The fact that our most fearsome freshwater predator is abundant on the majority of canals is lost on many who frequent the towpaths. Although sometimes maligned by match anglers, they lend a sinister presence all of their own to our canals. Pike add drama to the most sedate settings, and later they are a topic to be discussed with outstretched arm over pints of ale in waterside pubs.
Had it not been for boyhood encounters with pike on my local canal, I may never have become an avid predator angler. They form some of my keenest memories. One moment there would be a small roach or perch kicking on the line, the next a sullen, downward force and my pole rendered as useless as a child’s toy. I seldom remember these mismatched battles ever ending well, beyond brief excitement and then a missing hook. I was captivated nonetheless, and can acutely remember the first time I made contact using stouter tackle, this time better equipped to take my revenge.
Shinnecock Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
Does any other fish stir such emotions as the pike, or provide the canal angler with a more likely chance to catch a genuine monster? It’s fair to say that in many shallower canals the pike are likely to be in the small but numerous category. Fish of two to six pounds are a great prospect for sport all the same, and you may be surprised by the occasional larger fish. The wider, deeper canals are another prospect entirely however, and those with a good head of larger prey fish such as bream can produce some exceptional pike, if you can find them. As a general rule, clearer and weedier canals hold the best populations of these fish, which tend to hunt most effectively by sight.
A wide variety of methods work. Dead bait fishing is perhaps the most popular, but lures, flies and wobbled baits are also effective and hugely enjoyable ways to catch pike.
Whichever method you pick to take on these brilliant fish, you must show them respect. Pike inspire fear and ignorance in spades, and yet are one of the most fragile and important fish in our waters. Whether it is pollution, careless practice or illegal fishing, they always seem to be the first species to suffer.
Pike have big, greedy mouths. Striking early avoids deep hooking.
Besides strong tackle (no lighter than 15lb main line) and a wire trace, it is essential to carry adequate equipment. Foot-long forceps or specialist pliers, along with an unhooking mat are a must to remove hooks and prevent damage on the bank.
For those new to pike fishing it is also sensible policy to go with an experienced angler – and you’ll also find useful tips on the Pike Anglers Club website (www.pacgb.co.uk).
A simple floatfishing set-up works well for dead baiting on all canals.