Where to start then? If at all possible I would urge a newcomer to pike fishing to ask an experienced piker if they could tag along for a session or two. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, it is to be shown how to handle a pike on the bank. It is much easier to be shown this than to attempt to pick it up through the written word. As we all know, pike have teeth, and bad handling can result in the blood flowing for both the pike and us! Furthermore, pike are much less hardy than carp or catfish and proper handling is essential if our quarry is to be returned safely.
If you don't know any experienced pikers, one of the best things you could do would be to attend a regional meeting of the Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain. Regional meetings are held regularly at towns throughout the country, mostly during the winter pike fishing season. The Regional Organiser will be happy to point newcomers in the right direction. The URL at the bottom of the page is for the PAC website, through which details of your local region can be obtained.
I would also urge anyone new to pike fishing to read whatever they can on the subject. Unfortunately, there are not that many decent books on the subject that are suitable for the newcomer! I have listed a few at the end of the page along with details of where they can be obtained.
Videos can also be useful and there are now quite a number of pike fishing videos obtainable. I have again listed some of the better pike fishing videos at the end of this article. The Neville Fickling video is particularly good with regards to pike handling.
The Internet is rapidly becoming a very useful source of information for the pike angler. Mind you, if you are reading this then I guess you have already realised that! Over the next few years I expect the Internet to come on in leaps and bounds and those not on it will lose out badly! I have listed some of my favourite sites and the URLs to take you there. Perhaps the best all round piking site at present is predator-fishing.co.uk. Articles, discussion board, message list, gallery and links. This site has it all!
So, whereabouts do we go to start catching ourselves some pike? Fortunately for the pike angler, most rivers, lakes, canals and gravel pits in the UK hold a reasonable head of pike. It is in fact much harder to find a water that does not contain any pike! The best pointer I could give would be to look for waters with large heads of suitable prey fish such as roach and bream. It is for this reason that I study the match reports in Angling Times and the Mail for the waters in my area. Waters that have large heads of prey fish, nearly always have the potential to be good pike waters. An exception to this would have to be the commercial carp lakes where pike, if present, are very often likely to have been removed.
Rivers I would particularly recommend for the newcomer to piking as river pike rarely mess about. Put a bait on the nose of a river pike and they will usually snaffle it! The only warning I would give is that on some rivers the static deadbait approach beloved of many pikers can be very slow. I will look at the methods and rigs that I myself use for river piking in detail later on in this series.
If possible I would urge the newcomer to piking to choose waters with a fairly large head of pike, certainly for the first few seasons fishing. You learn a lot more when you are getting a few runs!
When then is the best time of year for pike fishing? Pike can be caught at all times of the year, but some waters fish much better at certain times of the year. The large Scottish and Lake District waters in particular seem to be better during the warmer months. In my experience though the majority of waters in this country do tend to be better in the traditional pike season of October through to March. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, during the warmer months prey fish are both more numerous and more widespread throughout a water. This usually results in the pike being widely spread, well fed and hard to catch! That is certainly the case for the bigger pike in a lot of the Yorkshire waters that I fish. They seem to manage to do a disappearing act during the summer and all I can catch is jack after jack with just the occasional bigger pike!
Another reason that I would recommend the months of October through to March, particularly for the newcomer to piking, is that pike caught in the summer months can be much more prone to turning belly up due to exhaustion when returned. Summer pike fight like stink and, in combination with the problem of greater weed growth, this can result in taking considerably longer to get the pike on the bank. I would urge anyone piking in the summer to step up their tackle strength and to ensure that the pike are returned to the water as quickly as possible. The faster you can get a pike on the bank and back into the water, the better condition it's likely to be in when it goes back! I now restrict my summer pike fishing to short sessions lure fishing and the odd longer trip to Ireland, Lake District or Scotland.
Most importantly, don't get too high expectations. Despite what the weekly angling papers suggest, twenty pound pike do not exactly grow on trees and are a far, far harder prospect than a twenty pound carp. To put things into perspective, I would say that anyone catching more than two or three twenty pound pike in a season is doing very well indeed. It took me around eight years pike fishing to catch my first twenty! But don't despair. Smaller pike are a much easier prospect, so make sure that you enjoy the jacks and hopefully the doubles along the way!
Enjoy your piking!
In Part II of this series, to be published next month, I will look at pike tackle, what to choose and where to get it.
Pike Fishing Books
PIKE FISHING BEYOND 2000. Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain
A great bargain priced soft back publication for beginner and expert alike. Available from the PAC and various retailers.
PIKE FISHING, THE PRACTICE AND THE PASSION. Mick Brown, published by Crowood
A good basic guide. The book is split into months of the year and covers Mick's approach at the different times of the year.
MEGA PIKE. Eddie Turner, published by Beekay.
The man himself! Excellent, no nonsense rigs and tackle section.
Note: Pike fishing books are somewhat prone to going out of print. For the best all round choice of pike fishing books I would recommend Coch-Y-Bonddu books, now to be found at anglebooks.com. The URL is included in the links section below.
PIKING AROUND. Neville Fickling, published by the Original Video Co.
Neville is the master at handling pike. Recommended for all.
THE FOX GUIDE TO PIKE FISHING. 3 tape set with Matt Hayes and Max Cottis.
Blatantly commercial, but some useful stuff for the beginner.
Note: A large selection of pike fishing videos are available from The Friendly Fisherman in Kent. Tel No. 01892 528677. No website as yet!
Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain official website
Ian Wakeford's pike angling site. The best UK piking website around.
The widest selection of pike angling books around.