08 Mar Handling Northern Pike – Best Practices
Fishing for Northern Pike on the Aniak River can be thrilling to say the least. Just like most things in Alaska, they are just bigger out here. Clearly, the fun part of pike fishing is the ferocious take, and the fight that follows. What comes next can be intimidating to some – unhooking a fish with a plethora of sharp teeth. While the guides of Aniak River Lodge are well versed in this matter and will happily do it for you, it can be helpful for you to know a few things.
- They are strong, apex predators in the water, but when removed from their environment they are fragile and need to be treated with care.
With their outward appearance one might think they can take a licking and keep on ticking, but just like all catch and release fishing pike must be handled with care. Keep them in the water as much as possible. If you need to lay them down to facilitate hook removal make it somewhere soft like a grassy bank or pad if in the boat. If taking a photo properly support the body.
- Tools can be very useful so have them ready.
To make the process as quick as possible have your tools ready before removing the pike from the water. Our guides carry long nosed pliers and wire cutters to aid in the removing the hook. These tools are better for your fingers and the fish.
- Use a Jaw Spreader tool, or if you have practice, the ‘chin-grip’ for the hook removal.
Getting that toothy mouth open to remove a hook can be a task. We recommend two ways depending on the situation.Using jaw spreaders will help you pry and hold open the pike’s mouth allowing you to get in there with your pliers. It is best to use jaw spreaders similar to the ones below that will evenly distribute pressure and won’t puncture the pike’s skin.
The ‘chin-grip’ method, when done properly, is safe for the pike and prompts them to open their toothy mouth. A good example of this method can be seen in the video below. Remember to grip the pike with your non-dominate hand so you will have the dexterity to use your pliers or hemostats with your dominant hand. When inserting your hand into the slits of the gill plate be sure not to touch the gills. Put your thumb parallel to the fish’s head and squeeze your fingers toward your thumb to get a firm grip. From here you can safely lift the pike. If holding the fish horizontally for a photo be sure to support the body. We only recommend this method after practicing with an experienced angler.