Winter is fast approaching the water temperatures are dropping and the prey fish are shoaling up. Its time to dust off the pike gear and get on the bank. We have put together our top tips to help catch you a monster this winter
In the winter the prey fish will shoal up in deeper or sheltered water where the temperature is higher or more stable. Pike are always in these areas as they feed on the tightly shoaled prey. Keep an eye on the coarse angling results for new spots, anywhere, where goods bags of roach or skimmers are being caught is worth a look. Once you have identified some likely spots do a recce and look for pike holding features like. On lakes drop offs are noted areas for pike as they can ambush prey as it comes over their heads. Moored boats on the rivers and canals have long being associated with pike fishing as they are natural holding areas for prey fish and also provide cover for the pike. Also head for the marinas, and back waters, on rivers this is where bait fish will be shoaled up avoiding winter floods.
Pike are less active in the colder water and therefore less likely to chase a lure, therefore dead-baits are a great winter tactic. Pike are every bit as happy to scavenge for a feed as ambush a prey, so giving them the less energetic option in the winter can catch you lots of fish. There is a large variety of dead-baits available now but they are basically divided into two categories fresh water baits and sea baits. Freshwater baits such as roach are an everyday part of the Irish pike's diet so unsurprisingly they account for lots of fish every year. Sea baits come into their own when you need a slightly tougher bait or on waters that are more pressured or have a high density of prey fish. Oily and smelly baits have the edge in coloured water where visibility is lowered, smelt, blueys, mackerel and lamprey are good examples.
Give yourself an extra edge by enhancing your dead-baits. Using oils, dyes and popping up can catch you some extra fish especially on those hard days. Oils and dyes can be injected into your dead-baits, then will then leech out over the session often attracting a fish on the coldest of days.
Popping up your baits using air, dead-bait sticks or bait poppers gives the your bait a different wafting style presentation when ledgering. A kebab rig is also worth a try and allows you to use different bait fish combinations.
Getting geared up for winter dead-baits fishing is relatively simple and need not cost the earth.
The most common rod type is a 12ft 3lbs test curve, which gives you enough length and power to cope with casting even the biggest dead baits, whilst still being able to play big pike with ease. There are dedicated dead-bait rods from many manufactures, however carp rods are also ideal for this style.
A bait runner reel is a must for this technique as it allows the fish time to take the bait properly without too much resistance. This reduces missed runs and helps minimize deep hooking.
Once you have a rod and reel sorted, next you need something to hold your rods during a long session. This can be as simple as two bank sticks or a rod pod. Pods have a number of advantages over bank sticks. They are more stable, and they can be used on any ground or stands.
Bite indication will be alarms and drop indicators in the case of ledgering. For float fishing you can just use the float itself as the indication, however lots of anglers still use alarms as well just in case they take their eyes off the float.
As pike are aggressive fish a large landing net is possibly the safest way to land your fish. Its also give you a safe way to hold your fish whilst preparing to unhook them.
The most important item of tackle is a good quality trace. All to often we hear anglers in the shop saying they lost the fish of a life time when the trace gave way. Our advise is where possible make your own traces, and look at all the components you are using. For example there is no point using high quality trace wire and then using an inferior swivel or poor trebles. If you want to buy pre-made traces stick to the recognized brands such as Fox, Savage gear, Westin and Prorex. Remember the trace is the most important item of tackle when pike fishing get it right and you will catch more fish.
Pike despite their tough appearance are actually quite a delicate fish that suffer badly if mis-handled. The minimum you should carry is an unhooking mat and a quality pair of forceps. Actual unhooking techniques should be learnt before hitting the bank, there are lots of resources online or have a few sessions with a more experienced angler. Once unhooked take your time returning the fish to water, cradle it gently until its fully recovered and swims off. Never keep a fish out of the water longer than you have to.
As mentioned Pike are less likely to chase lures as much in the colder months, however lures still account for a lot of fish in the winter. By following these tips you can get the best out of your winter lure fishing. Our number one tip for bank fishing with lures this winter is to head to the rivers. The nature of rivers means it can be easier to locate bait fish and therefore pike. Also the water temperatures in the rivers tends to be slightly higher. Start your quest by staying out of the flow as this will be where the bait will be. Also look for sheltered areas where water temps might be slightly elevated due to less wind chill. Your lure selection should be a worthwhile meal for the pike. So go big and try bright lures, they will give your quarry more incentive to try catch it.
On the lakes trolling big lures works for pretty much the same reasons. As the water temperature drop the bait fish move into deeper water, often out of range of dead-baits, so trolling big lure in these areas works well.
Hope you enjoyed the blog, all that's left to do now is hit the bank and catch your monster good luck!