Handling Pike

The handling of Pike is one of the most important parts of Pike Angling to understand. Why, because this can be the point where the Pikes' good condition and life could be held in the balance due to the Anglers inexperience and the range of factors that are associated with inexperience. In the ideal world, the first time we went Pike Angling, we would have gone with an experienced Pike Angler. As we know this is not always the reality, so a few basics to start off with should help to ensure confident and safe handling of Pike.

Handling Pike On the Bank

Prevent Deep Hooking

  1. Ensure immediate bite indication, always watch and remain close to your rods.
  2. Strike as soon as the run begins. This will prevent deep hooking on 9 out of 10 runs.


  • Preparation Notes: Have an unhooking point setup on the bank before landing your first fish. For the best positioning when unhooking, choose a flat area of bank. If necessary, it is better to carry the fish up the bank to a safe handling location than to struggle at the waters edge and open up the possibility for damage to the Pike. An unhooking mat should be part of basic tackle, the mat will protect the body of the fish from hard, sharp objects on the ground.
  1. When the Pike has been placed on the mat remove from the landing net. Immediately kneel down and place the pike on its back between legs. Close legs until the Pike is firmly held without crushing it.
  • Handling Notes: Pike, especially the smaller ones, will always struggle or try to snake away. Firmly grab the Pike around the main body, there is no need to go near the gills or jaw at this point. Unless confident of the hooks location.
  1. Once the Pike is secured, it is time to check where the hooks are located in the Pikes mouth. The quickest method is to open the gill covers to see which side the the hooks are situated.
    To open the gills simply run thumbs along the gill covers and part the gills. Once the gills have been parted the hooks can be seen. The reason for finding hook location is so that the Angler does not hook themselves, when the Pikes jaw is gripped while unhooking.
  2. Now the hooks have been located it is time to get them out. First reel the slack on the line tight so that the line runs straight from the Pikes Mouth.
  3. The next stage is to open the jaw. Leading with the index finger, run a hand up the inside of the gill covers avoiding contact with the gills. As the hand runs up the inside of the gill cover it will lead onto the jaw bone. Once the index finger reaches the top of the jaw close the hands grip to firmly grasp the jaw bone. Now that the jaw is gripped firmly, slowly pull the jaw open. At this point the Pike may decide to try and escape your grasp. Try to hold fast, if the Pike is held correctly the grip should hold. The hooks wil now be exposed for unhooking.
  • Unhooking Notes:When the Pike struggles there is every chance that the back of the fingers will make contact with the gill rakers. This contact will hurt and can cause the angler to let go of the Pike. There are ways of preventing this occurring, the most common is to use an unhooking glove, these can be purchased from most angling shops. The alternative to a glove, is to wrap plasters around the two leading fingers. The best plasters for the job are the Elastplast Finger Strips, as they are longer and don't come off when they get wet. The most import element of the glove or the plasters is to protect the Angler, as most times when the fingers contact the gill rakers it will break the skin and cause bleeding. As we all know cuts and river banks aren't the healthiest combination, so these precautions help both the Pike and the Angler.
Getting to the hooks
  1. Accessing the hooks, most of the time is a simple process of opening up the mouth and dipping in with the forceps. Occasionally the hooks will position themselves in way that makes it impossible to gain a good leverage to remove the hook. When this situation occurs, rather than going in through the mouth it is possible to gain a better and safer access to the hooks through the gill covers. When this root is taken always try to avoid or have minimal contact with the Pikes gills.
  • Unhooking Notes: If the bite indication used is setup correctly, immediate striking of runs and when using single and double hooks, the chances of deeper hooking of the Pike will be reduced.
Getting to hooks in the gullet