Winter is Coming!!!
And that means winter Pike fishing. For some, the Lures are put away, the ever increasing popularity of Fly Fishing for pike wanes and lads up and down the country look for new sleeping bags, warm bivvies, and woolly underwear.
Winter Pike fishing for the hardcore can involve lots a tea, frost, shredded hands and thoughts of open fires and home, and, at more than one stage of the hunt, repeatedly saying “what in the name of jaysus am I doing here” to yourself.
For the uninitiated however, that may sound like torture, some anglers will go out for a few days and camp, while others will spend a few daylight hrs on the bank. If your looking to start, the latter is obviously the best option.
Below, is a guide of what you will need to get started. Most people will fish 2 rods – This is the maximum amount of rods allowed to be fished in Ireland by one person, so you can not have 2 rods in the rest and one in your hand spinning or whatever.
Ideal rod length for deadbaiting is 12ft, and between 2 and 3lb test curve. This may seem quite a powerful rod, but rods are not just about playing the fish. A dead bait ledger rig can easily weigh several ounces, a strong rod is needed to cast a heavy rig any distance. Rods can vary from around €35 to stupid money. Start out with standard gear, when you get to know more about the style you like you can upgrade to rods that suit your style better. When your looking for rods, choose pike, OR carp rods. Dedicated Pike rods tend to have a stiffer tip, as deadbaits can vary in size and weight, and may sometimes be heavier than carp rig setups, but thats it really, a decent carp rod will work perfectly fine, once you dont over do the weight, or the cast.
You can really use any reel, as long as its something with a baitrunner or freespool feature, and is a good size, has a spare spool and something smooth, I prefer a front drag, you may not (this is simply where the drag feature on the reel is positioned, on the front – top – or the bottom. If I was to advise spending the bulk of your budget on any one area of this article, it would be reels. You can spend silly money on reels too, but i’d advise anything between €50-€150 “generally”
Given a choice I will always use braided line, mainly because it has no stretch, better for setting the hook. The rivers I fish, have soft banks and bottoms. With no rocks or stone to abrade or cut the line, I can use 60lb braid all the time. I would adjust the strength of the braid if the area was very snaggy or I expected to be hitting big hens.
To stop the Pike’s teeth cutting through the hook length, a trace made of multi strand wire is used. After years of Pike fishing I have settled on 20 – 30lb trace wire to make my traces. Ready made traces are available and for a while I did use them, but now I prefer to tie my own. A recent trend has been for anglers to use very heavy mono as the trace. I have not tried heavy mono myself, but I see no reason why it should not work and it may be kinder to the fish. I will leave you to decide which you want to use.
Swivels and snap swivels
There must be a zillion different swivels of all makes and sizes on the market. After a great deal of faffing around I finally found swivels I like for my pike fishing setup. Berkley size 7 rated at 60lb, I use these and only these for all my dead bait Pike rigs, sorted.
Treble hooks are by far and away the most popular hooks used for dead baiting. Two trebles tied to the trace set at a distance apart that suits the size of the bait. Some ready made rigs boast a sliding second treble hook to allow for different baits. But the hook can move on the cast and the two hooks can end up close together in the Pike’s mouth, making unhooking more difficult than it needs to be.
Like swivels, there are a zillion different treble hooks available. I used to use owner size 4 or 6 ST 36BC in black chrome, mostly size 6, but owner has changed distributors in Ireland recently and they are not readily available at all times, so Cox ‘n’ Rawl or owner size 6 – black is best, but silver is fine
Various inline floats, both surface and subsurface which I use for float ledgering. For drift fishing I still use a traditional Pike bung.
For ledgering and float ledgering I use flat pear leads, 1oz, 1½oz and 2oz. Plus a few drilled bullets to slide on the line to act as a weight for drifting inline floats. Drilled bullets can also come in handy for wobbling or twitching. I also like to carry some swan shots, beads and float stops.
Being much weaker than both the main line and trace, I use 8lb monofilament for making a weak link to the casting weight. If the weight gets snagged while playing a fish, the link breaks leaving the weight safely behind. Ideal for Paternoster and running trace rigs.
Forceps, long nose pliers and side cutters
Forceps and long nose pliers are used to unhook the Pike. Side cutters to cut the hooks or trace wire when there is no other option. These are absolutely essential tools, if you dont have them, your better off (and so are the fish) if you dont go fishing!
Landing net and unhooking mat
I use a 36 inch landing net that has a spreader block. The arms of the net are not fixed, they pull out of the spreader block making it much easier to move and weigh the fish once landed.
My unhooking mat is nothing special, it is just a simple mat I can roll up and strap to my bag, but it is essential for fish care, get one.
I see alarms online for €400-500 Euro, if I was to pay that money for alarms i’d want them to make tea, sing songs and generally do more than go “beeeep” – Do get alarms with a receiver, a hard case, and ones that aren’t made from cardboard, but dont spend a weekly wage on them. The ones below are JRC CX Indicators, max money you should be paying at €145 (negotiable 😉 and will last forever!
Bait and a knife
I tend to use frozen dead baits, leaving them in the freezer until the last minute. They will often still be frozen at the water, ideal for a good hook hold. The knife is for cutting and puncturing the bait.
A small towel, gloves, sun glasses, plasters, tissues, Paracetamol, hot drinks, snacks, phone, nippers, spare rigs, hooks, line, floats and weights etc.
Variable on waters, but if you need a licence, Get one.
It can get very cold on the bank, so the other important equipment in my pike fishing setup is my clothing. A water proof, wind proof outer layer with warm layers beneath. I like to wear a balaclava, neck warmer and woolly hat too, but not normally gloves, they get in the way. Thermal Winter suits are also very good – Expensive, but if you value comfort, and dont want chattering teeth, get one.