Pike (Esox lucius)
46lb 13oz, R Lewis, Llandegfedd, Wales, 1992
47lb 11oz, (21.631kg), T Morgan, Loch Lomond, 1947
Pike are found throughout the UK in just about every type of water. A fierce predator, the pike sits right at the top of the food chain. Their streamlined bodies and fin placement are designed perfectly for lightning acceleration into the attack and their mouths are lined with rows of inward pointing, needle sharp teeth that grip their prey with deadly effect.
Pike often lie in ambush near dense cover such as weed beds, rocks or fallen trees, where their perfect camouflage and ability to lay totally still allows them to blend into the surroundings so that prey fish swim past within inches, seemingly unaware of their presence.
However, especially in the larger Scottish Lochs they also hunt actively – sometimes in packs – patrolling areas where bait fish shoals tend to feed or move through.
Fishing for Pike
The key to successful pike fishing is location. On stillwaters, you’ll find that bays, islands, reeds or lily beds are prime pike territory. Very deep areas are seldom productive, so steer clear of dam walls, steep banks and rock faces.
Study the contours of the surrounding land for features that might continue under water – stream mouths, gravel points and on long narrow Highland lochs the shallower areas at either end are always worth trying.
In lochs that are part of hydro schemes look for old field dykes or roadways disappearing into the water as these tend to be good holding areas.
Boat fishing opens up wider opportunities and on many Scottish lochs you’ll find launch facilities and/or boats for hire. A portable fishfinder will help locate drop-offs and plateau which often signify hotspots.
But a word of warning – many Scottish lochs are almost inland seas, and conditions can turn dangerous in a matter of minutes.
Make sure you:
- Check weather forecasts
- Tell someone ashore before you go out
- Carry a mobile phone and proper flares
- ALWAYS wear a suitable lifejacket.
Scottish pike will respond to any method you choose. Livebaiting is no longer legal here, but sea fish deadbaits like mackerel, smelt and sardines are productive, and you’ll find frozen bait in tackle shops in larger towns.
Most lochs have a rocky bottom and snags like sunken branches are common, so it pays to err on the heavy side with your bait fishing gear – mono mainline of 15–20lb bs with a 2ft 30lb wire trace – and check hook points regularly to guard against blunting on stones.
Artificial lures also give prolific results and Scottish pike accept everything from big spoons, spinnerbaits and soft plastics fished slow and deep in the colder months to shallow-running jerkbaits, crankbaits, or topwater lures in spring and summer.
Fly fishing for pike is an exciting and growing area of the sport, especially in the summer months when they tend to haunt the reeds and lilies in the margins.
However you can’t just stick a big fly on a trout rod for this – powerful specialised gear such as a #9 or #10-weight outfit, with 15-20lb leaders and wire tippets, is needed to subdue these hard fighting fish and allow a safe return.
Most important, no matter how you fish for your pike, treat them with respect – take and use the proper tools to unhook and return fish safely. Pliers, forceps, side-cutters and an unhooking mat are as important as your rods and reels.