As the autumn begins and temperatures drop, many anglers turn their attention to pike fishing, particularity on stillwaters. This blog post by Ceri Thomas reveals 10 essential stillwater pike fishing tips that will help you catch more pike off the bank this winter.
How do you catch specimen pike on stillwaters?
To catch a true specimen sized pike, you often have to fish a decent sized water to find them – places such as Chew valley lake, Llandegfedd, Pitsford, Blithfield etc and of course numerous glacial waters in The Lake District, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Pike fishing can be superb at this time of year on such large sheets of water but also extremely challenging, especially if you have to fish from the bank. To help improve your pike catch rates over the autumn and winter period, follow these 10 stillwater pike bank fishing tips to enhance your success.
1. Keep mobile
It’s a catch 22 – do you stay put, or move if no runs are forthcoming? Sit it out or find fish? Personally I take the latter option every time. The more water you cover, the more chances of a feeding pike seeing your bait. If you have had no runs in an hour, up sticks. Carry your gear a few hundred yards down the bank and recast. Repeat every hour until you find action.
2. Don’t ignore the margins
We become so obsessed with casting the baits out to the maximum range possible and bait boating to hundreds of yards that we forget about what is going on under our noses. Always try a bait in the margin, just off the first drop off. Pike are not always found at range, even on vast sheets of water. By all means, fish one rod at range, but keep your other bait closer in to start off – you might be surprised!
3. Make an extra effort to fish at dawn and dusk
Pike like both periods due to the cover it gives them. Turing up early can really be the difference between success and failure, the crack of dawn is a prime feeding period, as is sunset. On some pressured venues pike feed in the dark on discards when most anglers have gone home, so it pays to stay on into darkness a few hours if fishery rules permit.
4. Use fresh bait
Bait can be expensive, but if you could catch a 20lb plus fish each session I bet you wouldn’t mind paying just a few pounds more each trip! Look to change your bait every hour. Re-casting and exposure to the water quickly leaches out the oils and flavour that attract pike. Washed out baits simply aren’t as appealing. Resist the temptation to re-freeze baits and then use them multiple times. Old freezer burned bait lacks flavour, scent, and texture – these bad re-frozen baits simply don’t help you catch fish. From experience a fresh blast frozen bait will always outfish a re-used one. The bottom line is don’t skimp on bait, and you will be rewarded.
5. Don’t be afraid to try a lure
Off the bank deadbaiting is a very popular option, but don’t neglect the lures. It’s always worth running a lure through your swim a few times before you set your dead’s out. Firstly this could result in an instant fish, but if it doesn’t it can have the effect of ‘waking up’ any pike nearby through the disturbance and vibration caused by the lure. Those fish may then decide to take your deadbait.
6. Move your bait
This tactic isn’t used as much as it should be. Works best with a popped up bait. Cast out at a comfortable range, let the bait settle for 5 minutes then wind in a few yards. Repeat a few times with pauses of 5 – 10 minutes until you re-cast. Pike have a habit of simply sitting there watching a bait, and the movement can make them react. Expect runs just as the bait stops moving.
7. Don’t ignore small baits
I am talking really small – sprats, small sandeel, cut down macky tails, little joeys and smelt just a few inches long. On some waters these baits outfish bigger baits because the pike are so used to seeing massive herring, mackerel, whole blueys etc. thrown at them all day. They also work well when pike are visibly feeding on fry – it makes sense to ‘match the hatch’ and scale down your bait to the size on which the pike are feeding. Cast into the commotion and hang on!
8. Don’t follow the herd
You heard on the grapevine, social media, an online report or a mate that a certain area is fishing well and a big fish has been caught. Naturally you think that’s the place to head for. Chances are, If you heard about it then everyone else has heard this as well, and will have hammered the area already. I say find your own fish. Don’t follow the herd. Think outside the box and try a fresh area where people don’t fish very often. And when you do catch a decent fish, keep it to yourself.
9. Bring your fishing waders
Make sure you pack them – a set of sturdy boot foot cleated neoprene waders will do the job. As well as keeping you warm and dry in even the heaviest rain, these provide numerous advantages, especially on reservoirs with gently shelving banks; giving you access to much deeper water and the ability to wade beyond or through thick weed beds before you make your cast.
10. Release the flavour in your bait
Prick your bait with a knife to release juice and blood into the area. Also dip or inject your bait with flavoured fish based oil every time you re-cast, to ensure a slick leaks out to draw fish to your swim. Cod liver oil pills are also a good trick – stuff one down the throat of your deadbait. The coating will dissolve and leave a nice little slick of flavour around your bait.