The prolonged mild weather has kept water temperatures relatively high so pike are still more spread out and actively following shoals of their favourite prey fish.
On canals this is often roach, which are plentiful so it makes sense to give roach livebaits and deadbaits a go. Mackerel and Smelt are also worth a try. Don’t underestimate the size of prey the bigger pike will take.
Our canals also have huge shoals of bream and chub and the bigger pike will prefer these big easy meals to chasing fry and small roach.
That’s how they got so big in the first place. Baits around the 6 to 8 inch mark are ideal.
Livebaits will inevitably out-fish deads, but check fishery rules before livebaiting. Remember that if you can use livebaits, they must be caught from the same water to prevent the spread of disease.
Once we’ve had a few harsh frosts, prey fish will start to head for deeper water where oxygen levels are higher. Of course the pike won’t be too far away. This is where it comes in handy to know the topography of the water so you can locate the prey and pike.
On canals this isn’t too difficult; the deeper water is usually around locks and marinas.
Dimpling on the surface can also give away the location of roach shoals.
Once in the deeper water, the prey gather in huge shoals and the pike move in to feed. This gives the impression that pike are holding the prey fish in one area.
Don’t ignore the more isolated stretches though. Big pike often lay-up for weeks between feeding sessions, visiting the shoals occasionally to feed before returning to their lair, where they’ll also get the odd passing meal.
Pike are cold-blooded so need very little food. Winter pike are often covered in leeches, which is another tell-tale sign that they are static for long periods.
Big pike will of course eat smaller pike so if you’re catching jacks, you’ll be playing the waiting game if you want a big one.
Be more mobile in your approach and you’ll find the bigger specimens. I usually spend no more than half an hour in one spot before moving on to the next feature.
Don’t ignore bridges, over-hanging trees, shallow bays, marginal reeds and deeper channels no matter how insignificant they seem. The flushes (flowing water to the side of locks) also create an oxygen rich area for prey.
A big pike will quite comfortably lay in wait just out of the main flow to ambush the stragglers as they get into difficulty in the current.
Sherwood Forrest Fisheries: Tue Open, Sherwood Lake: 1st John Holmes, Woodhouse Angling Centre, peg 23, 11-1-0, pole maggot over groundbait for a mixed net of silvers; 2nd Steve Richards, peg 17, 8-14-0; 3rd Ivor Birkin, peg 24, 8-7-0.
Wed Open, Holmedale Lake: 1st Roger Edmunds, Marukyu, peg 23, 115-1-0, 16m pole with corn for a good haul of carp to 9lb; 2nd Pete Hodgetts, peg 31, 60-7-0; 3rd Craig Brazier, peg 36, 51-3-0.
Daiwa Hallcroft Fisheries: Mon Veterans, Bridge Pool: 1st D Sewell, peg 11, 31-7-0, 11m pole pellet over micros and 4mm pellets for carp to 7lb; 2nd R Holmes, peg 26, 21-3-0; 3rd C Yves, peg 27, 18-12-0.
Thu Veterans, Bridge Pool: 1st D Sewell, peg 43, 61-1-0, 11m pole with 6mm expanders over 4mm feed pellets for carp to double figures; 2nd S Twigg, Leegem, peg 18, 59-6-0; 3rd P Schoof, peg 22, 56-14-0.
Sat Open, Moat Pool: 1st S Cameron, Garbolino, peg 71, 81-10-0, expander pellet over micros and 4mm pellets for carp to 10lb and over 25lb of skimmers; 2nd A Oldham, Frenzee, peg 5, 64-12-0; 3rd B Holmes, peg 12, 55-10-0.
Sun Open, Moat Pool: 1st W Lomas, Leegem, peg 40, 61-4-0, pellet feeder with meat for carp and skimmers; 2nd A Payling, Peg One Angling, peg 22, 60-5-0; 3rd M Jackson, peg 43, 58-10-0.