Perhaps the most famous pike angler in the UK Neville Fickling has amassed a whopping 400 pike over 20 lbs in his career amongst a long list of other accomplishments and a personal best of 41 lb 6 oz (which he beat in 2022 with a 41 lb 12 oz goliath).
This book takes a "what you need to do" approach and spends time outlining the basics which are extremely beneficial to the beginner anglers. There is a huge focus on shore fishing however and the suggestions on gear are to allow anglers to cast huge distances to reach fish. In addition pike target prey that is most abundant and can change if others are introduced.
Despite all the talk about the basics there are some very interesting points discussed throughout the book that are of particular interest to the experienced angler. Let's start off with the ceiling or limit of pike fishing. What is the potential you can expect from this sport. Although Canadian weather is not the same as the UK it is still very good for pike growth:
Neville does not think 20 lb is a "big" pike
5 20+ lbers is a difficult year
10 20+ lbers is a good year
15-25 is an exceptional year
From this book we know that Neville spends all his time fishing. For someone who spends so much time in obviously extremely productive pike waters (which have significantly declined in productivity) he still thinks that 15-25 20 lbers is an exceptional year. This isn't even one every two weeks! For someone on the water a lot two weeks is a long time. For an occasional angler or weekend warrior hitting the same amount of time on the water could take a couple months & Neville routinely notes that there are a lot of bad days and few incredibly days when multiple giant fish bite; reducing your chances even further.
Despite the experiences above Neville had some other key observations. One being that repeat catches are fairly common (from photo evidence) and because of this he was able to note fish weight changes constantly based on season and if it just ate (especially for the giant fish that can eat a 5 lb meal). He also notes the truly gigantic fish are frequently caught at the end of their life, and not just once! He noted, with photo evidence, that huge fish would be caught multiple times in a few week period and then would often be found dead the next spring. This might offer an explanation for some of our own experiences this season as 2 pike of 43" were hooked, brought into the boat in under 30 seconds, and quickly released with no accidents or bad hook placements to injure the fish. When released, both fish died with seemingly no reason. Perhaps these fish were just at the end of their life and the added stress of being caught was too much to handle.
From this book Neville & the data he has collected & studies completed in the UK outlines that just to survive pike need 1.2 to 1.5 times body weight in a year. The annual food requirement for adequate growth is 3 times body weight in a year. For a 20 lb fish this is 60 lbs of food. For a few different baits with average sizes below
Perch: 0.5 lbs
Cisco: 1 lbs
Sucker: 2 lbs
Emerald Shiners: 0.002 lbs
From the weight above this means a pike would need the following number of meals to make up their 60 lbs of food for the year.
Perch: 120 meals
Cisco: 60 meals
Sucker: 30 meals
Emerald Shiners: 30,000 meals
From this it is easy to see why big pike are so hard to catch. As the meals get bigger, which are needed to sustain big fish, the frequency of needing to feed gets increasingly lower. For perch they may need to feed every three days but even less for much larger species. Small bait on the other hand needs to be consumed in unsustainable proportions to produce big fish.
Overall this was a good read filled with stories from a lifetime of catching giant pike and the pictures to back it up. While the measurement to weight ratio of the UK pike doesn't match up with our Canadian pike the pictures taken show just how thick these fish really are.
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