Fish n Tips


Red Leader
Staff member
Site Supporter
Aug 8, 2001
Starting Pike Fishing - by the late John Howard

It is not my intention to cover lure fishing in this article, as this would require a book in itself.
I also believe that the question of live baiting is a personal issue and should be left to the individual to make that choice.

To avoid unnecessary expense when starting pike fishing. A lot of carp tackle can be used, for example carp rods having a test curve between 2.5lb and 3lb as can any carp sized reel. I strongly recommend line having a breaking strain of 15lbs be used.

It is not necessary to use an audible alarm but it does help if you have one. An indicator of either of the drop back or fox swinger type can be used when legering dead baits. The intention is to give as early an indication of a take as possible to avoid the bait being swallowed and deep hooking the pike.


A drop back indicator and audible alarm combined, shown in use with a bait runner type reel.

If a run occurred the line is pulled from the clip and the indicator drops down. If a drop back bite occurs the line stays in the clip but again the indicator drops down indicating a take.


This set up is the normal set up for carp using optonic type alarms in conjunction with bait runner type reels.

Both types of indicators can be used with out audible alarms. If a non bait runner type reel is used then the indicator must be set up as the top photo with an open bail arm.

Alternatively a float can be used. The use of a float can give advantages over legering. It is obvious where the bait is and in the event of a take the direction the pike is going. The use of a float also allows all depths to be fished from near the surface to the bait being laid on the bottom.


From left to right, Top: sliding poly ball, sliding poly ball for sunken paternoster

Bottom: Two sliding floats, loaded dead bait pencil, drifter fox type, and drifter dart flight type.
Sliding dead bait pencil and a homemade slider with sight bob.

The dumpy type floats would be used for either a live bait or suspending a dead bait. The slender pencil types when laying on or legering. One mistake commonly seen is a failure to correctly shot the float, its not uncommon to see a float lying flat. Swan shot or pierced bullet legers can be used to shot the float. This is particularly important when suspending dead baits to minimize resistance to a taking fish.

When using a float, having a floating line is very important, I am now using a floating braid for this task. The alternative is to grease nylon so it floats. Not only does it help to pick up the line off the surface but also avoids the line tangling around the bait or trace.

To work effectively a drift float must be used in conjunction with a floating line. Here braid is the line for the job as its low stretch helps when setting the hooks at distance. A drift floats limitation on distance is restricted only by the amount of line on the reel and by your eyesight. It can be used up to and over 200yds(m) when using braid. I have used binoculars in the past when a big chop was on the water.

When using a float I find it best to fish it sliding. My set up is as follows.

A small diameter sliding bead followed by the float then another bead. A rubber bead then I tie on a link swivel to which I attach the trace. To finish I tie a stop knot above the top bead using power gum or a length of nylon leaving tails of approx. 1.5inches(35mm)


Top: drop off indicator
Middle: snap tackle
Bottom: Leger with a low resistance run ring

A wire trace is a must as nylon can and does get bitten through by a pikes teeth. A 7-strand trace of 20lb breaking strain wire with either size 6 or 8 semi barbless trebles is the standard set up. By semi barbless I mean 2 of the 3 hooks are barbless the remaining hook is left barbed and its this hook that goes into the bait. Any traces that are kinked for whatever reason should be scrapped immediately as a kink can severely reduce the braking strain of the wire trace. Always check the condition of the trace before use and before every cast.

It is very important to ensure all hooks are sharp if needs be sharpen using a hook sharpener. A pikes mouth is full of bone and toothy pads and a sharp hook is needed to penetrate this.


Un hooking tools. Top: deep throat disgorger, 12-inch forceps, wire cutters (handles extended),
8-inch forceps, small wire cutters and a pair of long nosed pliers. Unhooking mat.

Whenever a pike is being played and its ready to be netted look to see where the hooks are. One may be loose and care will have to be taken as the landing net is used, to avoid the hook fouling the net.

Unhooking a pike calls for different methods. Lay the fish on an unhooking mat kneel astride the fish with the tail between your legs. This helps prevent the fish thrashing around. A glove on your left hand if right handed is advisable until you become proficient in unhooking pike. Carefully slide a finger under the gills and as you gently lift the finger you should slide it forwards towards the front of the jaw. Avoid any contact with gill rakers. As you lift, the pike's mouth will open allowing you to see the hooks, using forceps remove the hooks.

I would always advise a newcomer to piking to go with an experienced piker so that these techniques can be fully explained and demonstrated.

Pike are a very delicate fish and will not withstand rough handling.
Treat all pike gently and with respect.
If necessary using the wire cutters cut any hooks or the trace.

Striking a run should be done as quickly as possible. Pick up the rod and either wait till the line tightens or wind down to the fish. Strike firmly and maintain a firm pull on the fish for a few seconds. As pike have such bony mouths and may be holding a large bait very firmly the hooks may not be immediately set. Its only as the bait is released that allows the hooks to find a purchase.

There is a wide choice of bait available either from a fishmonger or a tackle shop. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

I find buying sprats and sardines cheaper from the fishmonger. Look for one that sells 1-kilo bags of blast frozen sardines. Buying these from a tackle shop works out expensive. Mackerel and herrings bought from fishmongers are normally to big, but in a small size may be ideal cut in two.

The bait purchased from a tackle shop comes in packs of 3 or 4.

After buying bait I wrap each fish in cling film and place in to bags. These are then stored in the freezer till needed. This helps to prevent freezer burn. They are then placed in a cooler box with an ice pack when I’m going fishing. An insulated boilie bag could be used as an alternative. This normally keeps the bit frozen all day and I take home any bait left in the cooler box. I do not refreeze or re use any used bait.

Sardines, sprats and herrings are very soft and are easily thrown off the hooks when casting. I always use these frozen allowing them to thaw out in the water. Do not worry about them still being frozen I have taken pike within seconds of frozen bait hitting the bottom. Try to ensure the size of hooks and the spacing between the two hooks matches the size of bait being used.

Due to sardines and herrings being so soft I would not use these when suspending bait under a float. The best baits to use are smelt, sprats, joey mackerel, trout and any of the coarse fish. One problem with using coarse fish is that their swim bladder is intact and they tend to float naturally. If used when legering this will in effect pop up the bait. I do allow all coarse bait when used with a float to thaw out and by stabbing the bait with a needle burst the swim bladder allowing the bait to sink.

It is advisable to carry a selection of baits and vary them through out the day.

Baits available from a tackle shop include Trout, smelt, herring sardines, sprats, mackerel, lamprey sand eels, and a coarse pack. Spratts can be bought already dyed to.

A sprat rigged for float fishing

I use different hooking set ups for legering and float fishing. On a lake all legered baits are hooked so the head hangs down, this is because a pike takes the fish crossways first, turns the bait and swallows it head first. When using a float the top hook is hooked in to the muscle of the dorsal fin, the bottom treble going in by the gills. This allows the bait to be presented as if it was swimming normally. On a river I normally hook the dead baits the opposite way when legering. Doing this then allows the bait to be retrieved as if it was swimming.

A sardine rigged for legering

And finally, it just remains to welcome you to the world of predator fishing,

John Howard

RIP John


Red Leader
Staff member
Site Supporter
Aug 8, 2001
The above pages were written in 2001 when the website was first published

Some of the information will be outdated so please feel free to contribute to this page to bring it up to date

eg: Tips, Methods, Info, Specialist Groups,


Regular member
Aug 15, 2008
Dave it would be even better if you mentioned how important it is to rest Barbel before releasing them because of the way they fight to total exhaustion (unlike most other fish) and would otherwise bottom up and die.

Also the Barbel record has certainly been broken twice since your data was obtained.

The current Barbel Record is 21lb 2oz (and was previously 21lb 1oz.)

Very nice thread though (y)



Red Leader
Staff member
Site Supporter
Aug 8, 2001
Information added, thanks.

I'll get a copy of the British Fish Records and update where required shortly :)


Regular member
Site Supporter
Jul 15, 2009
Dave it would be even better if you mentioned how important it is to rest Barbel before releasing them because of the way they fight to total exhaustion (unlike most other fish) and would otherwise bottom up and die.

Also the Barbel record has certainly been broken twice since your data was obtained.

The current Barbel Record is 21lb 2oz (and was previously 21lb 1oz.)

Very nice thread though (y)

I’m sure you’ll agree mate. Best to rest them once landed and then before release. Last year I saw an angler swim into the Trent to rescue a Barbel that was trying to go belly up. He managed to get the fish, swim back out, popped it in his landing net, held it upright for a good 45 minutes before releasing it. It swam off strong. Two anglers below him applauded him. His words to me were ... “ it wasn’t going to happen on my watch “. What a guy. If you’re reading this whoever you were..... good on you mate. Respect. ?


Red Leader
Staff member
Site Supporter
Aug 8, 2001
How to claim a New Record

If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the situation of thinking you have caught a record fish, here are a few suggestions about what to do first:
  1. Calm Down! Inevitably you will be excited to have caught this great fish. If you intend to claim a British Record it will help a great deal to ensure your claim is successful if you now think through what you need to do.
  2. Take care of your fish. If you intend to return your fish alive to the water please do all you can to keep your fish safe and healthy while you prepare camera, scales etc. – even if this just means resting it in the landing net in a sheltered spot.
  3. Find a witness. If there are other anglers nearby you should have no trouble finding someone (preferably two people) to witness the weighing of your fish. If there is nobody close by you might need to telephone someone to come and witness your fish. (We will not consider claims when the weighing of the fish has not been witnessed). If there is a witness who also saw you catch the fish, even better.
  4. Weigh (or re-weigh) the fish in the presence of your witness(es). This is a crucial part of the process and the weighing of the fish must be carried out punctiliously. First the scale should be zeroed, then the wetted weigh-sling or other weighing receptacle should be weighed to establish its weight. With the scale re-zeroed, the fish should then be placed in the sling and weighed. The weight of the sling must then be deducted to establish the weight of the fish. If it is possible to photograph or video the process (including the scale readings) that may also be helpful.
  5. Take photographs. Please make every effort to provide clear photographs which show the proportions of the fish relative to other objects (a tape measure is great if you carry one). A photograph of a fish held out at arm’s length towards the camera is unhelpful as it is very difficult to determine the true proportions of the fish. If there are any particular features which will help to confirm the identification of the species, please provide clear images of these.
  6. Return or kill? The expectation is that coarse fish will be returned alive to the water. Also game fish where mandatory catch-and-release regulations exist. In the case of some sea-fish species it is very unlikely that a positive identification can be made from photographs and the fish may need to be dissected or x-rayed to confirm the species, so the captor must decide whether to release or kill the fish. Note that no protected species may be killed.
  7. Scale removal? In the case of a few coarse fish which easily hybridise, it is recommended that one scale be removed from the fish’s flank between the dorsal fin and the lateral line, to enable a DNA analysis to be made. This applies currently in the case of Roach and Rudd and may also be helpful in some cases for Crucian carp.

1. The Claimant should contact the BRFC Secretary at the Angling Trust:
Telephone: 01568 620447 during normal office hours
Email:, or
Post to BRFC Secretary c/o Angling Trust, Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ

If the office is closed a message may be left on the answerphone including your name, telephone number and the species concerned.

2. Advice will be given on identification, the claims procedure and, if appropriate, preservation of the fish.

3. The Secretary will record the date and place of capture and in the case of sea fish, whether shore or boat-caught, the species of fish, the claimed weight and details of the scales used to weigh the fish and will request that clear coloured photographs be forwarded so that identification can be confirmed.

If the fish has been killed and retained, the claimant will be advised to keep the fish pending identification. Small and medium-sized fish can be preserved for considerable periods by refrigeration (deep freeze). If a fish is required for inspection advice will be given on packing and transportation.

4. Claims must be confirmed in writing to the Secretary stating the date and place of capture, the species of fish and the method of angling. The weight claimed and details of the scales used to weigh the fish and clear coloured photograph(s) to be forwarded so that identification can be confirmed.

5. Once the photographs have been received, and the fish’s identity established, the claimant will be informed and issued with the claim forms. Advice will be given on the procedure for testing of the scale used to weigh the fish. The claimant will then have 56 days to complete the forms and provide the necessary evidence for the claims.
When digital images are submitted, all available images of the fish shall be accessible to the Committee on request and in some cases the Committee may require the memory card or other device holding the images to be submitted.

6. Once the completed forms have been returned, the Secretary will acknowledge them, make copies and forward by email to the Members of the Record Committee for their consideration and if acceptable their endorsement of a new record.

7. Once the Committee have agreed the claim, the claimant will be advised of provisional confirmation of the Record.

8. All claims will then be brought to the next BRFC meeting, which takes place twice annually to ratify the claims and to conduct all the business of the BRFC.

9. A Certificate to commemorate the record will then be printed and sent to the claimant.

10. Press Releases informing of the new accepted records will be issued by the Secretary following each meeting, or as and when required.

11. A current list of the records will be lodged on the Angling Trust website.

12. Representatives for each discipline in England may be suggested by the Angling Trust, by the national governing body in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Channel Isles and by existing or past members of the committee. The committee will include fish specialists from the Natural History Museum, London and the Environment Agency, National Fisheries Laboratory, to maintain its scientific rigour.

ATTACHMENT: BRFC Coarse Fish Listing November 2019


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Red Leader
Staff member
Site Supporter
Aug 8, 2001
Features Connected with the Spawning of British Coarse Fish

British Coarse fish can be divided into two groups according to date of spawning, March-June and May-July. When these are tabled it is clear that the species in each category have certain features in common and differ from those of the other categories, although with some overlap.

Spawning Season
Day lengthIncreasingLong, increasing
TemperatureRising (10-15 degrees C)Warm (above 16 degrees C)
Condition of rooted plantsGrowingFully grown
Location of eggs:
Laid amongst stones
Stuck to stones
Minnow, Barbel, Chub, Loach,
Gudgeon, Bullhead
In nests in gravel
Among weeds
Stuck to weeds
PikeRoach, Rudd, Carp, Bream,
In a nest of weeds
Diameter of Eggs1.3 to 3.2 mm0.5 to 1.7mm
Length of fry when ready to feed4 to 8mm2.5 mm plus
Time between laying and:
hatching of eggs
4 to 28 days3 to 20 days
fry ready to feed
3 to 7 weeks1 to 4 weeks
Food of young fryDiatoms, water fleas and rotifers (different from food of older fish)

Important features are the size of the eggs and where they are laid, the time taken to develop and the early habits of the fry.
For all fishes, the number of eggs laid each year is relative to the size of the female parent; the bigger she is, the more eggs she'll lay. Larger females may lay slightly larger eggs but the size of the eggs varies very little and is a characteristic of the species. Fish producing small eggs lay much larger numbers than fish of the same size belonging to another species which produces large eggs.
The eggs always contain some yolk which is used by the developing embryos. The little fish that hatches from the egg usually still has a yolk sac attached to it's ventral surface and is called an alevin. When all the yolk has been consumed, the little fish must seek food for itself and it is then called a fry.

Examples of the size and numbers of eggs in relation to the size of the parent fish are:

SpeciesDiameter of egg (mm)Number laid per pound of
female body weight
Grayling3.2 - 4.0 mm3000 - 4500
Pike2.5 - 4.0 mm10,000 - 20,000
Perch2.0 - 2.5 mmapprox 100,000
Tench1.2 mmapprox 275,000
Carp0.9 - 1.2 mmup to 550,000

The small eggs of May-July spawning cyprinids are usually attached to water weeds. They contain very little yolk and develop quickly, hatching after a few days into very small alevins. The tiny, delicate fry can eat only minute organisms such as diatoms, rotifers and water fleas and their food is generally different from that of adults.

These small food organisms are very abundant in summer in still water or in the shallow weedy areas of rivers where there is little or no flow. In some species such as Carp and Bream, the fry have adhesive organs and attach themselves to plants.
Most of the March-June spawners lay their eggs among or attached to stones but perch and pike need rooted plants. The eggs are of medium size and develop in a few weeks into fry which are small and able to feed on only small organisms. Like the fry of the later spawners, these must find diatoms, rotifers and water fleas and must change their diet later to that of the adults.
The fry are bigger and slightly less delicate than those of the May-July spawners and the females lay generally fewer eggs.