How to Handle Pike: Unhooking & Holding Pike

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So you’re thinking about getting into pike fishing, but not sure how to handle them? If possible, always try to go with someone who can teach you, that way you get first hand experience on how to handle these incredible fish.

Despite being lean mean killing machines, pike are surprisingly delicate and endure significant injury from poor handling, so it’s important that you know what you’re doing beforehand. Pike have mouths filled with razor sharp teeth that you’ll of course want to avoid, but if handled correctly, you and the fish will be free from any injury.

Some anglers prefer to use a glove for unhooking which is perfectly safe for the fish, especially if it gives you more confidence. If you want to employ this tactic, make sure it’s a glove designed for pike fishing as other gloves can get caught in the gill rakers and give you another problem to deal with.

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Necessary equipment

Many anglers use barbed treble hooks when fishing for pike and unlike carp, pike are prone to being deep hooked or being hooked in the gills. For this reason, it’s important to always have a set of long reach pliers, cutters and forceps to hand, should you need them.

Pliers, cutters and forceps need to be with you at all times

Occasionally, if a fish is deep hooked, you will need to cut the barbs off so as to reduce damage to the fish and make unhooking quicker and easier. This is especially true when using trebles, so make sure your cutters are up to the job beforehand.

It’s best practice to use a good-sized rubber or latex coated net when fishing for and catching pike. These nets are brilliant, as they prevent the fish’s teeth or spines from getting caught and potentially damaging the fish, a risk that a regular mesh nets pose.

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The last thing you should do is take it straight out of water and suffocate it

Once your fish is safely in the net, give it a couple of minutes to rest and regain a bit of energy. At this point it will have just fought with every ounce of strength it had, the last thing you should do is take it straight out of water and suffocate it without so much as a rest first. Whilst it’s resting, ensure you have a wet landing mat and your camera equipment ready, doing so will reduce the amount of time the fish is out of the water.

Handling Tips

The best way to hold a pike is known as the chin grip. This gives you complete control of the pike and keeps your hands and fingers away from any teeth. With that said, you should be mindful of the gill rakers, these are rough spines which cover the gills and can nick the skin on the back of your fingers if the fish flares up and thrashes. It doesn’t hurt but is enough to occasionally draw blood. If you do feel that the fish about to thrash, having a good grip is vital in order to prevent the fish from hurting itself and you.

It’s also worth trying to gauge where your hooks are before sticking your hand in blind, the last thing you want is to chin a pike and get a hook stuck in your finger.

Handling a pike in a controlled way is key to keeping both the fish and you safe

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How to Correctly Handle Pike: The Chin Grip

Step 1

On a mat, lay your prize on it’s back and straddle it between your knees. This gives you full control should the fish try and thrash which is often the case, especially with smaller pike.

Step 2

Gently lift the gill cover.

Step 3

Slide two or three fingers under the gill plate and move forwards to front of the mouth, into the v shape in the jaw. Don’t worry, your fingers are not near the teeth and are perfectly safe.

Step 4

Pull up gently with your fingers to open the jaws slightly. You will feel the chin bone, which is flat and separated from the jawbone by a very thin sheet of skin.

It is this bone that you need to grip. Be careful not to pull on the protective sheet of skin, as you could end up tearing it and causing permanent damage to the fish.

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Step 5

Now, using your fingers pull up. The mouth will open wide, making it easy for you to see your hooks and remove them from the fish using your long reach pliers or forceps.

It is this bone that you need to grip. Be careful not to pull on the protective sheet of skin, as you could end up tearing it and causing permanent damage to the fish.

Sometimes it can be awkward to get the angle right to get the hook out. For this very reason, angled pliers are handy to have with you. It is possible to unhook through the side of the gill plate, but be extremely careful and only do so as a last resort because damaging the gills, particularly during the cold weather will prove fatal for the fish.

Managing a Deep Hooked Fish

A deep hooked pike is every pike angler’s nightmare. It is often the result of letting the pike run with the bait for too long, though it is not the only cause. Sometimes pike take the bait so quickly, due to their ravenous appetite, and there is very little you can do about it.

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Deep hooking doesn’t happen often but it happens to every pike angler sooner or later. The trick is to not panic and if you’re struggling, let the fish rest if it’s been out of the water for a while. Whilst resting never cut the trace as it could make it harder to pull on if it’s too short.

What you need to do is gently pull the pikes stomach up into the throat, to access your hooks. This is a lot easier if you have someone with you because trying to chin a fish and pull on the line with your teeth whilst using forceps is extremely difficult.

It is a challenge, but if done correctly can be a successful way to unhook the fish without causing any damage.

Have a buddy maintain tension on the trace and very slowly the stomach will pull out, providing it’s not too far down. It is a challenge, but if done correctly can be a successful way to unhook the fish without causing any damage. Once you remove the hooks, hold the fish vertically using the chin grip and give it a gentle shake to try and help the stomach settle back down into its natural position.

When returning the fish, first make sure you let it rest properly in the margin. Hold it by the tail to support it where possible and to help keep it upright. When its energy has returned, it will kick and swim off to fight another day.

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