Skip to content
Pike Fishing Guide: UK Edition

Pike Fishing Guide: UK Edition

Pike fishing has been a popular sport in the UK for centuries, with evidence of its popularity dating back to mediaeval times. These majestic fish, known for their aggressive behaviour and formidable size, present a unique challenge to fishermen. They embody the essence of sport fishing, combining skill, patience, and knowledge. Found in rivers, lakes, and canals throughout the country, pike fishing offers a diverse range of accessible environments for anglers of all levels to explore.

The Pike: A Deeper Insight

Understanding the pike, scientifically known as Esox lucius, is crucial for any angler looking to master pike fishing. These apex predators are known for their impressive size, which can reach over a metre in length and distinctive appearance. With a streamlined body, a duckbill-shaped snout, and a mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth, pikes are built for efficient hunting.

Their diet is varied, consisting mainly of fish, but they are opportunistic feeders and won't shy away from preying on frogs, ducklings, and even small mammals if the opportunity arises. This versatility in diet makes them an unpredictable target, adding an exciting layer of challenge for fishermen.

Pike's exceptional vision and lateral line system enable them to detect the slightest movements in the water, making them formidable ambush predators. They’re capable of explosive bursts of speed, which they use to their advantage when striking unsuspecting prey. This predatory behaviour highlights the importance of anglers understanding and anticipating their movements and feeding habits. 

Pike Habitats Across the UK

Pike are renowned for their adaptability and thrive in various aquatic environments across the UK. These include not only the well-known rivers and lakes but also smaller water bodies like ponds and even some brackish environments near estuaries. This adaptability makes them accessible to anglers throughout the country.

In rivers, pike often favour areas with slower currents, such as backwaters or deep pools with ample cover. These environments allow them to conserve energy while waiting for prey. Additionally, they are often found near natural obstacles like fallen trees and undercut banks or artificial structures like piers, which provide excellent ambush points.

Lakes offer a different dynamic, with pike typically found in areas rich in natural food sources. This includes regions with abundant vegetation, near inflowing streams, or around submerged features like rock formations and drop-offs. In larger lakes, pike may migrate seasonally, moving to shallow bays or nearshore areas in the spring for spawning and retreating to deeper, cooler waters in the summer heat.

Each habitat offers its unique challenges and opportunities for pike fishing. Understanding these habitat preferences is key to successful pike fishing, and anglers must adapt their strategies based on the type of water body they are fishing in. For instance, stealth and precision may be more important in smaller ponds, while covering more area to locate pike can be beneficial in larger lakes.  

Seasonal Strategies for Pike Fishing: Further Insights

Pike fishing throughout the year in the UK demands an understanding of the pike's seasonal patterns and behaviour changes. 


During spring, especially post-spawning, anglers can find pike in shallower waters recuperating and feeding. This period offers an opportunity to fish in areas typically less accessible at other times of the year, such as shallow bays and inlets. Anglers should focus on slower, more deliberate presentations as pike are recovering and might be less aggressive.


As summer temperatures rise, pike seek deeper, cooler waters to escape the heat. This shift requires anglers to adapt their techniques, possibly employing deeper diving lures or weighted lines to reach the pike's preferred depths. However, pike may venture into shallower areas to feed when the water cools in the early mornings and late evenings, providing excellent opportunities for surface or near-surface lures.


Autumn is often heralded as the prime season for pike fishing. The dropping temperatures lead to increased pike activity as they prepare for the harsher winter months. This time of year, pike are more aggressive and can be found in a variety of habitats, feeding heavily. Anglers should take advantage of this by using a mix of fast-moving lures and baits, mimicking the natural prey pike seek.


Pike fishing can be particularly challenging in winter due to the cold water temperatures, which make pike less active. They often retreat to deeper areas where the water temperature is more stable. This season requires patience and precision in presenting baits and lures in these deeper zones. Slow-moving or stationary baits can be more effective as pike are less willing to chase fast-moving prey.

Adapting to these seasonal behaviours increases the likelihood of successful catches and adds depth to the fishing experience. Each season brings unique challenges and rewards, making pike fishing a continually engaging and evolving pursuit for anglers of all levels.

Essential Gear for Pike Fishing

While a strong, medium to heavy action rod, a reliable reel, and a durable line are basic necessities, anglers should consider additional factors for an enhanced fishing experience.

  • Advanced Rod Features: Beyond length and action, the material of the rod can also impact performance. Carbon fibre rods offer a great balance of strength and sensitivity, ideal for detecting subtle pike bites. Additionally, the handle design, whether cork or foam, can affect grip and comfort during longer fishing sessions.

  • Reel Specifications: For baitcasting reels, look for models with a high gear ratio for quick retrieval, beneficial when fishing with certain types of lures like spinnerbaits. A larger spool can be advantageous for longer casts and better line management for spinning reels.

  • Line Selection: While braided lines are standard, the line's colour can be chosen based on water clarity. In clear waters, a more subdued colour like green or brown can be less visible to pike, while in murky waters, a high-visibility line helps monitor line movement.

  • Leader Options: The length and strength of the leader are pivotal. A longer leader can be more effective in clear waters where pike are more line-shy, while a shorter, sturdier leader is suitable for dense vegetation to avoid snags.

  • Hooks and Rigging: The size and type of hooks should match the chosen bait or lure. For larger baits, a correspondingly larger hook ensures better hook-ups. Additionally, exploring different rigging options, like using a tandem hook setup, can increase the chances of a successful catch.

  • Accessory Considerations: Tools like pliers for unhooking, a good quality net, and a tackle box with various lures and baits tailored to different conditions are also essential. Additionally, having a range of weights and float options allows for versatility in presenting the bait at different depths and conditions.

Effective Pike Lures and Baits

Pike are known for their aggressive response to a wide range of lures, but understanding the nuances can make a significant difference.

  • Diverse Lure Options: While spoons, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics are staples, diversifying with crankbaits, jerkbaits, and swimbaits can be advantageous. Each type of lure has a unique action in the water, appealing to pike in different ways. For example, crankbaits mimic the movement of small fish, making them effective in waters where pike prey on baitfish.

  • Colour and Size Variation: The colour and size of the lures should match the local prey fish to increase effectiveness. Brighter colours or lures with reflective surfaces can attract more attention in murky waters. Conversely, in clear water, more naturally coloured lures are preferable to avoid spooking the fish.

  • Live Bait Techniques: When using live baits like small fish, it's crucial to present them in a way that mimics natural movement. Techniques like float fishing or using a slow retrieve can be effective. Adjusting the live bait's size according to the pike size in the area can also be beneficial.

  • Seasonal Lure Choices: The choice of lure can also be season-dependent. Topwater lures can provide exciting action in warmer months as pike aggressively strike surface baits. During colder months, slower-moving lures that can be fished deeper, such as large jigs or soft plastics, are more effective as the pike's metabolism slows.

  • Experimentation and Observation: Pike can be unpredictable, so experimenting with different lures and observing their response is vital. Changing up retrieval speeds, the depth at which the lure is fished, and even the time of day can lead to successful outcomes.

Effective Pike Lures and Baits

Delving deeper into advanced pike fishing techniques reveals a world where finesse meets intuition. These techniques go beyond the basics, requiring a blend of skill, experience, and understanding of pike behaviour.

  • Strategic Casting and Retrieval: Advanced anglers often employ specific casting techniques like fan casting, which involves casting in a systematic pattern to cover a larger area. Varying the speed and rhythm of the lure's retrieval can also trigger strikes from pike that are otherwise unresponsive. Quick, erratic retrieves can mimic injured prey, while slower, steady retrieves may appeal to more lethargic fish.

  • Utilising Structure and Cover: Understanding how pike use structures and cover for ambush can refine targeting strategies. Casting near weed lines, drop-offs, or submerged objects and strategically manoeuvring the lure to pass these potential hiding spots can provoke an ambush from a waiting pike.

  • Surface and Subsurface Techniques: Surface fishing with poppers or walk-the-dog style lures can be highly effective, especially in the early morning or late evening. In contrast, subsurface techniques, such as using weighted soft plastics or sinking lures, are crucial when targeting deeper dwelling pike.

  • Weather and Water Conditions: Advanced anglers pay close attention to weather patterns and water conditions. For example, after a rainstorm, pike may be more active, feeding on prey washed into the water. Similarly, changes in water clarity can dictate the choice of lure colour and type.

  • Tactical Adaptability: Perhaps the most important advanced technique is adaptability. This involves changing tactics based on real-time observations of pike behaviour, water conditions, and other environmental factors. It might mean switching from aggressive tactics to more subtle presentations or altering the fishing location based on the time of day or season.

These advanced techniques add layers of complexity and excitement to pike fishing. They challenge anglers to think critically, adapt dynamically, and understand the intricacies of pike behaviour, making each fishing trip not only a pursuit of catching fish but also a journey of learning and skill enhancement.

Catch and Release Best Practices

Ethical angling, especially in the context of catch and release, is not just about the act of releasing the fish but also ensuring its well-being during and after the catch. This practice is vital in sustaining healthy pike populations and preserving the sport for future generations.

  • Proper Handling Techniques: When handling pike, it's essential to support their weight horizontally, avoiding stress on their jaw and internal organs. Using a landing net with a soft, knotless mesh can help reduce injury to the fish.

  • Minimising Air Exposure: Pike should be kept out of water for the shortest time possible. Prolonged exposure to air can lead to stress and damage to their gills and skin. Preparing tools like pliers and cameras in advance can help shorten the time spent out of water.

  • Hook Removal and Barbless Hooks: Using barbless hooks or crimping the barbs on hooks facilitates easier and quicker hook removal, minimising injury. If the hook is deeply embedded, it may be safer to cut the line as close to the hook as possible rather than attempting to remove it.

  • Reviving Pike Before Release: Before releasing a pike, it's vital to ensure it's adequately revived, especially after a strenuous fight. This practice involves holding the pike in the water, allowing water to flow through its gills, and waiting until it demonstrates strong, active swimming before letting it go.

  • Education and Awareness: Promoting catch-and-release practices among the angling community is crucial. Sharing knowledge on proper techniques and the importance of these practices can foster a culture of conservation and respect for the species.

Final Thoughts

Pike fishing stands as a testament to the blend of skill, patience, and respect for nature inherent in the sport. It's a pursuit that continuously evolves, influenced by the deep understanding of the pike's biology, their diverse habitats, and the subtle changes in their behaviour across seasons.


The art of selecting the right gear, mastering lures and baits, and applying advanced techniques underpins the angler's journey. Above all, the commitment to ethical angling ensures the sustainability and future of this challenging yet rewarding sport. Pike fishing is not just about the thrill of the catch; it's about the harmony between the angler, the fish, and the environment.

For those passionate about embracing the challenges and rewards of pike fishing, we at CPS Tackle are here to support your journey. Contact us for expert advice, quality equipment, and a shared commitment to the sport's sustainable future.

Previous article Fish Care: A How-To Guide For Anglers
Next article How to stay warm when carp fishing in winter