River Fishing for Pike: Where to Find Them

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Fishing for pike in rivers or canals is very different to fishing in lakes. Rivers offer a variety of different features in comparison, which can make it easier to find fish if you know what to look for. Pike are predatory fish and like to ambush their prey, which means they will often sit in the slacker parts of the river, waiting for their target to swim unsuspectingly by. Pike utilise cover wherever possible, be that undercut banks, tree roots, fallen trees or branches in the water. They also gravitate towards manmade structures, such as locks, weirs, bridges, moored boats or anything that can provide shade or cover…

Small, slow-running rivers make for great locations to find pike. They usually have plenty of features and bends, which makes finding hotspots easier. Not only this, but you can sometimes witness baitfish scatter after a pike has attacked, an event that is much harder to spot on larger stretches. It is true that larger rivers tend to hold bigger pike, but they are typically far more challenging to map out.

In the colder months bait fish will shoal up, this is a blessing and a curse. It means the fish will be confined to certain areas, making them harder to find, but at the same time if you are able to find them, you can be sure there will be pike not too far behind.

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In winter, if you find the bait fish, you can be sure you’ll find pike

When fishing a new stretch for pike, it pays to use a lure rod for the first few trips. You can cover more water in a shorter space of time, thereby discovering their location much faster. It’s understood that lure fishing doesn’t always produce the biggest fish, but it is a great way to identify productive swims to later revisit for dead or live baiting.

Compared to most lakes, rivers are full of snags and weed, because of this, switching to a weedless lure can save you a fair bit of money. Alternatively, some anglers fish with extremely heavy braid, so they can actually bend the hooks straight, should they get snagged.

When it comes to fishing rivers for pike, we recommend using a float method. There are a few reasons for this, but first and foremost it gives very little resistance when fish do pick up the bait, which when targeting pike is very important. We all know that pike are aggressive river monsters, but they are also rather fussy about what they eat, and won’t think twice about dropping food if they sense something isn’t quite right.

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A lovely river caught pike

Secondly, the float is second to none when it comes to bite indication, and let’s face it – who doesn’t get excited when a float starts to twitch? The float method also allows the angler to travel light and stay mobile, a core tenet of pike fishing, whilst also being able to adjust the depth of the float to match the conditions.

Once your settled in a spot, give it about half hour and move on if there’s no action. If you do manage to hook one, it’s worth sticking around as there may well be more pike in the swim.

In advance to your session, make sure to have a good night’s sleep and wrap up warm. Nobody enjoys themselves when they’re tired and cold. Part of pike fishing is staying mobile so you can cover as much water as possible, this is a real benefit in winter as it keeps the blood flowing, keeping you warm. 

Here are a few places that are worth checking for pike when fishing rivers:

Weir Pools

Quite simply, weir pools are a pike anglers dream. A weir pool is a large area of still or slow-running water, which has fast flowing water entering into it, over the top of a barrier or obstruction. This creates a pool of water that is well oxygenated and a great place for natural food to collect, a natural haven for fish of all species.

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Despite their aggressive nature, pike also exhibit extreme laziness and don’t like to waste their energy battling strong currents. Because of this, you’ll often find pike lurking in the slacker parts of the pool or the eddies.

Eddies occur when the current of the weir pool push slowly around the edges of the pool, back in the direction of the of the incoming water.

Weir pools, a favourite for many pike anglers

Locks

In comparison to natural rivers, nearly all canals tend to lack features. Because of this, locks can be excellent places to find pike, providing boat traffic and rules permit. The water just behind the lock is a great place to begin, as it is usually full of oxygen and natural food.

The entrance to a lock can be a great spot for pike. In order to access a lock, incoming boats have to carefully manoeuvre their way through and by doing so they can create deep sections in the silt which pike are known to make use of. The inside of the lock itself is always worth a look, but make sure you have permission to do so.

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Unfortunately, most locks require a permit due to the safety implications so make sure you check and obtain permission beforehand.

Bends in the river

When a river meanders, it creates slack and shallower areas of water on the inside edge. In such situations natural food sources settle in the slacker water, drawing in fish and as usual, pike are never far behind.

The outside edge of the bend is not to be ignored either. It is often much deeper than other parts of the river and can be undercut, providing brilliant cover to ambush prey from, particularly on rivers with a slow current.

A meandering river presents opportunity

Deep sections and drop offs

Pike naturally gravitate towards colder waters and are known to hide in the deeper sections of the river, especially in the warmer months. Identifying such areas is a challenge though, as it can be very time consuming to plumb the depth and map out the bottom of a river.

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Fish finders are a good investment if you plan to fish rivers a lot. They are now readily available and can save you a huge amount of time. A couple of visits to the river with one would soon tell you all you need to know about the varying depth.

Structures

Any form of man-made structure that’s present in or around a river can be a good place to find pike. Bridges are our favourite, with pike regularly being found in the edges, tucked in tight to the corners.

Moored boats can also be worth investigating, again they provide cover, particuarly on the more urban canals that are fairly featureless. In summary, any structure that is positioned in the water and forms an area of slack water, out of the main current is worth investigating.

Always take a closer look at anything that creates slacker water

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Snags

Just as is the case in lakes, pike love to rest in snags. Big trees close to the waters edge can be excellent spots, as the tree roots sprawl into the water, forming snags. Overgrown bushes hanging into the water or even broken tree trunks again give pike somewhere to hide and feel secure, as they patiently wait for their dinner to swim past.

Try and gather as much information as you can about a river before setting off into the unknown. You can use google maps to help find possible stretches and also the internet or social media.

Always take a closer look at anything that creates slacker water

No matter where you’re fishing, try and speak to local anglers wherever possible or local tackle shops, even the smallest nugget of information can be enough to get you on the fish. Many rivers nowadays belong to clubs so good free fishing can sometimes be hard to find, again speaking to locals will help you get a plan together, increasing your chances of having a successful days fishing.

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