It always worries me when anglers start fishing for pike on the Traditional October 1st starting date. The problem I foresee is with regard to the water temperature that we can expect at this time of year. This is particularly worrying after a very warm back end to themany waters in the UK, especially in lowland southern areas, I would expect the water temperature to be dangerously high at this time for reasons I will go on to explain. It's hard to put precise figures to this, but I feel that a water temperature higher than 12/13 degrees Centigrade can raise issues that are detrimental to pike welfare if they are captured at this time. Pike tend to fight like crazy at such elevated temperatures, and cannot get enough oxygen through their gills to aid a safe recovery. This will be the case whatever method you are using, lure or bait, but I think bait fishing raises an even greater additional potential problem. At such water temperatures you can expect pike to bolt baits down extremely quickly, and no matter how good your bite indication and how quickly you react, you may not be able to strike in good time to prevent it.
Yesterday (Oct 9th) I spent an afternoon on a local stillwater. I had two runs on average sized baits, and both pike swallowed them out of sight, leaving both trebles in the stomach/throat. Only decades of experience, and the use of semi-barbed trebles, helped get me out of a nasty situation. I checked the water temperature, and wasn't surprised that this had happened when I found it was 16.5 degrees C. Had I not checked with a very accurate aquarium thermometer, I would have sworn it felt cold enough for safe fishing.
I went again today (Oct 10th) just to see whether I could use tactics that eliminated this problem. After all, many other pike anglers will be out now and I felt the need to experiment and pass on my experience. I first checked the water temperature, and it had fallen half a degree overnight. Still too warm I think. I decided to rig with caution and opted for one size 4 semi barbed treble in the root of the tail instead of two size 6's in tail and flank as the day before.
Once again, I had just two runs, and striking the first as quickly as I could, the bait was still swallowed almost out of sight. With the solitary treble lodged just outside the throat, it was a simple unhooking procedure, even though not satisfactory as I aim to hook in the scissors or near the front of the jaw. Nevertheless, a great improvement. Another run an hour later saw a similar situation, but with the treble pulling out of the tail of the bait during the fight and lodging in the scissors, while the bait was still in the throat entrance. I'd got away with it this time, but only just.
So, even after taking all precautions of good bite indication, with no delay and an immediate strike, I know I can still be faced with a tricky and dangerous (for the pike) unhooking problem when fishing at such elevated water temperature. I'm not desperate to catch pike, so I will now leave the deadbaiting alone until the water temperature drops a few more degrees. I can still fish with lures, although larger lures are best just now as smaller ones can be taken deeper at this time. I also need to take care when playing them and ensure they don't exhaust themselves by prolonging the fight. I hope this practical experience will make you think about your own approach, not just now but at any time, and ensure you are tackle up safely and have all the tools ready to deal with any tricky situations.