Temperature sensitivity in Pike


I think that most experienced pikers know that when the water warms up – it’s time to fish for something else. Warm water pike fishing does not do the fish any favours at all – however, to be hypocritical, I have done it – and as long as you are sensible and know how to look after the fish I haven’t had that many problems. Now in that sentence you will understand the problem – “know how to look after your fish”. With warm temperatures out come the idiots who don’t know any better, catch pike and kill them because they can’t unhook them – to my mind this is a separate issue to temperature sensitivity and should be tackled differently.
Recently a report was drafted, commissioned by the Pike Anglers’ Club, I have attached it here.
The crux of the report is … if the air temperature reaches 21c for three or more days, or the water temperature reaches 21c, don’t fish for Pike. Which is fairly logical reasoning, but the thing that may not be overly obvious to many is that even on some of our bigger waters the mean water temperature will still be high well into October, in fact it could even be higher than in June on some waters, so to say “Summer pike fishing is wrong” is a bit of a misnomer – it would be better to say that warm water pike fishing is wrong.


For my two penny’s worth If I were running a fishery I would stop all forms of pike fishing once the water temperature hit 19 degrees, full stop! There is an argument that lure fishing or pike fly fishing doesn’t cause the damage that bait fishing does at these temperatures, but it’s not about the method it’s about playing and recovery times when the water is hot, and those don’t change.

At the back end of June – so “Summer”, one of the waters I was on was 16 Degrees and the fishing was fantastic, the fish were really active and smashing everything I threw at them, there were no issues with fish struggling to go back – the only issue was deep-hooked fish on lures, which isn’t an issue if you have your croppers and cut the hooks off, but, alas, I fear that still most pike anglers don’t do this.


Anyway, I digress –
Over the course of five days the water temperature elevated to 18.5 degrees and the fishing slowed, the air temp over these days was between 22 – 24 degrees (which ties in with the PAC report) and on the last day water temperature was 19 degrees (my self-imposed cut off). So, I stopped fishing. So, you can see how quickly water temperature can increase, and this was on a vast water. On smaller waters, e.g. drains and rivers this temperature increase will happen a lot quicker, and you have to be aware of it as you could possibly go from safe (if anything is really safe) fishing to potentially unsafe very quickly, possibly even overnight.

Now most of my fishing is done with lures, unless it’s really warm, as discussed, pike don’t swallow lures, (not true by the way but they shouldn’t – It’s only happened twice but I have had pike that have been gut-hooked on soft small plastics) – but bait fishing is different – pike can wolf down baits at the best of times – warm water active pike can be even worse. For this reason, I would go even further and say no bait fishing until the temperature is 16 degrees or lower. The good news is that some of our bigger waters and those over the boarder do stay within this acceptable range for quite a period of time and you may only have a two or three months were you shouldn’t really be fishing.


So, the 19 / 16-degree rule seems a reasonable to me, but it’s self-imposed – I can’t see how it could ever be truly regulated except by water owners. Some of which do care for their fish, which is pleasing, others, disapprovingly, don’t, and even in the extreme heatwave conditions we had last year, when air temps went to 30 degrees, they still allowed boats to go out.
Luckily, in extremes like this pike don’t really feed anyway, or when they do it’s usually very early (before people go out) or very late (after the boats get back) so that saves some of them.


There is another phenomenon that I have noticed with regard to pike caught at around 19 degrees water temperature. That is their ability to die in the net! I have seen it happen loads when people don’t put the fish back as soon as possible – leaving them in the net is possibly good practice later on when the water is cooler as it gives them time to recover. But when it’s hot it’s the kiss of death for the fish, as is holding them at the side of the boat. For some reason when you do this pike can often stop breathing, their gills don’t move and they will roll about and struggle to right themselves. Instinctively the caring angler holds them upright by the wrist of their tail – but to no avail. Fish retaining held over spawn (which can be a lot of revivor fish) are often the most vulnerable to this non-breathing phenomenon.


The absolute best way to deal with this behaviour is to slip them back in as soon as possible and don’t hold them at all – I know this seems counter intuitive – a bit like torpedoing deep water zander, but it works, as soon as the fish kicks it will go. I now slide all my fish back in straight from the sladle, and have never had an issue since – try it.