why the biggest pike in any water feel free to move around exactly as they wish. Taking otters and man out of the equation, these big pike are the lords of their environment.
If they want to swim from the source to the mouth of the river, they’re not going to encounter any other pike big enough to have them for tea.
It doesn’t matter where on the biggest of gravel pits they care to move to they are safe in the knowledge that they can outface any other pike coming their way.