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The northern pike is known as a speedy predator. It greedily attacks each and every prey in its field of vision – right?

  • But how fast are pike really?
  • How long do we have to wait until reeling in our bait?

You cast and reel with little or more variation. The goal is always the same — you expect a strike.

Let’s enhance our knowledge about pike fishing with a scientific study on its hunting behavior. As part of this specific study, researchers ran multiple experiments, each with one particular pike. One of the experiments examined the hunting strategies pike employ in their hunt for roach. Both the roche’s as well as the pike’s behavior was studied.

For the experiment, wild pike and roaches were caught and then placed into an artificial pool together. The entire hunting process was recorded by video camera and subsequently evaluated. The researchers were particularly interested in the following aspects:

  • Number of attacks.
  • Type of attacks (lurking followed by a fast attack vs. a chase).
  • The ratio of successful to unsuccessful attacks.
  • Number of captured roaches.
  • Time until the predator becomes active for the first time.
  • Time from the first active action to the attack.

Now, it’s getting interesting. In the 68 °F (20 °C) pool, almost all pike swam motionless near the ground or hid near hiding spots. Even as the prey was placed into the pool, the pike remained motionless. In 35 attempts, 166 attacks were recorded, of which 25 were successful — a 15 % success rate. The number of prey placed into the pool played a minor role in determining the outcome of the experiment.

Pike are known as lurking predators. However, the researchers also documented various chases. Leading to the first attack, the pike usually remained motionless or hid near two wooden beams — although most likely, the beams provided the attacker with only a marginal advantage. Nevertheless, the pike hunted most effectively from this lurking position. 17 of the 25 captured roaches were caught with this strategy. In the cases where the first strike failed, the attack turned into a chase more than half the time. However, the predators fared far worse with this strategy.

Up, up, the prey has arrived!

Contrary to expectations, the pike remained calm as the researchers placed the prey into the pool. On average, the pike took eight minutes to react. This is a big surprise. Who would have thought that pike swim alongside their prey in such a contained space without attacking? Wow…

We don’t even want to imagine how much bait pass pike with them thinking: “Hey … prey … looks interesting … ups, it’s gone already.”

The attacks themselves usually didn’t last very long. On average, the first attack came to an end within two minutes. However, adding to this the 10 minutes it takes to peak the pike’s interest, we end up with a total of 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a damn long time for such a fast predator.

Remember

If we are to believe these experiments, pike, contrary to common belief, don’t appear to be that quick and agile predators. It seems pike take a lot longer to strike than the average bait spends in the water. Instead, the pike is an efficient predator, as proven by the 15% success rate — other studies even report success rates of up to 25%.

As conclusion we could state that pike prefer a lurking position to initiate its attack. This allows it to locate its prey first and then launch a surprise attack. The instincts of some pike seem to require this time to make a decision. It’s not surprising, because a lurking predator has time. It can wait for the right moment and the right prey.

What can we conclude from this study for pike fishing? It appears to be necessary to hold the bait in the pike’s vision for as long as possible. But how can we achieve this?

We assume that our success rate will increase if the bait appears more attractive to the pike — the duration it spends in the vision of the pike matters most. To achieve this, try to reduce the speed at which you reel.

Many wobblers, blinkers, and spinners however are reeled in too quickly. Lurking pike may not be attracted by baits that speed past them. If you cast heavy pike lures in shallow water, you will be forced to reel quickly as otherwise your bait will shoot down to the ground. So, we suggest using a bait that floats or sinks just slightly. Such bait can remain longer in the water. Dead baitfish might be best suited to bridge the 10 minutes.

This article is an excerpt from “Finding Fish. The Smart Way.”

Over 280 pages, this book deals with the question of how to locate pike. No “best bait lists” and also no “best fishing techniques” are shared. The book starts much earlier, always according to our motto: “What use is the best fishing technique if you are looking in the wrong place?”

  • How, when, where and what do pike hunt?
  • How do wind and weather impact its behavior?
  • When does it prefer one prey or bait over another?
  • Which spots promise the highest success rate for each season (for example for spring pike fishing)?
  • Which are the hotspots for pike fishing in a river?
  • etc.

This brings us to the end of our article about how to catch a pike fast. If you have any questions, additions or comments, please let us know – we are looking forward to your feedback – or have a look at the fish finder reviews in our extensive fish finder test (including the newest models of all important fish finder manufacturers like Garmin, Lowrance, Humminbird or Raymarine). Have fun on your next fishing trip and “Petri Heil”! – Martin and Jens.

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