The Best Pike Fishing Tips for Winter
This article is the second in a series of pike fishing related pieces. If you haven't already check out the initial article for everything you need to know about pike fishing.
Many of us anglers switch to fishing for pike during the winter months. Fishing for any predatory fish is hugely exciting and with the following top tips, you will give yourself a much better chance at landing several big pike this season. So let's get started.
Locate the pike
When fishing for pike this is the most important factor that will directly affect if you will catch or blank. It is very simple, if you are fishing where the pike are located you have a great chance of catching and on the contrary, if you are fishing where there are no pike, it is impossible to catch.
Many coarse or specimen anglers are used to the practice of attracting fish to their swim in order to try and catch the fish. Pike fishing differs in that they are predators and will be actively pursuing their prey such as bream and roach.
Based on this you must think differently in order to decide where you are going to fish.
Pike will not be far away from their prey and so if you can locate the likes of bream and roach you will be in a good position to catch pike.
In the colder winter month's the water temperatures drop and many fish will shoal together and be holding up in the layers where the water temperature is more constant which are usually the deeper parts of the water.
During winter I would recommend fishing at depths of around 6 - 12ft.
Whenever I go fishing for pike I will always look for features that I think a pike could be held up in, waiting for their prey to pass to launch an attack. Features such as margins, inlets, gravel bars and hanging trees are all prime examples of where pike are often located and where I have caught several good sized pike over the years.
Many anglers overlook these features and in fact are often only a few feet away from our swim and can be the best location to place a bait.
Many anglers will try and cast their rig out as far as possible which is very odd but a practice I see regularly. So remember, never overlook these features when pike fishing.
If you are still struggling to decide where to fish you can look for other, more subtle signs that could give you that edge.
Look for any signs of fish jumping or skimming across the surface of the water.
You can even keep an eye on any fish-eating birds that are actually targeting the same prey as the pike. If you see one of these birds catching fish the pike will probably be nearby.
Once you are happy with your location but are not getting takes I would encourage re-casting often.
I have found that the pike may be held up in the exact spot I am fishing but for whatever reason are not taking the bait. I can only think the movement created when re-casting the bait can be just enough to lure the pike into attacking the bait.
It is worth bearing in mind that you could be in the wrong location, we have all been there. Based on this I always try and stay mobile and will move if I feel the pike are not located in my swim.
During the winter months the water temperatures drop and in turn, this slows down the metabolism of the pike. This makes the pike very lethargic and much less likely to chase a lure.
Based on this I believe dead or live baiting is the best pike fishing bait for the winter months.
I start my sessions with dead baits and on the day try to catch live baits with a simple floater rod and reel setup.
Please check the venue allows you to take fish for live bait and if you are in any doubt, avoid catching live baits to use for pike fishing.
Check out the Environment Agency website for more details.
Dead baits such as mackerel are my choice of best bait for pike fishing. This bait has great attractors that the pike go crazy for, such as their high oil content and smell. This leads us onto the next tip.
I would always try and use fresh baits if possible. As I touched upon earlier, the pike are attracted to the high oil content and fishy aroma that is given off by the dead baits. Fresh bait simply gives off more of these attractors.
I see some anglers will freeze and re-use baits, this is totally acceptable and will catch you pike but again if possible I would never re-use a bait as I find they become washed out and lose their attraction.
I find the frozen baits just do not have the same levels of attraction and by spending a few extra pounds on fresh bait can mean catching more often. I think this is a good investment for a potential 20lbs plus pike.
Pre-baiting is a tactic that I have used in the past with great success.
I would visit the venue where I am planning to fish and try to find two or three features that I think would be a good place a pike would be located. Then I simply place a dead bait on each and repeat this process a couple more times before my planned session.
I noticed when I arrived at the venue my confidence why sky high and ultimately this tactic increased my catch rate significantly and really made those catches special knowing my extra effort paid off.
This does require some dedication and is not for everyone but if you can find that extra spare hour or so perhaps on the way home from work you will gain a big advantage and give yourself an excellent chance of landing a pike or two.
Enhance the Bait
If you are using fresh or frozen baits a simple trick that you should always adopt is to make a few cuts in the side of the fish which allows for the oils and other attractors to leak out providing some extra appeal to the pike.
Something that I have started to use more frequently are bait enhancers that you simply apply to the bait before casting. I have found these products are a great way to add even more attraction to lure a pike so next time you visit a tackle shop pick one up and give it a try.
Watch the Weather
Pike like many other species of fish are affected by the weather. Factors such as temperature and air pressure can have a large impact on how the pike feed.
When the air pressure is high and there is lots of sun with little cloud cover this can bring the pike into a feeding frenzy.
In these conditions you will have a great chance of landing a pike or two and more specifically during dawn or dusk would be the perfect time to target the pike. We will touch upon this shortly.
If there is a sudden change in air pressure it is also worth getting out on the bank as these conditions can spur the pike into feeding.
Check out our forecast tool which shows you the change in air pressure from day to day. This is very important in carp fishing but also a factor you should consider when fishing for pike in the winter.
As we mentioned earlier, the best times to target pike are at dawn and dusk.
More often than not there seems to be a 30-minute window where the pike go on a feeding frenzy and you will need to ensure you are up bright and early to take advantage of this. If the venue allows you should also look at staying until dusk.
During this small feeding window you want to make sure you are fishing the entire time, what I mean is if you get a take try and re-cast your rig as soon as possible to maximise your chances of landing several pike.
Getting an early start is crucial for a number of other reasons such as securing your swim where perhaps you have been pre-baiting that week. Even if you haven't been pre-baiting you still want to ensure you are fishing where the pike are located and getting to the venue early gives you a better chance to do this.
The Best Pike Rig
I like to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to my fishing rigs.
Many anglers seem to use very overly complex rigs which do seem unnecessary at least to me.
When fishing for pike using dead baits I like to use a free-running ledger rig.
The rig consists of a wire trace attached to the mainline with a free running lead weight.
This is a very simple but effective rig that I have used for many years to catch pike.
You see no indication with this rig as you would from the likes of a float rig, instead, you need to constantly check for resistance on the line which will indicate if a pike has swallowed the bait.
As soon as you feel any resistance hit the bait, do not wait longer as this could allow the pike to swallow the bait further and make unhooking more difficult, potentially putting the fish in danger.
Even if you miss the take by striking too early I would rather this happen than putting the pike in danger. Pike are in fact a very delicate fish and must be handled with care at all times.
There you have it, our top tips for catching pike in winter. Take them onboard and we hope you have lots of success and catch loads of big pike!