Mike Winter prepares for pike fishing

Wobbling sprat works for pike

The summer fishing for big fish like carp is almost over. If you are keen on catching fish in the teens, even twenties of pounds, then it is time to start preparing for catching pike. The pike fishing season opened on October 1 and they can be found in rivers, canals and lakes where there are plenty of small fish for them to eat. Both the Exeter and Tiverton canals hold big pike.

The Exeter Canal is long, deep and wide. Here the pike tend to follow the shoals of their small food fish so are difficult to track down. Taking the time and making the effort to locate them could result in landing a 20 pounder!

The Tiverton Canal is also long, but shallow and weedy. There is a good head of pike up to 10lbs. However, there are 20lb fish in localised places. But once the word gets round, these places get over fished and the big pike move out or even die if they get badly handled on the bank.

Pike may look fierce and menacing, but they are surprisingly delicate. All pike, big or small should be unhooked quickly, but carefully, before returning them to the water to grow bigger.

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They can be caught by a variety of methods. Spinning and plug fishing with artificial baits that imitate small fish, using small live fish for bait, or by deadbaiting - with a dead fish lying static on the bottom or cast out and slowly wobbled back. If the static dead bait is used on the bottom a float should be used to minimise the risk of a pike being hooked deeply.

If I am going pike fishing I don’t like to waste time trying to catch small fish for bait so I use sea fish. November usually sees sprats in the fishmongers, 2lbs bought then usually lasts me through the winter until the season closes on March 14.

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A larger sea fish that can be freelined or float legered on the bottom, is the herring and has accounted for some big pike. Some tackle shops sell frozen trout for the same purpose, and big pike love them! My pal Jason had a 251/2 pounder on a thawed trout a couple of winters ago. It must weigh 30lbs now!

My favourite method is wobbling a sprat, but I strike quickly. I would rather miss a pike than hook it deeply.

There are few lakes in Devon that hold big pike but the Newton Abbot club pits at Rackerhayes hold double figure ones. Trenchford Reservoir was once being developed as a pike fishery.

The River Exe ought to hold big pike but I suspect that, over the years, many have fallen to anglers spinning for salmon.

Until recently, the River Culm in the Killerton Estate area held good pike. I caught plenty between 10 and 171/2 pounds. But first cormorants and mink reduced the number of small “pike food” fish in the river. Now Otters have scoffed many of the bigger fish, including pike.

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