Lay the fish on its left flank, head pointing towards your right hand. You may want to straddle the fish. I use my left shin to prevent the fish from flipping. I don’t apply any weight on the fish; I just don’t give it any room to move.
With your left hand, carefully lift the gill flap a little. Have a look under the flap to see the arrangement. You’ll see three sets of rakers. Make sure your fingers haven’t picked up any of these and slide one finger along the gill cover, towards the chin. When you get to the chin, you’ll find your finger fits nicely into an area of soft skin with no teeth, no rakers and no obstructions.
Lift the head and you should find its mouth will stay wide open without force. You should now have the whole mouth cavity to work with unhindered. You should have a pair of 12″ forceps and a pair of wire snips at hand, nothing less. The wire cutters are for fiddly hook-ups. Sometimes it is easier to break the hooks up for quick removal. Never use the snips for cutting the wire, that’s a potential death sentence. As long as you have all your unhooking tools at hand, you should find the whole unhooking operation takes less than a minute.
If you are struggling, don’t panic. Take the fish in the net back to the water for a good breather. Give the fish and yourself a minute to calm down before carrying out any other procedures. Allow the fish a minute in the water for every minute you have it from the water.
Don’t be scared to ask a more experienced Piker for a hand. They should gladly oblige and if asked, will show you how to cope with difficult hook-ups. Pikers love being asked for advice….it makes them feel important and necessary.
Once the fish has been cleared of all oral metalwork, lift the fish with both hands and carry it back to the water. Once in the water, use your left hand to support the head and use your right hand to hold the tail root. Don’t grip the tail; just form a circle with your thumb and finger which prevents the fish from going anywhere. Pike sometimes try to pull away immediately even though they are exhausted. Just keep a slight hold on the fish until you are sure it has fully recovered. Make sure the gill flaps are working and the fish can hold itself upright.
When it’s definitely ready to go, you will know. Release your hold and the fish should pull away immediately. Just keep an eye on the fish until it has gone. If it’s a really happy soldier you’ll get a free drink when it kicks its tail.