Pike - (Essox lucius)


Pike have a narrow body and a distinctive green & yellow camouflage across their flanks, with an arrangement of powerful fins set back at the rear of the body - this alignment of dorsal, anal & tail fin gives the pike an incredible acceleration speed which they use to engulf their prey in surprise ambushes.



Pike have two main attributes which enable them to be a top predator, firstly their large eyes can pick out the flicker of a bait fish in murky conditions & secondly they have pores along their head and lower jaw which is connected to their extremely sensitive lateral line, these pores help them sense the movement and vibration of their prey, especially injured or dying fish.


Within their large mouth, pike have many rows of needle sharp teeth, these teeth help them pass food to the rear of their throat prior to swallowing - these teeth are extremely sharp & great care must be taken when handling.


Reproduction


Pike tend to spawn in early spring, although each year can be different depending on local water temperatures, as pike typically spawn when water temperatures are between 8 & 12 degrees. Their spawning grounds tend to be shallow marginal areas with dense vegetation such as rushes & reeds. When the females arrive at the spawning ground, it is not uncommon for there to be several males in attendance, all waiting for the opportunity to fertilise the eggs.


Spawning can last several days and eggs are laid across the spawning area & not just in one spot by the female. It is common to see the much smaller male pike swimming at the side of the larger female. Before the act of spawning, both fish slow down and the male will position his tail beneath the female and begin to secrete milt as the eggs are laid, the gentle fan motion of both tails aid fertilisation.


The eggs can hatch within a couple of days providing the water conditions are right, although it usually takes anything from 10-30 days for them to develop. Once the egg sac has been consumed the fry begin to feed on zooplankton until they grow large enough to take bigger food sources such as insects & small fish. The mortality rate of young pike is extremely high due to numerous predators & cannibalism from larger pike.


Natural Diet & Common Baits


Pike are very much an opportunistic predator and it's not uncommon for ducklings, amphibians & small mammals to be on the menu if they happen to swim past. Although pike will feed on most things, it's fish such as roach & perch that make up the vast majority of their diet.


Dead baiting with coarse or sea fish is a great way of catching pike during the colder months of autumn & winter, half a mackerel or lamprey is a great way to get pike interested.


Lure fishing is another very successful way of catching pike, if not the most exciting! Not many things can be as exhilarating as watching a pike follow a surface lure, then see it strike in an explosion of water as it takes the lure.


Location


Find the prey and the hunter will not be far away, that is good principle to follow when searching for pike, as is looking for any snags or features like reed beds or drop offs, these areas allow pike cover from which they can ambush their prey.


On rivers it can pay off to investigate creases, these are areas of sedate water adjacent to a faster flow - many prey fish will search these areas looking for food items and pike will likely visit these areas to search for prey.


Tackle & Tips


  • Fishing for pike will require a strong rod, and there are many dedicated pike rods on the market in all price brackets. If however you are using a carp rod, make sure it has a test curve of at least 2.5lbs.

  • A wire trace is a must as the teeth within a pike's mouth can make short work of monofilament and braided lines - aim to have a trace which is at least 18 inches long.

  • Items that are essential to unhooking pike are forceps, pliers, wire cutters (in case the hooks need to be cut) & an unhooking mat.

  • A large rubber coated or large knotless landing net is required when landing pike, as treble hooks can quickly become tangled in carp type landing nets and cause undue harm to the fish.

  • Braided lines are great for lure fishing and dead baiting, their non stretch ability allows fantastic bite indication when dead baiting and superior lure control over monofilament.

  • Lure fishing is a great way of covering a lot of water in a session and the act of covering water naturally gives an edge over a static approach.

  • The traditional dead baiting season spans from late October through to early April. Dead baiting in spring and summer can increase the chance of a deep hooked pike due to their increased activity in warmer water. So when the warmer weather arrives it's time to get the lure rod out!