Monday, February 21, 2011

How to pick up a northern pike from the water

Dan Baughman with medium pike
It is a pain to use the landing net for every northern pike, especially small ones. They get twisted up in the mesh and takes many minutes to get them out. The fish can be injured from the net and, if it takes too long, die from being out of the water.
For any pike you intend to release anyway, it's best just to reach into the lake and pick them up. But there are certainly precautions to this manoeuvre.
The main risk comes from your own lure. You need to be sure to stay away from any hooks that might be exposed on the outside of the fish's mouth.
The proper technique to pick up a northern pike from the water is to do it like me in this photo from last summer. (I do get out to fish once in awhile!)
You want to reach over the top of the fish's back and grab it right where the gill plates are with the top of your hand toward the fish's head as shown. I would have put the grip on the fish as it lay totally in the water. The photo shows me lifting it out a few seconds later.
Squeeze to depress the gill plates just enough to get a good grip on the fish. If you squeeze too strongly you could actually damage the fish but this rarely happens.
This grip keeps most fish quiet, as well, although I see the one in the photo is kicking a bit.
It is a bad idea to ever lift a fish out of the water by the line or the leader. For starters, if you have a little nick in your line it is going to break and you lose both the fish and the lure.
Another reason not to do this it almost always makes the fish thrash wildly about while not being supported at all by your hand. If the lure was caught in the fish's gill area the gills are almost sure to rip, thus killing the fish.
Many times while holding the fish in the boat with the approved grip the fish will open its mouth so you can reach in with pliers or, my favorite, the Baker Hookout tool, and remove the lure.
You can pick up virtually any size northern pike that you can get your hand around the top of their gill plates.
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