March 14, 2016 Last Updated 7:21 pm

* Pike – Lifelong Learning and Passion

No stranger to things salty Stan Ryan is often found fishing the fresh. He has a life long love affair with Pike!

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Stan With a biggun!

Stan With a biggun!

A Predator Passion

It all started when I was about 14 years old. Having grown up beside the sea on Dublin’s northside and spent my schools holidays in Ardmore I became an avid bass angler like my father. He grew up in Enniscorthy and spent his youth fly fishing for trout. Already being members of the Ardmore SAC, we joined the Kilbride anglers for freshwater fishing. So now I had a second problem in that I was hooked on placing flies where the big trout might lie!

Well it is said that things happen in threes. The December of 1970 my father and I went on a pike outing and an angler landed a 21lb brute. That was it….I now had 3 problems for which there has been no cure!!!

It has been a super journey in Pike….

Michael pike_Medium

Early Equipment

My original gear consisted of a salmon rod, an ABU cardinal 60 reel (which I still have) and an ABU Atom spoon. This landed many a pike in the river Blackwater outside Navan. Plugs were not commonly used in those days among the fraternity that I fished with. Copper spoons were the business. My ABU Atom soon proved to be deadly when I won a competition after landing 4 pike.


Blessington Lake

Roll on 20 odd years and my good friend Michael and I were trout fishing in May in Blessington. This is a huge lake that was near to Dublin City and back then it was well stocked with rainbows. With our clinker built lake boat and Michael’s trusty Seagull engine we were trolling Mepps on 6lb line when I suddenly hooked a whopper.

My trout rod was buckled and eventually after a long struggle I managed to get a 12 lb fish to the boat….a pike. Two minutes later Michael had a 15lb pike. Our total for the evening was 7 Esox and no trout. This was never to be repeated in that lake. All fish were landed without any wire traces.

If I has hooked before I was obsessed now!

Justin's pike_Medium


Another good childhood friend of mine, Justin, told me one day that pursuing pike was his favourite form of fishing. He had gone further afield and explored some of the lakes around Co. Cavan. Plans were hatched and we set off with him one Saturday to check out some lakes and came upon a small water lake that had easy access for our boat.  One side of this lake could easily be accessed by foot but we were fishing territory that only a boat could reach.

Several pike up to 10lb were caught and released. During the mid-Autumn to late Spring we had weekly visits there for many years. I can honestly say that we never blanked. There were no huge fish but a steady flow of Esox kept us happy.

Then a few years ago we arrived up to the lake entrance to find that a gate had been placed there and despite our best efforts we could not get permission to fish there.

Barry's monster 2_Medium

Equipment Upgrade

Pike lures have increased in numbers and styles over the years….spoons were followed by plugs and then shortly joined by rubber lures.

Initially, I had my doubts about some of these. Sure what sane pike would take a 9inch red and white bulldog. It had to be just a marketing ploy from the tackle companies . Of course trout flies had taken the same turn. No longer was I matching the hatch. Woolly buggers and boobies were cleaning up and winning competitions.

Mackerel was our original choice of dead bait. It then became possible to buy frozen perch , smelt, sardines, blueys, eels, herring and lampreys.  Just like  when fishing lures we discovered that it paid to bring a selection of baits not knowing what would be sucessful on any given day.

We would place dead baits on the bottom, popped up close to the bottom or float fished.

Up to now we were using sea spinning and beach rods. Then our attention turned to carp rods with a 2.5 or 2.75lb curve. Shimano baitrunners became the reel of favour followed by some light multipliers.

Like sea fishing the choice of gear was endless. An as a result the trailing and experimentation was never ending.


Lavey lads_Medium

Boat and Engine

Unfortunately, rot set into our wooden boat and we had to buy a fiberglass replacement. Being lighter the latter was easier to launch and required less power to move it through the water. Our Seagull had been replaced by a 5hp 2 stroke Suzuki but we progressed to using a 56lb electric motor. It was and still is my belief that sometimes noise can scare off fish.  With a 115 amp hour battery we could get 5 hours trolling with the electric motor. With the advent of quieter 4 stroke engines we have since reverted back to a 6HP Yamaha engine.

I have no doubt that using a boat when lake fishing gives greater returns as it is possible to access parts that cannot be reached on foot.

Pike lures_Medium

River Fishing

Talking to various anglers there were reports of good pike fishing on the Barrow.  We fished up and down this river for several months. Yes some pike were caught but it was hard work. It is sad to say but overfishing and killing many pike seems to have done a lot of damage to this once spectacular river.

Last year a few of us joined the Dublin Pike Anglers and were introduced to the Shannon. We tried several spots and the fishing was excellent. Possibly because this river is flooded for several months a year it had a great stock of good pike.

Dead baiting, sink drawing and wobbling smelt seems to be the most productive means of catching fish along the banks of a river.


The Midlands

Many very productive lakes are within just over an hours drive from Dublin.  Boat hire is available on some of them.

After a bit of research we fished one of them. The water was absolutely gin clear. I managed to land a nice pike of about 15lb. On the way home I picked up a local newspaper only to discover that it contained an angling column. Later that evening I submitted a photo to the columnist, Mick Flanagan.

So began our relationship with Mick who is a top angler as well as an absolutely brilliant angling guide. For a very reasonable sum he will bring 2 anglers out in his boat for a day and not alone help them catch quality fish he also provides great entertainment!

Pike& spoon_Medium

Mick won the boat that he uses in competition. He has a second vessel that was also won. Mick is very honest. Occasionally when I ring him to organize and outing he will say “at the moment pike are hard got”… other words stay at home. On the other hand if fishing is good he will contact me and of course we will jump at the chance of a day out.

I believe that it is essential to have local knowledge when fishing big lakes. Pike will occupy certain areas. This can differ from one season to the next. In cold winter conditions they will move to deeper water. At certain times of the year coarse fish may be on the move for various reasons. Naturally, predators will follow them. Often pike will be on the edge of drop-offs and at other times they will be moving into shallow water to spawn. Knowing where they are likely to be is gained from years of experience. As Mick grew up in Mullingar and has intimate knowledge of local rivers, lakes and even the canal, any angler that he brings out will stand a reasonable chance of landing fish. Of course there is always the possibility on any day out of a blank if the fish refuse to cooperate but so far this has only happened once in our many trips to the midlands.

the mighty Mick!

the mighty Mick!

Knowing what baits to use and how to use them is also important. Occasionally pike will grab any lure and at other times they will be very specific. What tempts them to take a lure that resembles nothing in their environment and the next to only take a bait that resembles a trout is hard to tell. Then may be feeding near the bottom or shoot up from 40ft of water to a lure fished near the surface. It can be very hit and miss but by non-stop changing  lures or dead baits an angler can maximize the chance of tempting a fish. Try different patterns and colour of lure and try differing sizes and types of bait.

Good Pike_Medium


This is my favourite way to search for pike. Usually, 5 rods are set up. Each angler has a short and a long spinning rod. The long rod is set in a rod holder at right angles to the side of the boat. The lure from this is then about 12 feet out from the side of the boat. The short rod is held along the gunnels so that the lure is inline with the side of the boat. The 5th rod is in the middle of  the stern and usually set deep and near the boat. Each rod will have a different lure or a dead bait and these can all fish at different depths.

Once you know where the pike are likely to be it is just a matter of going up and down along the area in the hopes that a fish can be tempted to grab one of the baits.

One very important matter is that in many lakes pike have definite feeding times. Some fish may be caught outside of these periods. One of lakes that we fish in Cavan produces most fish between 11am-12.30pm. You could set your watch by it. Some of the midland lakes have feeding times around noon and again at 4pm. Fishing can be frantic during these times and taper off during the rest of the day…..but this is not written in stone. Local knowledge is crucial to know these hot times.

A fish finder has become absolutely essential. The drop-offs can easily be seen as can other structures like weeds, sunken trees, boulders etc. Remember that pike generally ambush their fish. They lie in wait and shoot out to engulf their prey.  Baitfish showing on the finder will generally mean that pike are in the vicinity. Coarse fish will show up as shoals and perch will appear in a ball near the bottom.

Sometimes no fish will show on the finder. This can mean that they are not there BUT the pike may just like down at the bottom waiting for dinner to come along. Recently, we faced this situation and thought “no fish today!!”. Suddenly, Barry’s rod buckled and he landed a 20lb plus pike. Two minutes later I had another similar sized fish. We landed 4 fish in a row and lost another monster.


Pike lure size_Medium

Pike Gear Today – The Essentials

Rods….long carp rod and short spinning rod. Nothing fancy but capable of trolling or casting a large pike bait.

Reels…Shimano baitrunners or strong reliable spinning reels such as Penn or ABU

Line … good quality 30lb braid with fluorocarbon leader.

End gear… wire or traces made of 200lb nylon . My belief is that the latter is better.

Lures… as a general rule big lures = big pike. Of course there are the days when a small plug or spoon will do the trick.

Dead baits… top of my list would be smelts. If a pike takes a bite of one and is not hooked it will definitely follow it. They are deadly. If fishing a static bait my experience is that Lampey are the business. Cut in half they leave out a trail of blood that pike can’t resist.


There are 3 choices….. seek out a guide. Prices are often very reasonable.  Secondly, you may have a friend who is experienced in pike fishing. Finally, you may join a local club. In the current climate clubs may want to know that you practice catch and release. They will not take a stranger. Many pike hotspots are kept secret among club members.

Jim's 12lb pike_Medium


While pike have sharp teeth they should be treated properly. They are easy to handle. Always have a large net. Next do not drop them onto the ground or directly onto the bottom of the boat. Have a landing mat. Then if the fish thrashes around damage is minimized.  It is quite safe to lift a pike by its gill flap. Care must be taken to keep fingers from lifting by the gills themselves.  Photos should be taken quickly and the fish put back in the water.  Big fish may take time to recover. When placed in the water hold their tail and move them through the water…..they will swim off once they have recovered.


Midlands Angling Guide Mick Flanagan is a popular guide. all his contact details can be found at:




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