Top 5 tips for Autumn/Winter Pike fishing

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Tip 1

As with most things in fishing its about location, location, location! Pike are not usually to difficult to catch if you can find them. All of the park's lakes and the rivers hold a good stock of pike including one or two good sized specimens. Personally I've never taken a '20' from the park but over the years I've had some stunning pike to high double figures!

Try to find what the pike are feeding on and they wont be far away. Pike are an ambush predator so look for them near structures such as reed and lily beds, also if you know your swim well any changes in depth are a good holding area. Good clues are to watch where the Grebes are working, they will be diving on shoals of silver fish. For most residents who prefer to fish from their own plots its a case of fully searching your swim from right under your feet to as far as you can cast.

 A stunning Cosgrove Park 'Double'


Tip 2

There are lots of angling residents on the park that target carp and with a few tweaks carp gear can be used successfully for the pike. Most modern carp rods have a 'test curve' of between 2.5lb and 3lb and these are ideal for casting a good sized pike bait. A medium sized reel with a 'baitrunner' facility is the perfect choice. One area of gear that I pay particular attention to is main line. Because pike fishing is more 'roughty-toughty' than carp fishing, that is to say you will be casting much heavier baits more often I use nothing less than 15lb breaking strain mono or 30lb braid.

As if you didn't know pike have teeth and that means you must use a wire trace. I still prefer to use a traditional 'snap tackle' with its double size 8 or size 6 semi-barbless treble hooks set a few inches apart at the end of an 18" wire trace. I make my own but any good tackle shop sells ready made rigs.

Keep your rigs simple - A free lined or float fished dead bait fished on the bottom can be deadly at times especially if you want a bigger pike.

(image courtesy of Improve Your Coarse Fishing Magazine)

Simple float fished dead bait rig made up as follows -

A = a 'power gum' or braid stop knot to set the depth.

B = set the float stop knot about a foot over depth.

C = a bead prevents damage from the sliding float to the trace knot.

D = a good swivel at the top of the trace prevents twist and using 'swan shot' to weight the rig and semi-cock the float.

E = Use the correct sized semi-barbless treble hooks (semi-barbless means only the hook that is in the bait has a barb to hold the flesh of the bait secure, and the other two hooks are barbless). As always mount the dead bait with the top treble in the tail root and the bottom treble down its flank.

F = Use a large-ish float so you can see it at whatever range you are fishing.

The superb camouflage markings make the pike the ultimate freshwater predator

(image courtesy of Improve Your Coarse Fishing Magazine)

Another great rig and a favourite of mine especially on weedy venues such as Heronsfield and Swan Lakes is a paternoster rig with a buoyant dead bait. This rig is especially useful for distance casting and is made up as follows - 

A = Use a lead heavy enough to cast the required distance. I use a 2 or 3oz bomb.

B = Use a 'lead link' long enough to present the bait over the weed. I prefer to use a dacron link to give the rig more flexibility.

C = using 'polly balls' or foam/balsa sticks make your chosen hook baits buoyant. This will present your deadbait over the weed in view of any patrolling pike.

D = its important to use a lead link longer than your hooklink, this will stop your rig separating in flight and prevent tangles.

An immaculate 19lb 2oz Heronsfield pike taken at dusk on the paternoster rig mentioned above

Tip 3

Live baiting is banned on Park waters so use good quality dead baits. These can be conveniently purchased from your tackle shop or even the fish counter at your local supermarket.

In no particular order here are my 5 favourite dead baits. Mackerel half a large or a whole 'Joey' mackerel is deadly especially for big pike. Sardines - these are very oily and are just the right size for pike of all sizes. The only down side is they are very soft so are quite difficult to keep on the hooks unless tied on with elasticated cotton. Smelt - these small 'game fish' have a strange cucumber smell but are very tough and very effective, especially useful for distance fishing. Lamprey - these eel like fish have very tough skins and are very bloody. a 4" section can be deadly. Coarse fish, particular roach and rudd. Although not as oily as sea deads I particularly like to use them with there swim bladder intact making them buoyant over weed - how more natural can a deadbait be?

Tip 4

Although the simple rigs shown above use a float and that is a very pleasant way of fishing, a lot of particularly carp anglers would prefer to 'ledger' their rigs. Like most predators pike are not very tolerant to any resistance from the rigs or your bite registration. You can use carp style 'buzzers' but set your bait runners very lightly or use an open bale arm on your reel and as light a bite indicator as you can get away with in line with prevailing conditions. 

Tip 5

Fish welfare is of the utmost priority. Pike appear to be strong and tough but they are in fact much less hardy than carp and must be treated with even more care. As with any specimen fishing if you are lucky enough to land a pike please use a large unhooking mat. Actually the bigger pike are easier to deal with on the bank than small 'Jacks' as there jaws even though full of teeth have more room to deal with  unhooking etc. Experience is a definite advantage when handling and particularly when unhooking a pike. Lay the pike on your unhooking mat and effectively sit astride the fish with its head facing away from you on its side. Very carefully slide the fingers of your left hand (if you are right handed) under its gill plate but outside of its gill rakers (the red bits) and your thumb will be outside and pressing against the soft part under its chin, take a good grip and gently lift the pikes head up towards you. It will automatically open its mouth giving you plenty of room and lots of control to un-hook the fish using a pair of long handled foreceps. This way of holding the pike is best to use when photographing and return your prize.

A beautiful mid-winter Cosgrove double - note the way I'm holding the pikes chin as mentioned in tip 5   

At this time I wont go into the pros and cons and politics of whether pike should be in the lakes, just to say they are and I for one am glad they are! They must not be killed or moved from one lake to another or put in the rivers.


Tight lines - Gary

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Venetian Marina Whilton Caravan Storage Whilton Marina
Cosgrove Park. Main Street, Cosgrove, Milton Keynes, MK19 7JP.
Phone: 01908 563360 Fax: 01908 263615