Lock up your Jack Russells (pike article, entry 67)

Pike are ferocious killers and when encountered, make piranhas look like amateurs. It’s a fact that they will drag children into the deeps, devour whole families of swans in seconds, and woe betide any dog that decides to go for a paddle, as it will be the last thing it will ever do this side of eternity.

Actually, there is so much rubbish believed about pike that it defies belief, particularly when the stories circulate amongst the angling fraternity, who should know better. I have personally met anglers, who in their absolute ignorance, believe that the only good pike is a dead one. More often than not it is the poor pike that gets the blame for that angler’s failure to catch a fish. ‘There must be a pike in the swim’ or ‘There are no roach in the lake, the pike has eaten them all’

In reality, the pike fulfils a very important role in the balance of the water. Dead and injured fish (ironically often as a result of the aforementioned angler’s incompetence!) are quickly devoured before they begin to rot. The pike literally mops up the weaker fish, ensuring that the strong survive, which helps to produce a healthy stock.

Incidentally, the best way to ‘control’ pike is to let nature runs its course, as there is no respect amongst predators – they are happy to eat their smaller brethren without any guilty consciences following. Removing big pike from a venue as a means of controlling the pike is foolish, it is simply guaranteed to see an explosion in Jacks.

I enjoy pike fishing myself, and the first session in this week’s Angling Journal saw me head off for a lake where I have been targeting the predators recently. The sun was out, although it was quite chilly – a typical autumn day. There was a nice breeze and everything looked good for a fish or two. I find that very often a fish will come quite soon after casting out and again that proved to be the case. Just fifteen minutes after setting the rod in the rest, the indicator started to rise and I found myself lifting into a fish that very quickly found its way into the landing net.

It was a small pike at just 7-1-8. Within the hour though I had caught one a little heavier – at 9-12-0 it was just short of the double figure mark. The venue in question is not likely to throw up a fish of national importance, but it’s not too far away from where I live and is a pleasant place to fish, so that suits me down to the ground. Plus I catch my fair share of mid-doubles from there, which certainly put up a good fight.

And it was one of those that took a herring head, while the sun was still high in the sky. It fought well, and at 14-2-0 certainly had the bulk to resist capture. But with no snags in the swim, I was always the favourite to win the battle. It was my second ‘14’ of the autumn and with the hooks just inside the mouth, it was an easy enough task to unhook, weigh and photograph. I don’t like deep hooked pike, and whilst I do have the confidence to deal with any such situation, in all honesty I would much prefer to simply remove the trebles without any poking and prodding as such.

Almost immediately after releasing the fish I had another one, again another double, but only just at 10-4-0. This I recognised (by a mark on its body) as a fish I had caught a couple of weeks before at one ounce lighter. Although the venue is as far from the sea as you can get in England, this pike certainly likes his sea fish – this time it fell to a herring, the previous one it had succumbed to the charms of a sprat.

Although I fished up till dark, the fish decided that they didn’t want to play ball any more. Still, I’d had four fish, so I was satisfied with that. Certainly as the winter draws ever near, there will no doubt be times when even one fish will make my day. But there is still a fair bit of autumn left yet, and wanting to make the most of that I finished the week off by visiting the ‘small river’ (that’s all you’re going to get I’m afraid!) that I have fished recently and caught a 15-6-0 from.

The water was low and clear, so much so that I could watch the bait as it lay on the bottom of the river! Still, that didn’t bother me too much as I knew that the fish were there and could surely be tempted from the now dying reed beds by a nice tasty herring head or tail! I was fishing at mid-day and sat well back from the water’s edge so as not to disturb any fish that were in the area.

I had one rod literally under my feet and the other cast some yards downstream, and it was the latter that saw the only fish of the day take the bait. A couple of hours after casting out, I found myself playing a good fish that did its utmost to evade capture. However, I brought the fish into submission quickly enough, and had it on the unhooking mat ready to extract the hooks. This one had taken the hooks deeper than I like, but very carefully I was able to deal with the situation. For the newcomer, the ideal situation is to spend time with an experienced pike angler. Things such as handling and hook removal will be invaluable exercises to work through.

It weighed 14-3-8 and was my fourth pike (and third ‘14’) over 14lb so far this campaign. A good fish and even more so when you consider the venue in question. Pike thrive on neglect and I have only ever seen a handful of anglers on there, and none fishing for predators. I shall fish there a few times this winter so hope to tap into any big fish potential that it may have. I am not sure what the upper limit may be; I may already have reached it. But at least it will be fun along the way!

On a final note, the local newspaper ‘The Express and Star’ recently ran a piece on my angling exploits. It was a positive article and certainly portrayed angling in a good light – even if it made me look like an anorak that enjoys stopping out all night in all sorts of weather! Still, in the eyes of the non-angling world as long as we are seen as harmless then that’s a victory of sorts.

There is a battle going on to win the minds of the public and with a small minority set on eliminating angling we must never take things for granted. We should always be looking for opportunities to act as ambassadors for the pastime and so when the newspaper contacted me, I was more than happy to rise to the challenge. The photo they chose to accompany the article by the way was one of me with a pike!

(Originally posted October 2004)




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