It’s rarely good or wise to state – in any context – that you know it all; that there’s nothing anyone can tell you about something, but I’m on safe ground when it comes to the safe handling, care and unhooking of pike: I’ve seen it all.

I’ve been catching pike on all the conventional methods since the age of 11 so I’ve successfully and cleanly extracted single and treble hooks from any number of cavernous, toothy mouths. However, like any other honest pike angler I’ve had my fair share of worrying moments too; yes, I’ve deep-hooked pike, sometimes on treble tandems with both hooks out of sight and nothing more to see than the wire trace – and that’s nothing less than horrendous…an appalling prospect.

Suffice to say here that even the most experienced hands will have an awful job trying to remove hooks so lodged in a pike’s throat: the fish will suffer greatly and very likely die. In a bid to avoid this if or when the predicament arose again I bought, some six years ago, a pair of Prowla snips but, thankfully, there has been no need for me to use them. Before then, two pairs of locking forceps were adequate for the majority of tricky jobs but, perhaps, the snips could have proved useful at times.

There is no need for  gory descriptions of what can go wrong if a fish gobbles and quickly swallows your bait because I believe we can eliminate the problem entirely if we choose to go ‘singles-only’ or, indeed, support legislation banning the use of trebles for fish-baits.

There – I’ve said it.

One needn’t think too deeply to see the revolutionary effect this would have on pike-fishing. Remember…for every proficient, conscientious pike angler you know, there are hundreds…thousands, all over the British Isles, day in and day out, dead-baiting, live-baiting, spinning and plugging in every type of water – from park pond to Highland loch. The incidence of badly-hooked pike must be enormous and the effect this must have on our pike population must be devastating – if unseen.

But it’s not un-noticed. All keen pikers will know of waters that no longer produce, and all keen pikers will know that, unlike carp and tench, pike are not a hardy fish despite their tough appearance. Just four years ago, spinning the Wye with Geoff Maynard in the next swim, I took a bloodlessly-hooked 22lb pike and returned her to the river within minutes. She was found dead by a canoeist the very next day. That fish had gone back virtually undamaged and had keeled-over through organ (heart?) failure most likely so there was little I could have done to obviate this unfortunate death and little I can do to avoid further similar fatalities other than to pack-up piking altogether. But the incident does illustrate all too starkly the fragility of Esox Lucius. We must look after them.

We cannot afford to risk losing fish of this calibre.

I shall state the bleedin’ obvious in order to paint a convincing picture: imagine a banked pike that took your bait undetected or ‘too’ quickly; indeed, imagine such a fish hooked deeply through your or someone else’s irresponsible method or lack of attention… the ‘how’ and ‘why’ is immaterial here: there’s a deeply-hooked fish and it’s in trouble. If the very worst predicament obtains and the hook simply cannot be retrieved without pulling and poking and twisting – possibly by a lone, young, inexperienced angler in the middle of nowhere – the forfeit  of a single hook (if absolutely necessary – let’s be realistic) is far, far more preferable than leaving a snap-tackle in situ.

I am, of course, only too aware of what I am implying here but I write of the real world where anglers of all pedigrees and none venture forth daily in search of pike. Thanks to the revolutionary campaigning and instruction given to the angling world back in the 70s by the late Martin Gay, the species continues to receive far more respect than was once the case but alas there will always be the inexperienced, the feckless and the unlucky. For all our sakes – but mainly for the pike – let’s see the abandonment of trebles in our piking methods. A large, strong single will secure a perfectly good hold in a pike’s jaw; it’s easily removed and will do infinitely less damage if the worst comes to the worst: is this even arguable? Maybe. I know of near-fanatical Esox-hunters who fish live-baits of rarely less than a pound in weight only and for them single hooks would almost certainly lose them a fish occasionally. It is my belief that they and we should adopt a fresh philosophy that considers a lost fish preferable to a potentially damaged fish – and wish it well.

Who would support legislation banning the use of trebles other than on artificial lures which usually (but not always) hook-up in the mouth only?

I look forward to readers’ comments.


Cliff Hatton.

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