One of the most enjoyable aspects of fishing, other than just being out in the wilderness of course, is playing fish to the net. Feeling the fish pull and fight for freedom is satisfying, as is the whole anticipation of “am I going to land this fish or is it going to roll off the hook and escape?” For most species of fish it is best to fish as light as possible, i.e. use tackle that is just strong enough to get the fish in the landing net. If you use strong rods and heavy line the battle with the fish won’t be all that exciting.
When you fish for pike you should never fish light and use tackle that is ‘just’ strong enough. If the line breaks whilst battling a pike to the net the fish is going to be left with some nasty fishing tackle attached to it, which will almost certainly end in death. Many anglers use big lures, which is totally fine, provided any pike that ends up attacking it and getting hooked is removed from it.
Whilst fishing the Norfolk Broads I have come across several dead pike floating in the margins with lures and spinning traces or dead bait/live bait rigs and traces hanging out of their mouths, and when I have taken a closer look at the small amount of tag line attached to the swivel it is always weak and thin monofilament that should not have been used to catch pike.
Many anglers fishing the Norfolk Broads will try and catch a pike during their trip, and many of these anglers will use the same fishing gear that they use to catch the small silver fish. These anglers tire of the small stuff, cut the rig from the line, tie on a spinning trace, attach a lure and then start pike fishing. The tackle you use for catching roach, bream and whatever else is swimming about is not sufficient for pike, even the small jacks you see splashing around the margins.
Pike are strong, powerful fish and a 3lb jack pike will fight ten times harder than a 3lb bream. In fact a 3lb jack pike will probably put up more of a scrap than a double figure bream. If you want to catch pike from the Norfolk Broads, or anywhere for that matter, you need to fish heavier. Even if you are only intending on trying for small pike you need to use heavy tackle.
To catch pike on the Norfolk Broads you should use line of at least 10lbs breaking strain and no less. Many anglers will argue that line of 10lbs breaking strain is too heavy, and whilst it is for general coarse fishing on the Norfolk Broads it isn’t for pike fishing on the Norfolk Broads.
Even though the majority of pike you are likely to catch from the Norfolk Broads are going to weigh less than 10lbs, it is crucial to use heavy line to ensure you can get the pike to the net. The Norfolk Broads is full of snags (weed beds, reeds, fallen branches and tree trunks etc.) and when the pike are hooked they will head straight for these. Using strong line will ensure you can get the pike out of the snags and to the net so you can remove the hooks.
When you catch pike you should not play them for any longer than is absolutely necessary. Some anglers like to play fish until they are totally exhausted, and will then drag them to landing net. You should never do this with pike. When you slip the landing net under a pike it should still have plenty of energy left, so it can quickly recover from the battle and swim away. If you play a pike too long, i.e. to the point of exhaustion, it can lead to death – and no angler wants to be responsible for killing a fish.
Using 10lbs breaking strain line will enable you to get the pike to the net whilst it is still in “fight” mode, which means it has plenty of energy left to recover and then swim away, unharmed.
If you are planning to have a go at catching pike after a day’s general coarse fishing on the Norfolk Broads, and I highly recommend you do, please please please make sure you use a different set up and don’t just tie on a trace and lure and cast it out.