Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over four years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff so if you are new to fly fishing or spinning these are the ones for you).

23 March 2009.

Pike, pike, pike!

Since seeing my first pike when I was a young lad (it took a worm baited handline that was being used for eels) I've been mad keen to catch these beautiful fish. Even though I'm now retired from work as a fishery scientist, for the past fifteen year's or so I've been fortunate to find myself more or less involved in research on the life of pike. Over the years, with the help of my colleagues, I've caught, handled, counted, measured, aged, tagged, tracked, fed and generally studied the ins and outs of the life of countless fish of all sizes. At the moment I'm helping Marina Nyquist, from Finland, with her work on tracing the breeding activities of river pike. Marina has been catching fish and implanting little tags (like the ones that help you to keep tabs on your pet dog or cat) in them so that they can be recognised next time she comes across them. One of my roles has been to catch as many fish as possible for her to label and of course they need to be in mint condition when they are released so rod and line is best the way to do it.

Just before the end of the season we went on a tagging session and I took a few pictures to show what is involved. The pike were mostly caught on fish baits and after being landed they were placed in keep sacks for a short period until all the tagging gear could be brought along to the spot. The fish were then lightly anaesthetised to reduce stress and minimise the risk of injury while they were being tagged. Clearly this approach is pretty effective because a number of the fish were found to have been tagged years earlier in other research studies.

A few scales were removed for aging, a tiny fin sample was snipped off and preserved (a bit like a toenail clipping) for genetic analysis. This should help to work out the relationships between different fish. The pike were measured and weighed to establish their growth. They were scanned for the presence of previous tags and then, if necessary, a new tag was inserted. The fish were then allowed to 'come round' in fresh river water and returned to where they had been caught, each bearing its own unique, electronic, identification number.

No doubt in two or three years time Marina will be able to add a good deal to what we already know about the behaviour of pike and this may help us in the future to maintain healthy populations of these fantastic predators. Science like this is being carried out all over the world, has already told us a huge amount about the lives of pike. Most of this information lies hidden away in the jargon of published scientific papers. Many of the facts about where pike live, what pike do, when they feed, what they eat and so on could be gold dust for the aspiring pike angler, so I decided that it was worth trying to put it in a book. Working with my friend Dr Jerome Masters, a pike expert and fishery scientist with the Environment Agency, we've managed to dig out most of the known details of how pike operate. We sent a draft of our writings to The Crowood Press and it will soon be published as a fact filled, 'angler friendly', pike fishing book.

Got one!

A candidate for tagging, over thirteen pounds and in fine fettle.

Who are you?

The monitor tells us that this one had been tagged some years earlier.  The gold spot is probably just a 'freckle'.

DNA etc.

A small sample of fin can tell us a lot.


Just like tree rings, in skilled hands the scales can be read and will quickly regrow.

Hard at work.

Marina organises her kit.  The tubes in the white tray each contain an electronic tag.