Big river pike are rare! Why? Well firstly they live in an incredibly hostile wild environment and from the moment they are born they have to survive predation in all its numerous forms. Secondly the environment itself is harsh and they have to survive droughts, floods and pollution for example. Finally and by no means last they have to put on weight from only a wild source of food which can fluctuate and is unpredictable. Consequently big river pike are rare with a twenty pound fish being the benchmark for many anglers and a river thirty pound pike well they truly are something special. So imagine my surprise when I recently managed to get my hands on another one after nearly six years of waiting and searching…
After lockdown travel restrictions stopped my pike season in its tracks back in early January I was chomping at the proverbial bit to get back out throwing lures again this October. On this particular day I wasn’t particularly hopeful as the rivers were still low and with large amounts of weed making lure fishing challenging as it often is early in the season.
Therefore I selected a large paddle tailed white/orange flavoured soft plastic from Mel Handmade Lures called the “Baby Shad Junior 23.5cm / 120g” as they are always seen if not taken and was very pleased when I managed a mid double within the first hour.
The next couple of hours passed and yielded nothing but a follow from a small fish. The sun came up, the early morning mist was burnt off and I had walked a couple of miles meticulously combing the river making who knows but what felt like a thousand casts and it was time to be thinking about heading home. When lure fishing one of the hardest things to do is to maintain focus especially when you’ve been casting for hours with no luck. With that in mind, imagine this.
A true River Monster.
I was just lifting the lure out of the water for another last cast and with the lure about two feet clear of the river when suddenly an enormous river pike exploded out of the water and took the baby shad lure in mid air. For a moment that felt like an age the whole world seemed to slow down and stop but then suddenly went at about a hundred miles an hour as there was this huge slap and splash causing water to actually hit me and the rod was almost ripped out of my hands. Instinctively I put the rod tip down towards the river to absorb the impact and off she went like a bat out of hell. My poor reel was screaming and there was nothing I could do on that initial run to stop her. Within a matter of seconds she had made it to the far bank and I felt through the braid her go straight into what felt like weed. Everything went solid and I cursed, I knew she was big, at least an upper twenty but maybe more however I pushed that thought out of my mind as I slowly walked backwards applying steady pressure and then thank the fish gods she was out. It’s vital when fishing for pike to use good gear as they will exploit any weakness that they can find and the bigger fish will certainly find them. The usual tricks followed tail walks and some more spirited runs but sooner rather than later I had her in the net. As I lifted her out to the awaiting mat she was heavy and upon weighing she was over the magic thirty coming in at 31lb 10oz’s. Quickly I set up my iPhone and took some pictures before releasing her back to where she came. I think it was only then that the enormity of her and what had just happened hit me and I was exhausted but absolutely buzzing. Such an incredible creature that I was truly blessed to catch, so I’d like to thank my sponsor Fladen for the lure rod and braid used to tame her, Voodoo Traces for never letting me down and of course Mel’s handmade lures.
I love fishing, especially fishing for pike as it’s never the same day twice and if you just keep getting out there then magical things can happen. Perhaps you’ll find your own special fish, either way tight lines for the season and enjoy every single moment….
River Pike and Piking Top Tips
- Essential kit – a minimum of 15lb mono or 30lb braid, a wire trace, landing mate, long nose pliers/forceps and side cutters to deal with difficult hook holds.
- Stay mobile – the key to rivers is mobility, river pike are more opportunistic than still water fish. So stay mobile and search the river till you find a taking fish.
- Target features – pike being an ambush predator will lie up in certain places to strike at passing prey. Notably weirs, side channels, cover, slack water, bends and creases.
- Lure choice – as it gets colder go big, bright and fish slowly, allowing the lure to stay in the strike zone for the maximum amount of time possible. Give them something worth moving for.
- One leads to more – more often than not if you find one pike there will be more. Don’t write off a swim you’ve just caught from, fish it again.