No apologies for banging the pike welfare drum (pike article, entry 182)

Being a non-drinker meant that I was up bright and early on January 1st, had the car loaded, and was at the canal-side by 8.45 as the day was still in its infancy. In fact it was a while before another human being put in an appearance, as a couple of dog walkers, who looked like they were still carrying the effects of the night before, passed by. In comparison my head was as clear as a Hampshire chalk stream on a summer’s day.

To start the year, I was continuing with my pike campaign, and whilst still fishing the local canal network, I was on a new system. I haven’t fished there before but set up in a likely looking spot. All you need really is a minimal understanding of watercraft and you know where the fish will be. And so with the canal being wider than elsewhere, plus a number of reed beds in the swim, it was a logical place to set up in.

I was fishing two rods, both with rudd deadbaits. There’s no specific or particular reason why I am currently fishing with rudd, just that I have quite a few in the bait freezer at the moment. I do like them though, and although they can be a little on the soft side, as long as there is not much casting involved then they are fine. I was also fishing my favourite method for pike – deadbait on the bottom with a float as an indicator.

I really love the buzz of watching a pike float, the anticipation of a run is a thrill in itself, but when one does happen then I get really excited! And so, at 10.30 as the left-hand float, which was just off a patch of reeds, began to tremble and quiver, my emotions also responded likewise! It didn’t take long to land the fish, as it wasn’t massive. But I was certainly happy to get off the mark for the year.

I had a couple of spectators watch me as I landed the fish, previously they both told me they were pike anglers. But as I put the fish on the unhooking mat, and one of them asked me if I had a gag, then I realised (not that I need confirmation) that there is still a long way to go in handling and welfare education as far as pike are concerned. In my view there is no need for pike gags in modern predator angling.

The pike I had caught had taken the bottom hook further down than the mouth, where I prefer it to be. I think the spectators expected me to just rip it out, but as I lay over the fish and supported it so that it couldn’t move, put on my gloves and got to work with the forceps, they did look genuinely interested, which was a positive sign at least. I soon had the treble out with no harm done to the fish at all, and I just hoped that they had observed, and then perhaps thought about what I had said during my running commentary as I unhooked the fish.

But just as I was thinking I may have made a positive impression, their leaving comment to me about a big fish they had lost because the wire trace was rusty and had snapped was a case of one step forward and two back. So forgive me if over the next few weeks as I continue to fish for pike, I appear to be banging a continual pike welfare drum. I make no apologies.

Anyway the fish proved to be the one and only of the short session. After four hours I packed away, drove home for a shower and some lunch and then on to Wolverhampton to see my favourite team win 2-0. And together with the result of our ‘friends from down the road’ who suffered a drubbing at the league’s bottom team it was a very good start to 2007! With another fishing session planned later in the week, I decided to try another section of canal.

The day looked good, quite mild with a gentle SW breeze causing the surface of the water to ripple nicely. Plus an extra hour compared to my New Year’s day outing meant that I was quite positive. However, when the fish won’t play ball, then there’s nothing that we can do about it. But looking on the positive side, at least I have got my first blank out of the way!

I did like the look of the place where I fished though and so will return. It looks like it should throw up a good fish or two, and so if only to satisfy my curiosity then I will be back. Once you look past the rubbish, the dog mess and the groups of people drinking alcohol on the towpath, then the Black Country canal system is quite an attractive proposition really!

(Originally published January 2007)

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