What’s the Catch? Get on yer bike to land a pike

Jack Winslade with an impressive Rother pike
Jack Winslade with an impressive Rother pike

Are you quite sure you want to go fishing? The voice of reason from the boss in the kitchen who rightly felt a day by the river with temperatures below zero was something to be seriously questioned, writes Roger Poole.

Well I had my own good reason for wanting to go... at least it seemed a good idea when flicking through the latest bunch of angling magazines where photographs of proud anglers thrust before the camera huge pike.

Club members young Jack Winslade (with a 14lb 10oz pike) and Chris Hayes (with an even larger pike) both had winter success on the Rother – and that’s the reason you really should spend a day to go pike fishing.

It’s a fish I hold in great esteem and to some extent fear. The fear factor went back to my boyhood days when very foolishly and against all advice handed out by those who knew better, I tried to retrieve my hook using my right hand from the jaws of a pike.

The speciment felt some retribution was necessary and clamped his teeth firmly down which drew blood and tears and to this day a scar I am almost proud of.

In fact it only endorses that hooks need long tongs to remove them and that pike are best lifted from a landing net by placing the hands and fingers under the lower gills. Do not think a pike is an accommodating fish that allows you to place your hands in its mouth – a lesson I learned the hard way.

These fish have been in our rivers for thousands if not millions of years and it’s often said they’re the fish population monitor that maintain a balance that only nature installs. This has worked remarkably well despite man’s efforts back in the 1960s, when anglers were asked to remove and kill pike, a policy that, thank goodness, was quickly reversed.

The exception is in the glorious and costly chalk streams, where the trout rule supreme and fishery management take a dim view of seeing trout stock depleted by pike.

Most mixed coarse and trout waters are more lenient and the pike has it part to play.

So winter is the time of the year to go pike fishing. Get properly prepared, a strong rod, nothing less than 15lb line and most importantly a strong wire trace to hook.

With those teeth a pike with make short shift of nylon line. A weighted line and pike float are available from your tackle shop, plus of course those long-armed fishing tongs – and you can also buy metal-linked gloves if the fear factor takes over.

Take a large landing net – hopefully you will need it – and a good-sized landing mat, something you should always take when fishing.

Live baiting is now thankfully a thing of the past: sprats, mackerel, and even sardines are today’s baits. There are various rigs but mine is a simple bottom weight with a hooked dead sea fish that sits nicely at a depth indicated by my old-fashioned wooden pike float, a treasure from the past.

Pike are cunning – it’s a fallacy to feel it necessary to cast out far and wide. When fishing the river, always my choice, consider its condition.

At this time of the year it’s full and running through pretty fast – therefore the fish population will find calmer spots to stay.

Battling a strong current is tiring so they find quieter areas, often a natural bend or a kink or hollow in the bank, so pike will roam close to where you are fishing.

The other day I witnessed an angler whose pike float was no more than a foot from the bank. He landed a 15lb-plus pike who had moved in and liked the look of his dead mackerel. As with all fishing, you have to choose carefully where you place your bait.

Club members young Jack Winslade (with a 14lb 10oz pike) and Chris Hayes (with an even larger pike) both had winter success on the Rother – and that’s the reason you really should spend a day to go pike fishing. Ignore advice from more sensible members of the family!

More details at www.sussexangling.co.uk

Roger Poole, chairman

Petworth & Bognor Angling Club