Why Use Keepnets...
It is safe to say in the past 15 years fish welfare in angling has taken over dramatically with unhooking mats and "cradles" now common place in most fishing trips and even written in the rules in most fisheries. There has also been many other parts of our angling that have come under the microscope in that time as well, barbed hooks are certainly not as common as they once where and also it seems the keepnet has also fallen out of favour with many anglers.
The rise of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter where people can share images has certainly driven these changes in angling with pressure from peers in comments on photos almost enforcing the use of unhooking mats and other such fish welfare appliances. With unhooking mats now firmly part of the furniture now in most pictures and anglers fishing attention certainly has moved now over to the use of keep nets and i myself have certainly had more than one discussion on social media around my use of them in my angling.
Talking from a personal point of view here i use a keepnet for a number of reasons, the first is the fact that being brought up on the local canals fishing for silvers a huge part of the fun of angling for me growing up was looking at the fish you had caught at the end of the session, lifting that net after a days fishing to see all the fish you had caught and then releasing them was certainly one of the reasons i went fishing. I now forward 20 so years and i still head off to the bank with a keep net in my luggage as that love of seeing a net come the end of the day is still there and also using a keep net lets you gauge how well the session has gone as you compare weights and number of fish to previous sessions. I feel so passionately about using a keep net on my sessions that two years ago whilst looking for another angling club i actually decided not to join Lymm Anglers for the reason they have a no keep net rule on rivers, its just part of my fishing.
Away from personal reasons for using a keep net there is also a practical reason for using one in some scenarios and they surround the species of fish the chub. I always remember when i joined Warrington anglers the talk was all around being mobile and that you will never catch more than one chub from a swim on the river Dane, "catch a fish and move on" was all anyone ever said. In my early days on the stretch i found this to be true you would catch a chub and then could wait a hour or so for the next from that swim where as if you moved to the next sunken tree a chub would come quick if it was there. I then recall a session i did with my uncle early on where we visited the dane and we stuck to our swims with their being three of us. Armed with my keep net and all my gear i set up and within the first hour with the keep net in i had four chub in the net with the session ending with 8 chub caught from the one swim in just the morning. These fish where there every session but with no keep net you only caught one before i think you releasing it spooked the shoal.
I am convinced the use of keep nets when fishing for chub make a difference and i bet they also do when fishing rod tip for dace and roach. The other huge benefit when fishing rivers and canals and using a keep net is the fact they act as a huge indicator of when a pike is in your swim. Long before your swim may die on the river from a pike moving in you will normally see all the fish in your keep net rise to the top and this is almost certainly an indicator of a predator in the area and helps explain why your swim dies. No keep net you might just think the shoal had moved on, a small but definite perk of using a keep net.
On a final note lets not forget that keep nets have come a long way form the gill net esque nets of the 70's to 90's fine mesh, long and spacious nets are now the norm and allow the fish freedom of movement while in the net whilst having a large rubber net to transfer the fish into for taking a picture means any harm to the fish is drastically reduced. Social media has of course allowed for a breeding ground of people to comment at will thinking their opinion is the right one and the only way or should i say they think "their way IS the ONLY way it should be done".
In reality the beauty of angling for me lies in its diversity and in the fact one mans or woman's way of catching fish or fishing in general is totally different to another and i think people should respect that when commenting on photos on social media.
In my short time dead baiting for pike i have been really lucky in that i think i have only had one or two pike that have taken the bait quite deep and in both scenarios the use of semi barbless hook and wire cutters has seen the fish unhooked and released safely. In this weeks update i remember having one fish that was quite a tricky one to hook. It was not so much deep hooked than the bottom treble had gone through the gills and was hanging out side of the pikes gills.
Had the pike been of a decent size into double figures i would have probably had an easy time teasing the hooks back through the pikes gills but with this pike it was only a jack and the gaps in the gills was not really there to do so. I just think it was worth sharing how simply carrying wire cutters made this quite difficult scenario much easier as quickly snipping off the bottom trebles allowed me to remove the top treble from the pikes mouth and simply pull the wire with no hooks on the end through the gills.
Quick thinking and not being bothered about cutting your wire to help unhook a pike safely made this quite tough unhooking on paper quite quick and i just thought it was worth sharing for any new people like myself to the sport of dead baiting for pike.
On to the fishing....
Stick Float Fishing For Chub....
In last weeks blog i covered a session i had recently fishing for chub and unfortunately on that session i forgot my weigh scales so i had no idea of the size of the net of fish, on this session it was the first thing i packed.
Myself and my uncle spent the night before scanning the water levels on the EA with this hope of getting on the River Dee but with the chart showing heights of over 7m me knew there was zero chance of us getting on the main river so we set our sights on one of the smaller rivers.
The swim was the same one as i fished last session and i decided on this session to take a huge risk and do something i do not normally do and fish close to the feature i was drawing the fish from on my previous trip. Fishing the other bank i was in prime position to run a float right along the feature and also on the right side for striking into the fish across my body.
Fishing this side of the river also meant i could use my 17ft rod to get right behind the float and hold it back and this also allowed me to use a much lighter float than i would normally in the form of a 6 number four stick which actually came from one of the Pondip boxes. The reason for this was i was right on the fish and i did not want to spook them.
Knowing the size of the fish in this area i was certainly a man with a plan so i went armed with 3 pints of maggot, a pint and half of hemp and a tin of corn. The three pints of maggot where split half white and half red. This meant i could really attack the swim with feed if i needed and prey on a chubs biggest downfall, their greedy nature. I knew if i was to catch a number of fish then they would not be able to resist blooms of maggots running right past their noses for long before coming back on the feed. This would be important as i knew with each fish i caught i would spook the fish more as being so close to them i would be playing them on top of their home.
The beauty of this swim is the fact that the snag they live in is completely hollow underneath so you know as long as you hold on tight and keep your rod dipped under the water the fish will eventually come into the middle, god help me if i ever turn up and a tree gets wedged under the snag as it would be a lot harder to get them out.
I can remember so many sessions when i have caught well and then returned thinking up a better plan and not had a sniff all day, it has happened so many times in the past, this session was not one of them by any means.
Setting up i was already drip feeding the swim with maggot and laid quite a heavy bed of hemp with a good few hand fulls of hemp. The fist trot down and i might sound cocky here but i knew the float was going to bury as it was going through the swim a dream and with not a breath of wind it was dream stick float fishing and rightly so right on the spot the float shot under and i was into the first chub of the day.
The fish safely in the net i was full of confidence as i knew where there was one chub there was more so i kept up the feeding pattern with red maggot being my first bait of choice. The chub and bites came steady through the morning but it was noticeable that double red maggot was the killer bait on the day.
With a new born baby at home all my sessions have been quite short affairs and this was no different and i knew i only had a few hours so i really concentrated hard on the session. By dinner time and packing approaching packing up time i had around 16 chub in the keep net and to my astonishment i had lost around half that amount either bumping of the hook pulling which really was crazy thinking how close i was to the fish.
It may have been down to hook size but i am a firm believer in using 18 or size 20 hooks even for chub as it goes will with the light hook lengths of 2lb 2oz that i use for these fish. I guess had i used a 12 or 16 i might have not lost those fish but then again a bigger hooks and line might have seen me not get any bites in such conditions.
I ended the session with a net of fish i could hardly lift and with so many in the net i transferred them in the water into my 32inch rubber pike net and onto the scales to be weighed. The scaled went round once as they zoomed past 20lb and then passed half way again and finally settled on 33lb. A net of chub i could only dream of when i started fishing a float 4 years ago and i was over the moon. A quick few picks on the unhooking Matt and it was back into the river for these fish. A session to remember!
Cold Snap Dead Bait Pike Fishing
The weather at this time had been a right pain for piking as barmy 8-10oc temps where quickly followed by severe drops in overnight temperature seeing the mercury falling below 0oc. The morning of this session i remember opening my front door to a real chill in the air and spending a few moments defrosting my car wind screen,
My chosen species for this session was the pike and having spent a lot of time in one area taking a number of jacks and the odd double i decided on trying a new area some 400 yards away where a narrowing in the waterway meant the boats had cut out a deep run under my feet in the edge. It was completely new area for me but my plan was to spend some time fishing this area knowing i had an almost banker of a swim not to far away.
The bait had not been in the water more than a few seconds before i turned round to see my float dancing over to the shallow far bank. The float lay flat as the fish came up the shelf so i gave it a few second before striking only for a tiny jack pike to come up with a god full of frozen smelt ans spit it back at me, only a Jack but a chance missed for sure. The next rod baited up and out in the swim i sat back and began to make up a few more pike rigs.
I can remember how long i had been recycling my rigs with new wire before the same rod bobbed a few times and headed off. This run was far more determined than the first as the float took off at some speed before submerging into the depths. I struck and was treated to a manic fight from a pike that did its all to free the hooks even taking to the freezing cold air at one time. The fish took some line during the fight but eventually and ever so stubbornly it found its way into the net fighting all the way.
A split back dorsal fin, long and really skinny pike i instantly recognised this pike as the fish i had caught in the swim 400 yards away only a few days earlier. A fish that again goes to show the distances these fish travel in search of food. It is a worry for this pike as it is obviously very hungry to pick up dead baits but it does not seem to be in the best of condition with a big head and very slim body. Asking other pikers they reckon its a female or male on the decline or its just not been getting enough food
The fish released i sat back and set about finishing off my rigs in the hope that it would bring on more action. Before i knew it i had 8 rigs made and not a sniff of another bite on the floats despite moving them around the swim, it was time for a move for the last hour to my old haunt. Set up in the new spot i noticed it was deeper than my new spot and no sooner had i placed the second rod in than the first was showing some interest. A few unnatural shunts against the wind at first perked my interest before just like the morning it marched confidently away.
The fight was a short one all under my rod tip but more than welcome and as with all pike captures a sigh of relief is always let out when the fish hits the mesh. The fish was only a small jack at 5lb5oz and was actually the pike i mentioned about in the introduction with a very awkward hook outside the gill.
This pike came at 12.40 and to show how much the right location can pay off it was only 13.10 when the float again was away and this time i was rewarded with the best fish of the day in a 7lb pike and one i had not crossed paths with before.
The pike painted a pretty picture in the net and with that fish i called it a day.
Right Place Right Time...
The 4th January and i woke to the sound of her in charge muttering "you can go fishing for a hour if you want" i was out of bed and in the car like a shot and there was no messing around today i was straight back to the area i had caught two in on the previous session. I literally only had a hour or two max so it was all out for one bite.
The rod was baited with a nice smelly herring jack tail smothered in pike oil and i even added a layer on the skin for added attraction. I really couldn't have done more apart from attaching two barrels to either side of the bait to get a bite.
The bait hadn't been in the water no more than 20 minutes before the oil loving pike was onto it and a swirl on the float alerted me to a pike being in the area as it held face down hoovering up my bait the swirls form its tail causing a small vortex on the surface. I snick into position and i could see the pike taking the bait into its mouth, no need for a float her i watched for the bait to disappear before setting the hooks.
As expected from this swim it was another jack weighing 6lb but i was not complaining it was another one of the total and i was getting bites on most sessions so i really didn't care about the size of the pike, i was there for a quick bite and this swim was producing.
I gave it another hour after this fish but as promised i left the bank and returned home.
Big Lake Social....
A social session was planned and with all four of us on the bank Garry suggested we head to a lake as he had heard rumours of pike being in there. I did my normal homework as i do on such sessions on the inter webs and must admit i found very little info on any about pike from this venue but trusting to his research we all headed off. With depths down to 25 foot just off the edge it was a ledger rod and a float rod for me.
To cut a long blank short 8 rods in the water from first light to almost dark saw only one fish come to the bank to Garry's float fished herring just inches off the bottom.
The day fish wise was a disaster really but as always a good day was had on the bank with plenty of banter through the day keeping us all in good spirits and its always great to sit and talk about pike trips of yester year with two people who have done their fair share of piking. And what great scenery to blank in.
Well that just about sums up another few sessions on the bank and i think we are slowly catching up the sessions till we are up to date.
till next time