With temperatures now plummeting, and signs of even colder weather to come, is it getting too cold to make going pike fishing worthwhile? I have asked myself this question many times in the last forty years, and now conclude that it’s simply a matter of limiting my expectations. The fact is that pike do slow down in their feeding, and how much they need to feed depends upon how hungry they are. In waters where pike are normally difficult to catch, it is often down to them having a very ample and easy to obtain food supply. In contrast to this, where food is scarce, the pike are usually easy to catch. In the former example, they will become even harder to catch when it gets cold, but in the latter example, they may well have to carry on feeding to survive. In other words, you are more likely to get a result from a ‘hungry’ water than a hard water. This might sound obvious, but I don’t think a lot of anglers see it this way by the fact that they often make poor choices of venue in cold weather.
Limiting your expectations will limit your frustrations. After a lifetime of experience, I judge the potential of the day based upon the water temperature and the numbers of pike and preyfish in the venue. When considering the water temperature, I also consider whether it is falling or rising, or for how long it has remained at its present temperature. I would prefer the temperature to be rising in cold conditions, but even if it is very cold and has remained that way for some time, I will fish with a degree of confidence. Taking everything into account, I make a judgement and assess the day’s potential based upon it. I am always honest with clients who come out with me on tuition courses, and give my opinion. I might, for example, tell them it’s looking like a ‘one fish day’ today, or maybe I’ll suggest it will probably be a ‘three to five fish day’, and on waters I know well, I am usually not too far out. I have just come in from a day on a very well stocked water. I suggested that current conditions would produce one or two fish to the four rods we were fishing. We landed two but had three dropped runs, typical for very cold water conditions on this venue.
Success will naturally depend upon the skill of the angler, and that can make a massive difference in cold water conditions when pike are lethargic. This is when all the little tricks learnt over a lifetime pay off, and an experienced angler can often pull something out of the bag that would be almost impossible for a less experienced angler.
If catching fish is not your only reason for going pike fishing and you just enjoy going fishing, then I would suggest that you simply wrap up warm and go for it, for no other reason than Lady Luck often plays her hand and is impartial to the skill of the angler. Who dares wins!
Pike fishing can be frustrating at the best of times, but especially in very cold weather. If you can be warm and comfortable and have the right attitude of mind, you can still enjoy the day, and I always consider that fishing in tough conditions will make you a much better angler than fishing easy waters in good weather where you might have fun, but you will not advance yourself. Whatever you do, consider your own safety and the welfare of the fish above all else!