Extract from More Mammoth Pike.
One of the few joys of fishing in the winter months in Britain (and northern Europe) is the chance of catching a good pike. Traditionally they feed well throughout the year, but as the days get darker and colder they can be relied upon to give a day’s sport when nothing else will. I was hunkered down the other day flicking through Fred Buller’s More Mammoth Pike, looking for captures of big fish in December, and came across the following entries. I’ll let Fred take up the story:
The well produced and informative book, Broadland Pike contains an account written by John Bailey concerning the capture of his biggest ever pike on 23rd December, 1984. The pike was caught in the 20 acre Norfolk Flyfisher’s Lake at Lyng. John’s account documents his preparations and deliberations prior to the attempt to capture this immense pike which was known to dwell in what was a well stocked trout lake. It makes for fascinating reading and may well be preferred to what he called ‘battles with fish’ as these could ‘easily become tedious examples of unstoppable runs as the angler heroically counters all’.
Mr Cairns’ Two Big Pike
35lb 10oz and 39lb 5oz
In 1992 I received a letter from pike angler Christopher Cairns writing from Bangor in Co. Down:
Enclosed is some interesting information on big pike. On 23rd December, 1990 while fishing a lake in Co. Monaghan, I caught a pike that weighed 35lb 10oz ledgering on mackerel tail [see pic right]. Its length was 48 inches and its girth 23 1/4 inches. I caught another large pike on 8th March, 1992 on the same lake, which weighed 39lb 5oz [pic on the front of this blog]. This time I caught the pike on a suspended herring tail with float tackle. I did not have the time to measure the fish because it hadn’t spawned and I was anxious to get it back in the water as soon as possible.
Note: If you look at the joined-up zebra-like blotches on the skin of both pike just in front of the caudal fin (the tail), you will see a similar pattern. I suspect that Chris has caught the same pike on both occasions.
Denis Madigan’s Pike
The Limerick Chronicle, surely one of the oldest surviving newspapers in Britain and Ireland, published an account of Madigan’s pike sometime in December 1980, together with a photograph of the captor and his pike taken by John F. Wright. Notice of the above was kindly sent to me by John Roocroft of Toft. According to Fergal Keane, who wrote the report in the Limerick Chronicle, the pike was caught at Castleconnell on the River Shannon - a name made famous by the manufacture of Castleconnell salmon fly rods with their unique tapers for long-range casting. Fergal reported the captor’s reaction: ‘He gave me a great fight all the way. It was really enjoyable fishing.’ He added, ‘The fishing around Limerick is very good for pike.’ Denis hooked his fish using a roach livebait (livebait is now banned in the Irish Republic). The pike was set up by taxidermist Mr Paul O’Connor of St Mary’s Park.
Van Gelder’s Pike
Monsieur Edouard Van Gelder caught his big pike on livebait when he was fishing in Lake Etang de Torcy near Montereau on 6th December, 1979. It measured 45 inches long and it had a girth of 24 3/4 inches. By catching this pike, Monsieur Van Gelder equalled the existing French rod-caught pike record. These details, given to me by my Belgian friend Hugo Martel, were published in La Peche et Les Poissons in July 1980.
A photograph of this fish appeared in Pike and the Pike Angler [shown above]. The pike was caught in December 1979 and it was said to weigh 38lb 9oz, but in January 1981 Jan Eggers gave me more details of the capture of what was, and still is, one of Holland’s biggest rod-caught pike and the weight went up to 39lb 9oz. In February 1981, Jan interviewed the captor, Ruud Van Dort and sent me the following report:
Ruud caught his pike on the damp, drizzling afternoon of 7th December, 1979, from a lake near Utrecht. It measures 128cm [50 1/2 inches] from tip of nose to tip of tail. Ruud was spinning with a homemade spoon on 11lb b/s line fitted to an ABU reel. The fish was hooked in deep water (over 30 feet) and it played for over an hour. After four unsuccessful attempts Ruud was obliged, since he had forgotten to bring a landing-net, to land it by hand. Since he had also left his camera at home he had to secure the pike (his intention was to return the pike alive after taking its photograph) by damming up a bit of the shoreside with twigs and branches while he fetched the camera. Luckily when he returned with two companions, the pike was still in ‘the cage’ and one of Ruud’s friends took the picture that illustrates this piece. The pike was very quickly measured and weighed in the dark - so that it should come to no harm and be fully recovered before they returned in the morning to take daylight photographs. They returned at 8am only to find that it had recovered so well that it had escaped! Since the Dutch, unlike the British, are more interested in a fish’s length, less care was taken with the weighing of this pike than was appropriate and as a result it could turn out to be one of those rarities - a pike that probably weighed more than the weight claimed for it.
Readers might have noticed that the captor measured the extreme length of his pike instead of measuring to the fork, which is not surprising because Dutchmen are more interested in the length of their specimen fish than they are in the weight. Using Dr Winifred Frost’s conversion formula to convert extreme length to fork length (by dividing by 1.055), we know that the fork length must have been 47 3/4 inches.