Tag: #pikefishing

Pike fishing in 2019

Pike fishing in winter is one of the most exciting and often rewarding parts of the fishing year. A complete change in approach,fishing tackle,rigs and techniques. But for the average fisherman it also brings it’s challenges. Most obviously unhooking and fish care. In this blog i discuss the changes that we might start to see and even encourage in 2019.

My Piking in 2018

It has been an interesting end to the piking year of 2018 in several ways, for me at least. I love fishing in Norwich city centre, along the very urban Wensum. There is a downside though. Whilst my quarry might be perch, pike often come along and frequently unhooking them is a sad , long and painful process.

Not because of me I hasten to add but because so often , the fish come out with any number of traces left in them.The record for 2018 was SEVEN in a single fish. No wonder that 6 pounder should have weighed double that-if it could have swallowed its food properly.

By contrast i am lucky enough to have access to some wonderful pits which hold specimen pike and of course the Broads. These are relatively scarcely  fished and the rewards can sometimes be spectacular with fish up to the 30lb mark. I have talked about some of the newer approaches and techniques i and my gang have used to improve our Pike fishing but perhaps it’s time to go back to the basics?

JG with a cracking mid 20lb fish

Pike fishing in 2019

Thinking about Pike In 2019 , perhaps there are options opening up? Pike awareness and unhooking lessons are a vital start to any piking career. Should an unhooking course be made mandatory by the EA?
Perhaps we should think carefully about smaller trebles, or better still, doubles or even single hooks?

Pike rigs

Whilst Pike fishing last year ,I and my fishing friends have been experimenting with single Circle hooks and hair rigged deadbaits. Ratters one of our group had picked this idea up from watching  Youtube  videos discussing the why’s and wherefores and in particular one by Tony Porter. In essence it adapts carp fishing tactics hair rigging the deadbait off the back of the hook shank. We have had some success with this but it does require some adaptation of your striking technique and of setting the hook. A strike will almost always pull the hook out of the Pikes mouth, but a strong and deliberate winding down until you feel the weight of the fish, will 9 times out of 10 result in a fish hooked right in the scissors.

Circle hook hair rigged deadbait

Pike care benefits

The benefits of this are obvious; ease of unhooking,significantly reduced likelihood of deep hooking and potentially a decrease in wary Pike dropping the bait if it feels the trebles. On the tough lakes I fish this can be the difference between blanking and catching.

James Buckley with dad and a 21lber

There are of course circumstances where an experienced angler can use trebles effectively when pike fishing , with minimal distress to the fish. But single hooks are potentially a way forward.We should of course hook baits tail first, sit on our rods and strike at the first sign of interest but is there still more we could do?

Dave Lambert with a highly effective small lure

The new generation of Pike fishermen

Over the past 2/3 years, I have become ever more impressed by Robbie Northman and his lure fishing mates. They have more fun than fish focused oldies like me. They catch more pike as a general rule and those pike are rarely if ever deeply hooked.

Robbie Northman with a 30 caught on a small livebait and single hook

And there is more. Over the holidays, I fished with pike fly masters David Lambert and Matt Harris. They out fished us bait boys three days out of three and the only blood shed was their own on one occasion. Their days were full of action and inventiveness and their pike went back without a hint of damage.

We got rid of pike gags and pike gaffs in the 1960s. We stopped killing pike in the 1970s. Perhaps as we approach the 2020s we can complete the job of treating pike with  the humanity they deserve?

John Bailey



How new tackle developments can improve your Pike fishing

Every year I am fortunate enough to gain access to a small broad that has yielded some super pike to me and my gang this century. On this trip i learned something new which could revolutionise your piking in 2019

It is an occasion we all look forward to. The promise of a big fish is part of it but not the whole. We love the quiet, the remoteness of the watery wilderness, the feeling of going back in time, even to Hereward’s day. That’s why it is called fishing what we do, not catching I guess.

The Goldcrest

Our last trip, on that bitingly cold Saturday, did not disappoint, despite day time temperatures failing to rise above two degrees. I was deep frozen all session long but, heck, who cares when there are winter wonders in the air? Best of all was the briefest of sightings of a goldcrest in the reeds. I glimpsed an exquisite vignette, a passing picture of perfection that was over far, far too soon. Still, I was sure of what I had seen and the tiny bird brought a rush of badly-needed warmth to my heart.

The pleasure of the goldcrest was somewhat offset by the absence of a barn owl visitation. For as long as I can remember the broad has been home to these glorious birds, the symbol surely of the pike angler’s wintry afternoon sport. We all of us looked and looked for the familiar vision of off-white and dusky gold that comes out to play as the sun sinks. We looked in vain and the afternoon sky darkened for us that much more quickly than usual there. You would not be disappointed, however, if you had happened to be a cormorant fan. The sky was black with them come the approach of dusk. A score of them wheeled around and around the pocket of water waiting for us to leave their larder in peace. I am sure they were settling for the night the moment our cars disappeared down the track.

A new trick – the Deeper Pro

Bond, the longest serving of all my piking pals, had a new-fangled Deeper Pro Plus to show off. I’m sure many of you know all about this strange black ball that you cast out and which transmits all manner of data onto your mobile phone as you retrieve it. It has been taking hold in the carp fishing world to help anglers understand the lake bed better and to identify fish holding spots. Of course it also identifies the presence of fish although that’s a less significant attribute for the obvious reason they constantly move about. I’m easy with the device, its no substitute for your own watercraft but in some cases it can throw up new insights. By combining this with an understanding of the water column you can really up your pike fishing game.

Bond and Ratters assess the data


I do get surprises and Saturday was no exception. As i mentioned the temperature had dropped and we had 50mph southeasterlies blowing in. In short with the help of the Deeper pro, we didn’t locate a single fish more than 10 yards from the marginal reed beds. The open water was completely barren of fish, big and small. Every single thing with fins was almost as hard into the rushes as that goldcrest had been.

Of course, that is hardly surprising when you consider. The one thing fish must do is to survive and with flocks of predators around and howling cold gales that means getting deep into cover. What an ass, and a dead ass, a roach would be to be found out in open water once dusk descends. And where the prey fish are you will generally find the pike.

A revelation

The second revelation the gadget revealed was that all the roach were small, certainly less than six inches. It is probable that the total biomass of the broad has not changed, but instead of hundreds of big roach, there are now thousands of very small ones. Larger roach simply get cherry-picked by hungry cormorants, it is probably as simple as that. Our suspicion too is that pretty much all the bream have gone too. That is not surprising when you think bream shoals prefer to hang far from the margins, in water that gives the species scant protection. True, there might be a handful of big adults left but in all probability the breams shoals of centuries past here are all but a memory.

Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing

I recently acted as consultant on the second series of BBC2’s Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing. All round the country the message was the same. Larger fish of all species in every type of venue are on the decline since the appearance of waves of European cormorants 25 years back. I spoke to brown trout guides in Wales and salmon gillies in Scotland who are at their wits end over this. The cormorant is a nationwide threat to our aquatic eco systems and we must do something about them, and soon. Please remember I speak as a member of the RSPB and every wildlife group going so I am not simply some blinkered angling firebrand.

Bob Mortimer’s first Pike a 28lb beauty

Back to the Pike

We did turn the information from our Deeper Pro to some fishing advantage. By lunch we had seen enough for us to start fishing four-inch roach deadbaits no further than three yards from the bank. We used minimal rigs with the deadbaits either freelined or on small pike floats requiring no more than 3-5 swan shot. Ian Lewis at Handmadefishingfloats has some super examples. The change in tactics paid off. Half a dozen pike to 15lb came our way to be capped by a glorious mid-20 for  mate John Gilman.

I know he drove home sporting a smile as wide as the sun that failed to make an appearance. A goldcrest and a cracking pike had made our day.

Those who know me will understand that i am a Crabtree man at heart, believing in simplicity and watercraft to catch my fish. But i also like to be open minded and pragmatic so if there is something that can help our fishing i’m always willing to try it. You probably won’t catch me casting around with a Deeper Pro but if i see you on the bank with one i might just give you a wink!

Pike fishing – understanding the water column will help you up your game

The pike angler, Neville Fickling, once said to me that dead baiting was simply about “drowning a dead herring near the surface, in mid-water or on the bottom. Simple as that”. Well, perhaps not quite as simple as that for me. Knowing the best level to fish a bait, fly or lure in the water column is a key part of angling, but it’s not always an easy decision to make.

It’s true that fish will come up for or go down to pick off what we present them with, but they won’t always. And that’s especially so when pike fishing at this time of the year when temperatures drop and when rivers and stills begin to colour up from autumnal rains. Cold water fish are more lethargic than summer ones and in stained water, sometimes they just can’t see what we are offering them. Now is the time we just have to be more observant than ever and read any signs that the waters are telling us.

This 28lb pike was Bob Mortimer’s first ever and was caught by presenting a live bait shortly after we saw the fish swirl in the upper layers. Not a bad start to your piking experiences!

The lower column

I don’t pick up a fly rod as often as I’d like to, but I did a couple of weeks back. I was involved in filming and the pressure to catch a trout was on. For two days, despite occasional fly hatches, I’d barely seen a trout move up top, on the surface. But it wasn’t until I got onto a bridge and, through binoculars, got to see fish in detail that the leger weight, if you like, actually dropped.

Those trout were absolutely glued to the river bed. Items of food were coming down in the current but the fish weren’t shifting up or to either side to intercept them. The only nymphs that I saw taken were right in the line of a trout’s vision. If a nymph came right to a nose, a mouth might open. This is how it had been for the whole time I’d been fishing and I could only think that the trout were responding to sudden cold nights and cool days.

I put on a heavily-leaded nymph that I knew would sink like a stone. I fished it over depth, under a strike indicator, Czech-style. It might not have been a pretty way to fish but that fly, nailed to the bed, caught two trout in half an hour and saved the entire show.

The middle column

More recently, I found a submerged tree on the Wensum close by Norwich city centre. The whole structure was absolutely full of perch, teeming with them. I began like we all probably would. I laid a worm hard on the river bottom under an over-depth float. I caught absolutely nothing. That float never even had a tremor.

So I took the worm off the bottom and trotted it dead slow in mid-water. There was still no action. Then a fistful of fry dimpled on the surface, just out from the trailing branch fronds. I pushed the float down until the selfsame worm was riding just 18 inches down from the surface. Then it was a bite a cast with over 20 perch coming in an hour. They were all crackers and simple observation and use of the water column had saved the day once more. Watercraft was definitely the winner on that day.

The upper column

Let’s go to pike where we started. They can be dour and bad days can seem never-ending, but if you read the signs they give out and if you’re not asleep on a bed chair, fishing for them can come alive. And that’s especially the case when you realise that pike use the water column just as much as any species.

Perhaps the biggest giveaway is a rolling pike. You’ve got to be alert to pick this manoeuvre up, but it happens more often than you think. They don’t create much of a splash and sometimes all that you see is a glimpse of a head, a back or a tail. But the clue is there and the fish are feeding high in the water and a quickly-placed spinner or plug can do the business.

Look for roach shoals moving, especially in thick marginal weed beds where they feel safe. In a situation like this, I don’t think you can beat using a dead roach and fishing it sink and draw. Cast it out, retrieve it high in the water column and then let it flutter down to the bed of the lake or river. Mark exactly where you pick up a pike or even register a take. Sometimes, the fish will be high in the water column and sometimes right down deep and success can depend on pinpoint presentation.

Reading the water

One of the biggest giveaways is a large flat area that sometimes emerges in the middle of heavily rippled water. This is very often created either by a pike levering itself out of the silt and releasing gases, or by diving into that silt to capture an eel or a fleeing fish. In either case, the message is the same one and that is that the pike at that moment are down deep. If you put a dead bait out immediately and let it sink to the bottom in the middle of that flat, you can sometimes achieve instant success. So, it might appear it’s not quite as easy as Neville made it sound.


The more you observe, the more you become tuned in to what the water is saying. And the more you listen to that, the more confident you are, the more approaches you try and the more fish you catch. To me, it’s all about being the best sort of fisherman and that’s the fisherman naturalist, the fisherman who catches and understands the reasons why.

john bailey