When landing pike, a large, knotless landing net of a minimum 36 inch width should be used. Ensure that the mesh of the net is well sunk before drawing the pike over it and lifting the net sufficiently to retain the pike.
Once safely netted, it is good practice to unclip your wire trace from your main line. This will allow you to replace your rod out of harms way on its bank sticks or pod and is one less item to deal with.
Next lift the fish, taking care to support the frame of the net, to the prearranged unhooking area. If necessary, gather up the mesh to raise the pike further from the ground. If fishing alone, always ensure all unhooking equipment is prepared & accessible.
If fishing with someone else it is sound practice to keep the pike in the water in the landing net while they ready the unhooking equipment.
Never lay pike down on hard or rough surfaces always use an area of soft grass or preferably a well padded unhooking mat.
When lure fishing many experienced pike anglers prefer to land their pike by hand. This is a method best used on small fish, and only when hooks are clearly visible and avoided. At all other times a net is to be preferred.
With your pike safely in the net and carried ashore, place it on a large, padded unhooking mat. Look to see where your hooks are before proceeding to handle the fish. Insert one or two fingers under a gill plate, keeping them well away from any hooks. Lift the pike’s head carefully and its mouth will usually open. Maintain this hold while you use a pair of 10-12 inch artery forceps to grip and remove the hooks – top hook first, then the lower. If the hooks are in deeper near the throat, insert the forceps through the gaps in the gills below your ‘holding-hand’. Please do this with great care and preferably under instruction if for the first time.
When fishing with lures, which tend to have bigger and thicker-wired hooks fitted, you will benefit from the use of long nosed pliers as opposed to forceps. Always carry a strong pair of side-cutters in case you need to cut through the hooks to aid unhooking.
Treat the fish with respect and approach with confident, definite movements. If the pike is sizeable you may find it easier to unhook by kneeling astride it (do not in anyway sit on the fish!). If the hooks are difficult to get out, do not cut the trace. Put the pike in the landing net and into the water. Then seek help from another pike angler, do not feel embarrassed, we have all been there.
Do not forget that you are dealing with a living creature that is out of its natural environment and that the clock is ticking. It may be sensible to place the pike in the margins to re-charge it’s batteries before continuing.
The fish should not be out of the water for longer than two or three minutes at a stretch!
The best way to avoid deep hooking pike is to use good bite detection to pay attention to it and to strike as soon as you can. Placing the hooks towards the rear of the bait will further reduce the chances of a pike swallowing them. The use of barbless or semi-barbless hooks will make unhooking much easier should this happen.
It is important to ensure that pike are always returned to the water with the minimum amount of fuss and they should not be retained for any longer than necessary. For this reason it pays to be well organised by having unhooking and weighing equipment prepared in advance. Once a pike has been weighed it can usually be released immediately. Of course, if it is a big one you might want to photograph it and your photographic equipment should also be organised before you take the pike from the water.
Reproduced with kind permission of the Pike Anglers Alliance For Scotland