It’s a common myth that pike cannot see well enough in the dark to feed at night. As with all predators, the pike’s sensory organs are very advanced, which gives them the edge over their prey, hence why even blind pike have no problem striking at an individual fish amongst a shoal. Some waters are renowned for catching pike in the dead of night but as a general rule, the first 2 hours and last 2 hours of darkness are best. Reasons for this are sometimes unclear but it makes sense that the larger, more cautious pike will feed more confidently when there is no one about and the environment is quieter.
When fishing for pike I usually wind my rods in an hour or so after dark and re-cast them an hour or so before day light. Not only is it exceptionally rare to catch pike outside of these hours but also, landing and unhooking pike in the dark can be a ‘bit of a mission‘. It’s sometimes difficult to see the position of the hooks as the fish is netted, which results in a tangled mess. Not ideal during the day let alone in the pitch of night. However, many years ago I started to target heavily-fished match waters at night with some surprising results. It soon became apparent that the bigger pike were taking advantage of an easy meal by cruising up and down, picking up any dead or injured silver fish.
This was certainly the case on a number of match stretches of the Stainforth & Keadby Canal. On many occasions I was catching good numbers of pike from a relatively small area but there was an unusual absence of bigger fish. Hence why the smaller fish were there in numbers. The canal certainly sustains a good head of big fish and they had to feed too. A few night sessions soon demonstrated that my theory was right. The bigger pike were taking advantage of the few casualties left by the matchmen and were predominantly feeding at night in these areas. One factor, which I think may have some bearing here is the water clarity. The ‘Stainy’ is gin clear most of the time. Perhaps the bigger fish also felt more confident under the cover of darkness.
It wasn’t long before I started to apply this theory to other match waters, with surprising success, particularly on canals. The Chesterfield canal was one such water where bigger pike were regularly caught during the night following a match. The only exception to the rule is rivers. Unlike stillwaters & canals, river pike are generally confident feeders during the day due to the more coloured & moving water and so would not need to feed at night. Match casualties would also be swept down stream, away from the match area. One point of interest though, night fishing on the river Trent opened my eyes to the number of zander present. Zander catches outnumbered pike by at least 10 to one. A sign that the Trent zeds are thriving, at least on match stretches and around features. I’ll cover this interesting subject at a later date.
One word of warning though, night fishing for pike is only for the proficient piker. Sometimes it’s hard enough during the day to land & unhook pike quickly & efficiently. In the dark, these problems are made far worse. The biggest problem is not being able to see the position of the hooks when landing a fish. This often leads to trailing trebles being tangled in the net, which can make unhooking far more difficult and if not careful, can lead to damage to the fish as it thrashes about in the net.
The key is to be well prepared & organised, have all the essentials close to hand. Use sensitive bite alarms and have plenty of artificial light at the ready. It’s also far better if you fish with a friend and have a spare pair of hands to call on if needed. It’s much easier if one provides the light while the other gets on with the unhooking. I also like to illuminate my floats so I have a rough idea of where they are, particularly as the pike comes to the net. A starlight can easily be added to a dead bait pencil float by drilling a 5mm hole into the top, just deep enough to hold the starlight in place.
Alan Dudhill is regional organiser for the North Notts branch of the Pike Anglers’ Club of Great Britain.
For tips on the safe handling and unhooking of pike, and much more, visit the PAC web site. Better still, join online and help fight to preserve our sport for future generations.
For quality pike tackle buy online Pikemaster tackle.
If you have any pike fishing questions you can e-mail the author, firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll try and cover them in a future article.
Alan also runs a busy tackle shop in Retford. Feel free to check out the web site.