Gravel pits, especially those that are very large and crystal clear, are exciting places to explore with a lure rod when targeting Pike. They can be challenging, casting and retrieving big baits for hours on end and walking many miles in the process, but the anticipation of a bite or a follow from a big Pike is well worth the effort! Frustratingly though, they can be very wary in such clear water and will often turn away at the last minute, but there are times when they just can't help themselves - and to watch their gills flare out, and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth engulf your lure is an awesome experience!
I'm quite lucky to have many gravel pits within a half hour drive from home, but the only thing is a lot of these are controlled by syndicates, and there are only a few day ticket venues. One of the day ticket fisheries is run by the Lea Valley Regional Park and consists of two small pits - the Banjo Lake and Stock Pit, and despite being within a 15 minute drive of our house, I only fished them for the first time three weeks ago, which was for a feature. The lakes are mainly fished for Carp, but it's a well known fact that predators thrive on neglect, so after months of meaning to have a trip over there, I finally decided to give them a go.
Starting before sunrise turned out to be a good move, as within the first hour of fishing I'd landed 3 Pike, all on Berkley 4.5" Rib Shads, although the biggest was only around 4lb and I was hoping for something bigger. I didn't have to wait too long though before I did hook something that really put a bend in the rod, but unfortunately, it came off! After that, the fishing went quiet for quite a few hours, and despite trying many different types of lures and areas, I didn't have a single take.
Thankfully, at around 2pm I hooked in to a slightly bigger Pike than those I'd caught in the morning, which was still not massive, but certainly the prettiest!
Most of our fishing has been on a syndicate gravel pit much larger than the two I've talked about, at around 130 acres. It's a tough nut to crack, but not only is it a fantastic looking pit, reminding me a little of the Everglades, but there are some big Pike in there too. When we fished it for the first time last year, I caught a good double and a fish that I reckon could have been 23-24lb follow me in, so with all our local rivers the colour of chocolate and wind speeds of over 40mph, we decided to have a day exploring it for the first time since the spring.
Within 20 minutes I had a fish I'm guessing was around 17-18lb, maybe bigger, follow my Stick Shadd in, but sadly it turned away. Then in the next swim down, Dad hooked a good fish at range, which we think was around 15lb, but somehow it came off - not the best of starts! Just a few minutes later we did finally get a Pike in the net, unfortunately much smaller than the fish that had followed me in and the one Dad lost.
Between that fish and the end of the day, Dad managed to land one more Pike of around 8lb, but we'd only managed to cover around half of the lake, so we decided to return a couple of days later and try and cover more of the venue.
We had a much slower start on our next trip, covering all of the areas we'd had action on the previous session without a follow or a bite. Then, after two hours of covering half a mile or so of bank, I had a follow from yet another good fish, certainly a mid double. This fish was very interested in my Stick Shadd and after swimming a full circle around the lure, it didn't take, and after trying two different lures in the same spot, which again took it's interest but still wasn't enough, I was becoming quite worried, as I was trying to work out what I thought I was doing wrong, but couldn't find an answer!
We decided to move on and in the next swim, on my very first cast, I had another fish of a similar size follow me in, this one even more fired up than the last. I let my suspending Stick Shadd fall to the bottom and the fish was nosing it, literally about to take when Dad, a few yards to the right of me, yelled "Sam, I've hooked a big'un!" I didn't want to leave this fish as it was so close to taking, but he then shouted "I think it could be a twenty", and it was then that I decided to wind in, drop the rod and give him a hand netting it through thick marginal vegetation. It was big alright - not quite 20lb but still a fantastic looking fish, and took a chatterbait rigged with a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss trailer.
Once we'd weighed and photographed the fish, I decided to change my Stick Shadd to a slightly lighter chatterbait with the same trailer, as the swim was very shallow - maybe 4ft max. I was hoping the Pike that had followed me in hadn't spooked, and on my second cast, the fish followed me in and slammed the lure right at my feet! It wasn't quite as big as Dad's fish but still a immaculate looking double.
As the light faded things seemed to pick up as Dad landed another smaller jack, and on one of my last casts, I hooked and landed my biggest fish of the day, a 15lb 7oz.
We've had a couple more trips on gravel pits since then, and caught quite a few nice Pike up to around 15lbs.
Some of the fish we managed to capture on film on my GoPro camera, and I've put together a short film of around four minutes of some of the fish we caught over the Christmas and New Year period:
We were even lucky enough to get out for a few hours on Christmas morning, and although I was hoping for a bigger fish, at least I didn't blank!
This Christmas, my Dad and I treated ourselves to a couple of new fishing books, which we knew would be right up our street, and if you like trying to catch lots of different species around the world on a number of different tactics, especially lure fishing and flyfishing, then I would certainly recommend these two books. Both are written by different 'Mikes' and both have caught a serious amount of spectacular fish. We sometimes bump in to Mike Green when he's out fishing on the midlands reservoirs, and he has a passion for catching big predators on the fly, especially Pike and Zander here in the UK, but abroad he's caught some amazing fish. Since I've become involved with Pure Fishing, throughout the year I help out at retail and trade shows, which I really enjoy, and every time I go, one of the highlights for me is bumping in to Mike Thrussell. He has an incredible knowledge of all things fishy and he's one of the very few anglers to have caught over 100 species of fish in the UK alone, which is some going!
Since Christmas we've had a couple of trips on our local rivers targeting Perch, although now it's unlikely we'll be fishing a river for a while, thanks to the recent heavy rain. I've mentioned the Sébile A.T Minnow throughout many posts on my blog as it is one of my favourite shads, especially when the fishing hasn't been easy, and recently it's been working well, landing fish up to just under 3lbs.
Dad and I had a good afternoon on Boxing Day, landing 10 Pike and a few nice Perch to around the 2lb mark, mainly on A.T Minnows, and one of the Pike I caught certainly took a liking to them!
I'd cast to some tree roots on the other side of the river and about half way back had a good whack, which turned out to be a jack Pike of maybe 2lbs. I lifted the net out of the water, very quickly unhooked it and returned it, and it swam off fine. I checked my offset hook and re-rigged the A.T minnow back on, cast out, jigged the shad back to my feet and had another good whack, virtually exactly where I'd put the Pike back, and I hooked and landed what looked like exactly the same fish. I lifted the fish out of the water, and sure enough, it was the same fish - if you look carefully at the photo you can see where the Pike was hooked the first time I caught it on the right side of the jaw, and the second time I caught it, I hooked it on the left side of the jaw!