Until recently, little was known of the Lake of Menteith as a pike fishery. Fred Buller in the Domesday Book reports a pike of 35 lb being taken in 1965 by Charles Cowan, but no further details are given. Most people will have heard of the lake because of its fame for being the only ‘lake’ in Scotland, all the others, of course, being lochs. The name apparently dates back to Victorian times when a mistake was made in translation when a map was being updated! Prior to this the lake was known as Loch Inchmahome.

The Lake of Menteith became a trout fishery in the 1960’s and has been heavily stocked with mostly rainbow trout ever since. It is also known that the lake holds a very large population of coarse fish including roach. Not surprisingly, the lake came to the attention of several local pike anglers, as it certainly appeared to have all the ingredients for producing large pike. Approaches were made by various people to gain access for pike fishing, but without success. One person who remained undaunted was Ralston Macpherson. Ralston had initially tried to gain access for himself and then later for Pike Angler’s Club members on a number of occasions since the late eighties. The reply however, was always in the negative.

In 1998 though, things were about to change for the better when an individual called Quentin Glen was appointed as Fishery Manager. One of Quentin’s first acts was to stop for good the netting of pike from the lake. He also discovered some of Ralston Macpherson’s letters on file, and Ralston was soon to get a phone-call indicating that there may an opportunity for privileged PAC access. A meeting was then set up with PAC committee members John Campbell and Frank Gibbons, and the deal was done. Pike Angler’s Club of Great Britain members were to be allowed exclusive access to the water for a series of pike fishing trials.

When this fact was announced in the angling press, in late 1998, I was quick to pick up the phone and reserve a boat place on the first day for myself and my angling partner Peter Robinson. Two dates were set in February and March of 1999. The rules were simple. Pike fishing was to be allowed from boats using deadbaits only. No lure fishing or livebaiting was to be allowed. All pike of under seven pounds were to be retained for transfer to another water.

Peter and I traveled up from Yorkshire on the Friday before the first day’s fishing. As we knew very little about the venue, we both felt that having a good look around before-hand could only be to our advantage. When we finally arrived at the Port of Menteith, we drove all round the lake and also took the opportunity to both study the map in the fishery hut and to talk to a member of the fishery staff. In these circumstances a direct approach is often best, so I enquired as to where the best spots for pike fishing were! The gentleman in question was very helpful and a couple of spots were recommended as being particularly worth a try.

The next day, forty eager pike anglers gathered at the fishery hut. After a quick briefing and ‘equipment check’ we were allocated our boats and were off! The method Peter and I had decided on was to be shallow fished float trolled deadbaits fished slowly on the electric motor. It is a method that we both had a great deal of confidence in, having used it extensively in Ireland and elsewhere with considerable success.

The results of that first days pike fishing were to send shockwaves around the pike fishing world. Sixteen twenty pound pike were taken on the day. The biggest was a fish of 28-08, taken on a float-trolled herring by yours truly! Most of the pike came to float trolled, wobbled or drifted baits, but a few did come to static baits. My big fish came from one of the spots we had earmarked the previous day. Doing the homework had paid off!

It was though, to be the second day’s pike fishing that was to really stir things up. An astonishing total of five thirty pound pike were taken. The biggest of the day was a pike of 33-02 to young Joe Edwards from St Helens. This fish was at the time the biggest pike ever to be taken at a PAC event. The successful method for Joe was on this occasion a float trolled mackerel deadbait.

This winter the lake has again opened its doors to pike anglers for a total of five days fishing. Not surprisingly, tickets were in great demand and were allocated by being drawn out of a hat, rather than on a first come, first served basis. The only change being that lure fishing was now to be allowed. Lures were to have a minimum length of six inches with no more than two barbless trebles.

So far I am pleased to report that the quality of pike fishing has remained at a superb level. The first days pike fishing this winter producing a total of thirteen twenties and two thirty pound pike. The biggest fish this time being a 32-08 to Dave Hill on a Flipper jerkbait. Young Danny Merrion again showed that the youngsters can teach us a trick or two with a stunning catch of pike up to 28-12 in weight. Danny’s pike also fell to a jerkbait. A good number of twenties however fell to float trolled deadbaits and results on the day were pretty evenly matched between lure and bait enthusiasts. I personally failed to match my success of the previous visit with only a couple of jacks seeing the inside of the boat!

During my last visit to the lake I was able to have a few words with Fishery Manager Quentin Glen. Quentin declared that he was very happy with the way the pike fishing trials had gone. After the first winters fishing, there had apparently been a few moans from some trout anglers about the number of pike in the water. However, Quentin said that the 1999 trout season had been the best for years and that the moaners were now silent! I also asked Quentin about his plans for pike fishing in the future. His reply was that he would keep the numbers of days of pike fishing at more or less the same level each year. The reason was that he is determined to conserve the pike and that he recognises them as being a valuable resource which people should have the chance to fish for. It certainly is refreshing to see a trout Fishery Manager with such a forward thinking attitude to pike. If only we could have such an enlightened individual looking after Lough Mask in Ireland!

Details of how to apply for future pike fishing days on the Lake of Menteith can be found on the PAC website at www.kirky6.freeserve.co.uk

I would like to thank John Campbell, Ralston Macpherson and Fishery Manager Quentin Glen for their help in writing this article.

In the April edition of fishing.co.uk I shall be taking a look at Blithfield reservoir in Staffordshire.