APA017: Will pike survive a snap off?

Here is a question from Scott on the subject of losing a pike to a snap off.

I had a good run today and lost a pike in a reed bank as I snagged. I was fishing with a 5 inch roach with two trebles. Truthfully this is rare that this has happened to me and I am worried about the fish as the line snapped close to the rod tip. After an hour of trying to get it out I also got very wet as I tried to reach the weed bank. Reckless I know but I Was worried about leaving the fish hooked on the rig. Will it survive in your experience?

Thanks for the question Scott. All pikers suffer a lost fish or a snap off from time to time and its easy to beat yourself up over it. I remember leaving two baits on two separate snags within 10 minutes once. I felt so bad that I packed up and went home!

Safety First

Firstly we should remember that we must not put ourselves in danger by trying to free a fish. All pikers would want to free a tethered pike. We quite rightly put pike welfare at the top of our priorities. However, no fish is worth risking your own life for.

I remember snagging a bait on the edge of a wide reed bed on the near bank of my local drain. The water was over the bank, the reeds were very dense, and I could not tell where the bank ended and the water began. I waded out on them and slipped into the icy water up to my waist.

The cold water sent me into shock. I managed to pull myself out, but I was shivering like crazy. I had to strip off my winter suit, pack up and drive home near naked. It was a dumb thing to do, and I didn’t even recover the rig.

Will It Survive?

My first thought is that when you find yourself snagged on reeds after playing a pike, the fish has usually shed the hooks and you are actually hooked into the reeds.

I don’t know from your email if you are sure the pike was still attached. It is impossible to know if a tethered pike with hooks in the mouth will free itself. It is quite likely that it will throw the hooks when thrashing around. We have all lost a fish to a poor hook hold. A pikes mouth is hard and bony and the hook hold is rarely firmly set. Hooks will often fall out of the mouth when the pressure is off. I’ve caught plenty of pike where the hooks fall out when the pike is in the net.

If the hooks are in the pike’s throat, which is soft and fleshy, then the chances are the hooks will stay there and the pike will starve. The pike could well bite through the line so it won’t necessarily be tethered. I have caught a few pike that have had another trace down the throat which I have managed to remove. This proves the pike will try to feed, but it is pot luck if the pike is caught and the hooks removed.

A Very Unfortunate Side Effect

As hard as we try to reduce the chances of leaving a rig in a pike, events like this will happen to all pikers at some time. It is a very unfortunate, and hopefully rare, side effect of piking. When it happens you should try to identify the cause or accept that you were just unlucky. Take steps to prevent it happening again if you can.

If all of this makes you feel sombre, we should celebrate the fact that, thanks to pikers and organisations like the Pike Anglers Club, this wonderful species is in a much better position than it was a generation or two ago. Many angling clubs have changed their policies to insist pike are returned. Thanks to education on the correct way to unhook pike and improved treatment when they are on the bank, I’d like to think most pike that are caught are now returned unharmed.

Thanks for the question Scott and good fishing.

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