Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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Freshwater Fishing

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 several 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. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. 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).

Circle hooks and pike on dead baits.

Iíve been using circle hooks for predator fishing for years now. Not only do these devices help me to land lots of good fish but they almost invariably catch in the edge of the mouth and so facilitate catch and release. They are so successful that I rarely use a J hook any more except when Iím after softer mouthed quarry (carp, roach, dace and the like). Lip hooked livebaits, snout hooked wobbled deadbaits, worms, whole squid and fillets of mackerel have now tempted many bass, wrasse, pike and perch onto the sharply incurved points. However, although Iíve thought about it and commented that it should work, I have never tried circle hooks with static deadbaits for pike. Nowadays this technique is one of the most popular pike fishing tactics and the baits are generally armed with one or a couple of trebles, often semi-barbless to try and minimise damage to any pike which might engulf the bait. A recent email from a keen pike angler has filled in the gap and I can say with some confidence that these cleverly designed hooks are just as effective when used with traditional deadbaits. They could (and probably should) replace the fancy rigs and multiple points which often require forceps and tricky manipulations to remove from the pikeís toothy maw. Hereís what I was told -

Hello Mike

Hope you donít mind me e-mailing you but I thought you might be interested in the experience Iíve had using circle hooks (for pike). I started using them for the same reasons that most of us do, deep hooking. In 2009 I decided to trial them properly using two rods, one using my normal rig and the other a circle hook. The rod with the circle rig had to be made obvious because of the different striking technique so I marked the butt and just to be sure always made certain that the rod was placed on the right of the two. Halfway through this testing period I read your article in the Anglers Mail which added to the confidence I was already gaining.

I fished fairly shallow fenland drains at short range, usually under 25 yards, using pencil floats with barrel leads and 18" Carbotec traces, 20 or 30lb Berkeley Braid (I now use Crystal braid with the last 12 - 15 feet toned down with a dappling of green and brown marker pens). The original rig was a size 2 partridge single with a size 6 treble and the bait was a joey hooked through the wrist of the tail with the treble 2/3 way down the flank towards the head. The circle rig consisted of 4/0 Varivas or 3/0 Gamakatsu hooks with the same size joeys just hooked through the tail wrist. My rods are of a soft action, because of the braid, and are 12 feet long having a 3 or 3.5 lbs TC

The only change I have made since the trial is to abandon the floats and fish with the line as tight from rod tip to bait as possible. I use a small barrel lead above the trace held in place with a braid stop above it and bite alarms and drop arm indicators. As soon as I get any indication at all I take the rod out of the rests and feel the line. Whatever I feel governs when I slowly tighten and draw the hook in before Ďleaningí on it. The success rate is much higher than when I used traditional rigs and because the results were so positive I have now abandoned any other rig in favour of circles.

The data I had recorded for a while before the trial was that 135 runs resulted in 21 missed, 15 bumped off and 99 landed.

During the trial the original rig resulted in 23/6/5 with 12 landed.

The circle results were 26/2/0 with 24 landed.

Since the trial the figures for circles are 30/3/0 with 27 landed.

Of these last 27 fish I have only had to open the jaws on two occasions (neither deep hooked) and usually I just need forceps to uncoil the hook from the scissors.

Of course my experience may differ from many others and I feel sure that the short distance, the braid and picking up the rod immediately may have some bearing on it. There is a lot of competition for food in these waters and the pike tend to hoover up the deadbaits faster than on many waters I had fished in the past.

For sure neither I nor my email correspondent expect instant acceptance of circle hooks for pike fishing. Pike anglers, like the rest of us, tend to be resistant to change of any kind. However, it is not so long since the lethal tactic of gorge baiting was in vogue and well within my memory gags and gaffs were widely used for pike fishing. Already big game anglers fishing for tarpon, marlin and the like are using circle hooks to improve the chances of their catches surviving to grow and fight another day. So if itís good enough for them itís good enough for me.

Of course it doesn't mean that you'll never hook a pike deeply on these hooks but with the barbed flatttened and a decent pair of forceps it will be easy enough to extract the single point. Anyone who is not familiar with circle hook methods and catches should use the little Google search box on my home page to see some of the facts.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com

That's the way to do it!

One of my pike nicely hooked in the jaw, easy to remove, no problem!

Wobbled herring.

Not the tidiest bait but with the 4/0 hook through both jaws it's very effective.

Result.

The herring is well mashed but the pike is firmly on the hook.

- and another!

Not a big pike but again beautifully hooked.