One of the common mistakes many make is to start with rods and reels, but pike should be treated from the pike welfare point of view. Pike are despite their appearance one of the most delicate of fish species, demanding great care and attention once on the bank.
First piece of tackle any angler pursuing pike should buy are a pair of artery forceps, easily available from most good tackle shops these days. These allow you to unhook pike without putting your fingers any where near the mouth. Easy unhooking as described here, has been proved on several thousands of pike by members of the Pike Anglers Alliance for Scotland, as the most efficient and best for the pike as well as the angler.
With the pike lying still on its back, on an unhooking mat or equivalent, slide the first two fingers of your free hand inside the gill cover, between this and the outside gill raker. Move the fingers to the extreme tip of the jaw and lift the head clear of the ground. Which has the effect of opening the mouth and flaring the gills. Now is the time for your forceps, with the hook in the jaw or just inside the mouth, clamp the forceps on the hook shank and push down and out. If the hook is further towards the throat, pull on the trace gently to keep everything tight, and insert the forceps between the gill rakers, clamp onto the hook shank and turn upside down. Once the hook is free release the forceps, remove the hooks and take them back out the way they went in taking care not to touch the gills. It may sound complicated but with practice it is no more difficult than dealing with other fish, it just takes patience and confidence.
Basic end tackle
Fishing in Scotland often demands fishing in rugged terrain and as such pike tackle requires to be able to cope with the stresses and strains the environment will put on it. Anyone contemplating catching pike must use a wire trace; these prevent fish biting through nylon with their sharp teeth and ensure the pike can be returned safely. It really is this simple, wire does not put pike of, but no wire will end up with no pike and the possibility of the fish suffering a long slow death due to starvation. Wire of 30lb/15kg breaking strain should be classed as a minimum, again any good tackle shop should be able to advise and provide either commercial traces or the equipment to make them you.
If you plan to make your own traces, next are hooks again no need to scrimp on quality here, semi barbless hooks by a reputable manufacturer such as Partridge or Eagle Claw in sizes 6 and 8 should cover most eventualities.
Methods and baits
Pike eat fish; therefore the best baits are dead fish or lures that imitate fish. I won't deal with lures here, as eventually they will have a section of their own.
The business end of pike rigs is fairly straightforward. Most consist of a wire trace of a minimum of 45cm/18 inches or better still 60cm/24 inches with two semi barbless size 6 or 8 treble hooks. This can be attached to running ledger rig or a float rig. Again the use of a heavy lead say 50-gm/2 ounces helps to provide excellent bite detection.
Pike seem to have a taste for both fresh and saltwater fish species. Some of the more popular baits include mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, lamprey, eels and smelt. All of these are readily available from tackle shops freezer section. The use of these dead fish accounts for a great number of pike caught each year.
The final link in the new pike angler's armoury is proper bite indication, this could come in the form of a drop back bite indicator, be it electronic or not. Or more traditionally an easily watched float, gives excellent bite indication. The most important aspect again is to be prepared stay close to your rods and watch for any indication and when the float disappears or you drop back moves strike immediately, this means a fish has picked up your bait and is moving away so there is no time to lose, pull the hooks home firmly, this again prevents deep hooking.
This end tackle and unhooking equipment is as important as the rest of your equipment if not more important.
Rods, reels and lines
These larger items of tackle are more affordable than ever these days, as with the carp section, prepare to purchase things in pairs, as most of the time fishing is carried out with two baits in the water.
Rods: the power of a pike rod is described in terms of its 'test curve', and for pike in Scotland rods of eleven or better still twelve feet long and around three pound test curve are ideal. If you already have purpose-made carp rods they'll probably be a little lighter than that, but they will serve the purpose.
Reels: should preferably have a 'baitrunner' facility where you can disengage the drag to let the spool pay out line when you get a take, but at a pinch ordinary rear drag fixed spool reels will suffice. They should have a capacity of at least 150 yards of 18lb (0.40mm diameter) line. This helps cast the large baits and leads required for pike fishing as well as protecting against rocks and heavy weeds.
Finally, you must have proper gear for landing your pike safely. Buy a big enough landing net a minimum 36 inch size, or 42 inch is better still with soft knotless mesh. Above all, get yourself an unhooking mat. A perfectly serviceable one only costs about ten pounds, and it will last for many years. Don't go pike fishing without any these items, your safety and the pikes welfare are at stake, go prepared or don't go at all.