Behaviour of Irish Pike
Irish pike spawn between February and April, usually in the shallow margins of rivers and lakes. Many of the bigger pike taken are captured just before the spawning period. Specimen hunters are advised to locate potential spawning areas of lakes and rivers to maximise the chances of taking a fish of a lifetime.
The behaviour of pike depends on the behaviour of the prey or fodder species. Big-water pike may be more dependent on shoals of fish like bream and roach which move around, and they tend to follow these shoals. Anglers studying the movements of fodder fish are more likely to meet with success and the pike angler using a boat can use an echo sounder to locate these shoals.
The time of day can also be important on certain waters with regard to the taking behaviour of bigger fish. The period around dawn can be productive, as can the final hours of daylight. In the colder months, some pike will only be active and feed around midday, as this is generally when the highest water temperatures occur. This behaviour may vary from different waters and size of fishery during the year. Check with a local tackle shop or angling guide for the best taking times on the fisheries you are hoping to catch a big pike.
Pike Angling Methods
All modern methods of pike fishing may be practised in Ireland, with the exception of live baiting, which is prohibited by law. Many other methods can be adapted to particular situations to produce the best results when fishing from shore or boat.
Pike anglers can choose from an array of natural deadbaits such as roach, hybrids, eels, mackerel, herring, smelt and a range of other fish all of which can be used on Irish pike waters. These deadbaits are readily available from most good tackle shops.
One of the most popular and productive methods to catch pike in Ireland is the use of deadbaits fished in a sink-and-draw (wobbled) manner from shore or boat. Ledgered deadbaits may be used on all waters, and are particularly effective, when the shoals of fodder (prey) fish, particularly bream roach and hybrids are located. The baits are positioned on the margins of the shoal of fodder (prey) fish and left for a period before being repositioned. In such situations, the bank side margins, and areas where there is cover in the form of reeds or overhanging trees should be carefully fished. Static methods are also particularly useful in the colder months. Float ledgered deadbaits can be effective from the shore and float trolled deadbaits are very productive when fishing from a boat.
There is a huge array of artificial lures from which the pike angler can choose to fish and these are designed to fish at varying depths and speeds from both shore and boat. The use of artificial lures can be very rewarding and the angler is likely to catch more fish when using this method under the right conditions. The use of jerk and crank baits from a boat produce many specimen pike from our bigger lakes. Varying the speed of the retrieve and the depth at which the lure is fished will contribute to the success achieved by this method. The choice of colour can be important and local advice should be sought before fishing.
Fly fishing is becoming an increasingly popular method of fishing for pike in Ireland and the plethora of suitable venues available gives the angler the opportunity to catch a large fish on fly gear. An average fish would be in the 4 to 8 lbs. (2 to 4 Kg.) bracket. Fly fishing for pike has proved to be successful on both loughs and rivers and is a particularly good method on canals e.g. Grand, Royal and Barrow canals. It may be done in the shallower waters all year round but is usually more successful in the warmer months. A nine to ten foot AFTM 9-10, rod is required to cast the large pike flies. Both floating and sinking techniques can be used. The pike fly should be attached to a length or wire or Kevlar covered line as a protection against the pike's teeth. Flies dressed on size 2 to 5/0 single hooks are standard and some incorporate weed guards.
Boats enable the angler to gain access to water that may not be fishable from the bank. They also allow the angler to cover a greater area of water than bank fishing.
Lough fishing may be done from the bank but often a boat will be required and these may be hired at all the main angling centres. Trolling is a favoured way of fishing the bigger waters because so much ground may be covered in the course of a day. Either artificial or natural baits may be used, and there are many variations of the method such as float trolling. An echo sounder may be a useful aid on our bigger loughs. The equipment is used primarily to ascertain depth, and to locate shoals of fodder fish and what depth they are feeding at. Big pike are usually found on the edge of these shoals. Again we recommend the use of an angling guide or ghillie particularly on our bigger loughs if the angler is unfamiliar with the water. For the complete list of Irish Angling guides, please click here.
Essential Kit for Irish Piking
Anglers should use strong wire over 30 lbs. (13.60 Kg.). test for trace material, and a reel line of over 15 lbs. (6.8 Kg.) monofilament test or 30 lbs. (13.6 Kg.) braid. Size 6 to 8 strong wired trebles are advised for deadbait rigs. Size 2 to 6 strong wired treble hooks for wobbling or trolling deadbait rigs. Many anglers either pinch the barbs on the hooks or use barbless altogether. For fly fishing, size 1 to 6/0 can be used. Some pike flies can incorporate a weed guard. Good long strong forceps should be used to extract hooks. When fishing static baits, the tackle should not be left unattebded and a reliable form of bite detection should always be used. Electronic bite alarms and drop off bite indicators combined on rod stands or a rod pod are excellent for use in static fishing.