Lake Pike (Esox lucius)
Irish Record 42lb 12oz taken on 25.09.2005 by Larry Kelly at White Lake.
Specimen 30lb, or 13.608 kilo
River Pike (Esox lucius)
Record 42lb taken on 22.03.1964 by M.Watkins at River Barrow.
Specimen 20lb, or 9.072 kilo
An elongated, torpedo-shaped fish with a large tail and both dorsal and anal fins set back and close to the tail. This is designed for maximum propulsion from a standing start, ideal for short distance ambush tactics. The head in front of the eyes is scooped downwards, and the mouth is large, and lined with numerous rows of backward-pointing, razor-sharp teeth. The under-belly is cream leading to silver-bronze flanks and perfectly camouflaged green and cream mottled patterning, with bronze-green back.
Where to catch
What can I say about Irish Pike? They grow faster, larger and fight harder than any other Pike in Europe, which is why so many European anglers head to our precious waterways each season. As a country, our authorities have been slow to fully protect and then promote our fantastic Pike angling, but with recent studies into our Irish Pike heritage, it appears that possibly Pike are indigenous to Ireland and not a relatively recent introduction as we have been led to believe. This may mean that Pike will be offered the same level of protection as our game fish, one can only hope.
Our major Pike producing waters have been well documented over the years, and despite many problems, these waters still continue to produce large specimens every season. Rivers such as the mighty Shannon, the Inny, the Blackwater and the Suck are prominent specimen producing waters.
For thirty-pound plus Lough fish, Corrib and Mask are always up there, with Ennell and Derg capable of huge fish. Lough Beg and the Lough Neagh system, my local venue, have lost their former title of the greatest pike fishery in Europe for the time being, but hopefully they will one day bounce back.
When to catch
Pike are taken all year round, although most Pike angling in Ireland is carried out through the winter months. Autumn fish will fight well, having packed on plenty of reserves throughout the summer, and are fantastic sport on the fly. Big winter females offer the greatest chance of a specimen, feeding up and carrying excess weight prior to spawning.
Just about anything really, within reason. As active hunter-predators, they are able to attack and devour any fish species in Irish waters. Their diet includes Salmon, Trout, Perch, all cyprinids, Eels, and in particular, other, smaller Pike. Small wildfowl, rodents and amphibians are also known to be on the hit list. Pike are fantastic and natural quality-control wardens on any given water. Sick or diseased fish will be first on the menu as all predators relish an easy kill. Dead fish are “hoovered” up and taken out of the system, and being cannibalistic, Pike numbers are also naturally self-regulated.
As a consequence of this wide and varied diet, Pike will take a range of bait, from oily sea fish such as Mackerel, Herring, Sardine and Spratt, to natural fresh water species such as Roach, Perch, Eel and Pollen. Fly imitations that represent Roach, Perch, etc can be very effective, along with artificial lures, spinners; jerk baits and plugs, there are a bewildering array of options available to the Pike angler.
It has to be said that the Pike angling discipline offers the largest range of methods of all our species, to target this fantastic Irish sport fish. From trolling and wobbling dead baits, to spinning, casting plugs and lures, jerk-baiting, drop-shotting, vertical jigging, fly fishing and dead-baiting with float or ledger, each separate discipline is an art unto itself.
Many anglers specialise in one form or another, but there are also many, such as myself, that dabble in all branches of Pike angling, enjoying immensely, all methods that result in a Pike safely in the landing net.
As with all species of fish and angling disciplines, be well prepared. There is no excuse not to carry a suitable specimen net, un-hooking mat, forceps etc. There is no reason to carry boga grips. If new to the sport, gain the confidence in safely un-hooking and returning Pike by fishing with, and learning from a knowledgeable angler. Both you and the Pike will benefit from the experience.