Pike are Ireland’s largest apex freshwater predator, renowned for its hard rod bending and reel screaming runs and famous aerobatics displays. The pike is widespread throughout Ireland and Europe, pike exceeding ten pounds were common all over Ireland but in recent years our European brothers have decimated the stocks to an all-time low, with some small waters producing a few small pike that could be all males and therefore the stocks may never recover. To a lot of seasonal pike anglers they strive to catch pike over twenty pounds and for many hard core pike anglers 30 to 40 pounders are the fish of dreams. Even though forty pounders are rare the IFI seam to capture a few while doing surveys or when they are removing them from trout waters. Pike can be found in all types of water: lakes, rivers, ponds and reservoirs. Still to this day pike are misunderstood and often killed indiscriminately. Outside poaching some trout and coarse anglers still kill them. Unfortunately these anglers don’t realise pike will eat the sick and dead fish, this stops diseases spreading throughout the healthy fish stocks. They also keep the lakes fish population at a healthy level. Even with all the evidence supporting that Pike are important to maintain a healthy fish population they are still treated as an invasive fish in their own waters were they have lived with trout over thousands of years. If you take the number of anglers that kill trout all over Ireland I bet pike only take ten percent of that number with the rest of their diet being roach Rudd, bream, perch, eels and pike. There is new evidence that pike in Ireland have being hear for thousands of years and are still being treated like dirt. Go to this web address for more information to read why pike have the same rights as trout and salmon [http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/Press-releases/new-study-reveals-pike-native-to-ireland.html]
When fishing for pike the largest pike are females, male pike rarely exceeding ten pounds in weight. They spawn early in the spring, when water temperatures reach over 8° centigrade. Most pike anglers know that the larger pike are at their heaviest weight from mid-February to March before spawning. Pike of all sizes gather together at this time of year, the larger females being accompanied by many smaller males. Mating should last several days but as the Irish weather temperatures rapidly changes it often takes that bit longer. Pike have been known to live for twenty-five years in Britain, although around twelve years seems to be the maximum lifespan in Ireland. Although many people think large pike are a solitary predator, I disagree, having caught pike of around equal length and weight off the same area on the same day. I found in most cases you will find a few large females lurking around small pike or large shoals of fish in the colder winter months. A pike’s camouflage is perfectly suited to its environment and will lie in ambush, against weed, submerged structures, such as bridge piles, tree roots and marginal shelves. Together a pikes long shape, large tail and dorsal fins makes it one of the fastest striking fish in the world, as any passing prey discovers all too late! In addition to lying in ambush, pike will also actively hunt prey at a set times of day or bright moonlight nights. What I believe triggers these feeding spells in the winter mounts is levelling water temperature in the morning after colder nights and as the temperature is at its highest before it starts dropping back. When the water is coloured dead baits are the way to go because Pike have a good sense of smell and can still find dead baits in murky water and blackest of nights. Traditionally they have been caught using coarse fish baits, spinners and plugs but in recent year’s sea dead baits and artificial fish flies are getting more popular, which are widely available in most tackle shops. Pike have many sharp teeth and as the fights hard will cut mono like tread so to avoided loosing them specialist tackle and unhooking tools are needed. For example, hooks on bait must always be mounted on a wire trace attached to strong line or braid. It is essential that the angler is familiar with safe handling practice. Never, therefore, go piking without a long nose pliers or forceps and wire-cutters these are especially needed when dead baiting.
An easy to carry pike kit consist of wire cutter, scissors, fore septs, wire trace, swivels, hooks, two ounce leads, crimps and a trace holder
I used a pike mouth opener [gag] when I first started pike fishing a long time ago but found them dangerous, I now use glove [hands] to chin them so I can un- hook the pike, it is far safer for you and the fish. All newcomers to the sport should read as much as they can and look at any pike videos or even better go fishing with an experienced pike angler or guide. This will help you un-hook pike safely without cutting your hands or damaging the fish. There is an old fisherman’s tail that if a pike swallows the hooks they will dissolve, it could be no further from the truth, I will go through step by step how to unhook a pike that has swallowed the bait and hooks.
Frame 1 First turn the pike on its side then open it mouth by putting your four fingers up inside it gill cover, be careful you don’t damage its gill rakers,.
frame 2 if the dead bait is still attached to the hooks remove it so you can get a proper visual on were the hooks are situated. If the hooks are in the soft stretchy throat tissue gently pull on the steel trace until the hook is reveal then trap the steel wire with your thumb against the fish,
Frame 3 this will hold the hook in position so you can put the long forceps in-between or underneath the gill rakers. Then gently grab the tissue and slide it over the de-barbed hook if you have more than one hook on repeat the same process all over again. If it is taking too long make sure you keep the pike wet and when releasing the pike hold it by the tail and gently push it backwards and forwards in the water, this will help push the oxygenated water through it gills. Remember don’t let it go until you are sure that it is fully recovered.
I have this small pike mouth open by holding it under it chin, I can retrieve my lure with ease this way [I should be wearing gloves]. With larger pike I would keep most of the fish on the mat so I will not damage its jaw or gills.
Making a pike trace
For the past few years I have used Kevlar steel that has a braid coating it is very strong and easy to use for dead baiting, spinning and fly fishing. How I tie my traces is quite easy as I will show you
. Frame 1 Work out what size bait you are using and then add about three inches for trying. With that figured out thread the Kevlar through the eye of the hook until it reaches the length you require for your second hook. Frame 2 then make a loop by bringing the length of Kevlar that you put through the eye of your hook back on itself and hold with your thumb and index finger. frame 3 with some practice you will be able to wrap the remainder of the Kevlar around the body of the hook in front of your fingers four times and then thread it through the loop that you maid. Frame 4 with the line through the loop gently pull the Kevlar on either sides of the hook and just before you tighten wet it. Frame 5 with the knot pulled tight you can now tie on your seconded hook frame 6. Then cut off at least eighteen inches more of Kevlar and tie a strong swivel on. The two hooks are ready to be attached to the dead bait, don’t forget to de-barb the hooks.
For the past few years I have turned my attentions to fly fishing for pike this is all down to my friend Terry Jackson. As I was casting the large flies on his rod for the first I was finding it hard to get distance, but with a few lessons from Terry how to double haul the fly line as I was casting added at least five meters extra to my cast. The rod was a 10 weight Pikesaber and a light 10 to 12 weight fly reel that he bought off Piketrek, what a rod and reel set up. As I drew the fly towards me it got smashed and the fish came out of the water what a rush, with the line flying through my fingers I was hoping that there was no loops in it and thank god there wasn’t with a few more aerobatics displays I got her to the net, to be honest I think I was more hooked than the pike. It was not long after that day I bought a shimano fly rod and reel. Since then I have noticed more and more pike fly anglers like myself have purchased Pikesaber rods due to it light weight and strong easy casting capability. When buying a pike rod do as much research as possible and see what feedback is coming back about it. If the rod you choose is too soft or heavy it will make you work hard all day as you try casting the thick fly lines and large flies.
My first pike on the fly and my new fly rod that I bought second hand
Since then I have fished with different anglers that love fly fishing with some good results. The first lake I fished was Shepperton trout and pike fishery in West Cork were I landed a twenty two pound pike and another around the same size. From there I went to Carrigadrohid Reservoir, it was hard fishing but still produced two over seventeen pound for me. With lots of pike from one to six pound under my belt from the lakes I fished it was time to try some rivers. My top river pike on the fly came from Carrigadrohid River that weight twenty five pounds four oz, some fight with the river to back it. This year I got talking to Andrew Davies, a new comer to pike fly fishing and in a short few years has caught some amount of pike. He makes his own flies like all good pike anglers and can cast the fly like a pro. In the last few weeks I had the pleasure in fish with him on lough Allua and to see his home made fly pulse through the water it was no wonder why the pike hit them. It is now March and time to look for the big girls. I hope you have a go with the fly and have the ultimate fight with a pike.
A rainbow trout fly pattern attached to a fast sinking fly line enabled me to get down deep for these cracking pike
These fly caught Carrigadrohid Reservoir pike are slowly making a come backs, I am hopeful in the next few years there numbers will be strong enough to battle the roach epidemic
This 25lb 4oz fly caught river pike is what dreams are made of
Chris Fehilly age 13 on left and Andrew Davies with lough Allua fly caught pike