Pike So Special

Why are pike so special?

Why are pike so special introIF I HAD A POUND FOR EVERY TIME I have heard the phrase that makes up the title of this piece, then I reckon that I would be buying up Bawburgh Lakes!

You see, there are a lot of anglers out there that don’t believe that there is anything special about pike; and the funny thing is that I agree with them by-and-large. Pike are not more deserving of conservation and protection than any other species per se, but they are special, because the way that we fish for them is so much different from just about every other species of fish.

The major difference between pike fishing and just about all the other species is the way that WE undertake it. Firstly, we use treble hooks and wire traces, which are pretty unlikely to decompose or be disposed of, if left in a fish for any reason. In relation to wire there is no other option to make sure that the pike do not bite through the hook-length, and though there have been many wonder materials in the last few years, I still personally remain to be convinced that there is yet a reliable
alternative to wire.

unhooking a pike taken on eel sectionTreble hooks are much more subjective in many people’s eyes, and many will claim that their use is barbaric or unnecessary. That is an opinion with which I do not agree, but if those anglers are happy to use single hooks for piking, then that is their prerogative, as it is mine to use them.Whatever the opinion, there are still a large number of anglers that will prefer the use of trebles and so we must set out our practices and guidelines for their use.

The thing is, unlike any other fish, if we lose a pike through failure of the main line, and leave a trace in a pike, there’s a very good chance that our quarry will die. It is very easy for a trace left in a pike to seal up the stomach of a fish, and if not removed, will cause the fish to slowly starve and die. Now no pike angler, indeed no coarse angler, I believe, wishes to kill the fish that they are fishing for. The fundamental ethos of coarse fishing revolving around the concept of catch and release, therefore, if we wish to preserve the pike stocks in our waters, we have to take a long hard look at the way that we fish for pike.

To that end, it will not have escaped the notice of the pike anglers of NACA that from this autumn anglers wishing to fish for pike at the Bawburgh complex will have to have first attended a pike handling course. Now, contrary to rumours, this is not designed to weed out any undesirable anglers, nor is it designed to promote the PAC, who are running the courses. No - the main reason for running these events is to make sure that those that wish to fish for pike are familiar with how to properly deal with the fish from the first indication to slipping the fish back, to hopefully grace another angler’s net in the future. The reason that the PAC is involved is very simple; we were asked by Chris Oakley to get involved, as we were the recognised authority on pike fishing for the country. Now there will be a few I know that will be choking on their tea as they read that last statement I am sure, but it does make a lot of sense to run the courses independently from the management of the fishery, and who better to have asked? So what format will the courses take?

My personal belief is that, for most keen pike anglers, the course will be no more than a refresher, and though we all can learn a new trick or two from time to time, the course will be something that they will pass with flying colours.There will be the odd angler, though, for whom pike fishing will still be relatively new, and the chance to mix with and talk to experienced anglers can only help them to catch more pike, and just as importantly, to learn the correct methods of striking, playing, un-hooking and handling pike which can only benefit everyone in the long run.

unhooking a pike on a handling matThe emphasis on the course will, of course, be on the handling of pike.Now in my opinion that starts from the very moment that you cast a bait in. Leaving a pike to run with a bait is potentially as damaging as any mistakes made on the bank, and using the wrong means of indication, or wrong rigs, is equally bad. Everything in pike angling should be geared towards registering a pick-up instantly, and striking into the fish should follow straight away. The old method of letting a pike turn the bait is just no longer relevant to pike angling today, and should be cast into the bin alongside gags and gaffs, so there will be some instruction upon tackle and rigs and
striking and playing fish.

unhooking a pike over the side of a boatOf course, once your pike is landed, then you need to be able to handle the pike in a safe manner for both you and it. Alongside this article there are photographs of unhooking and handling of pike. For anyone who wants their illustrations of how to unhook pike, these are available at the course, or can be downloaded from the PAC website at www.pacgb.co.uk Much of the course will be dedicated to this subject, as there is much that can go wrong at this stage, and of course this is the area where most beginners are a bit wary. Helping in the demonstration will be ‘Magnus’ the PAC stuffed pike that we use as a teaching aid for beginners. Magnus is a soft toy pike that we had made specifically for such a purpose, as he has a hinged jaw and can be used to practice unhooking upon without the need for a live pike. In the unhooking part of the course there will also be a section on dealing with deeply hooked pike. For the beginner this is the part where most really struggle, usually with the best of intentions, as they do not wish to harm the fish.The thing is that, unlike many fish, pike have a stomach that can be pulled (very gently) out and hooks removed from it.This is best done in the first instance by an experienced angler, but, done correctly, the pike will usually come to no long-term harm.Teaching this to anglers is particularly important, as there have already been occasions at the complex where this could have been put to use with fish still having traces in them.

The permit system should really be looked upon in a positive light. If, through the instigation of the pike permit, there are fewer cases of lost fish or inadequate tackle used for piking on Bawburgh, then ultimately there will be two winners; the anglers themselves, and of course the pike.

Mark Barrett