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Fishing The Canal For Pike With A Float

Pike fishing is definitely one of my favourite winter targets here in the UK. And what most people don’t realise is they grow to a seriously impressive size in our local canals.

At this time of year when the water temperatures have dropped, the prey fish shoal up in certain areas, and this is when Pike go on the hunt for an easy meal. Providing the perfect opportunity for you to get out there and catch these amazing freshwater predators.

My favourite way to fish for Pike, especially on the canal, is with a float. It’s such an exciting way of fishing, when you finally get that bite and float suddenly sinks under the water.

Here are some of my top tips to help you catch.


Although canals tend to be very coloured due to boats stirring up the silt, they are absolutely full of pike, and other predators too.

The first thing you will want to do is seek out the bait fish. You can do this by walking the canal and keeping an eye out for smaller fish breaking the surface or perhaps grebes working an area. If you find the bait fish, then there is a very good chance that the Pike are not far behind.

On a canal stretch any obvious “features” are a good starting point to find fish. These can be things such as snags, broken walls, turning circles, or anything that differentiates from the standard make up of a man made canal. This is another reason why float fishing for pike on the canal is so effective, you can stay very mobile and search through long lengths of the water.


Remember, there are some big pike in the canal and they are very strong fighters. You will need to make sure you tackle is up to the job. There are many dedicated pike rods on the market, which are designed for the job but personally I use my 10ft 3.25lb test curve carp rod to great effect. They need to be this sort of test curve to aid casting large dead baits as well as fighting the fish.

Again, reel wise, there are dedicated “pike” reels on the market, but personally I would say any free spool carp reel loaded with 15lb braid or mono is perfect for the job. And as you are float fishing, there is no need for rod pods or alarms, just simply leave your rod on the floor with the bail arm off out of the way of the path. This is very important as I’ve known many customers to have their gear pulled in by an excited pike when forgetting to do this!

I fish a 20gm slim slider float about a foot over depth. You don’t want to go much more over depth than this, as you will end up with a deeply hooked pike on the bank. 

To plumb the depth, set up your rig like the picture above, cast it out and see how it sits. You’re looking for the float to cock every so slightly so it is flat with a slight angle into the water. This is how you know your pike bullet is resting on the bottom with about a foot extra over depth. Simple keep adjusting your stop knot until you are happy with this.

It is a essential to always use a wire trace when fishing for Pike. They have razor sharp teeth and will cut through pretty much any other braid or line you might use. Your trace should be around 2ft in length and about 20lb+ breaking strain for our canals. Add this to a pair of size 4 – 8 semi barbed trebles (depending on the situation / dead bait used). The reason for using Semi Barbed is so you can hook the dead bait on the barbed part of the hook, but still easily unhook hooked pike from the non barbed parts of the hook.




We have a massive selection of dead baits which will catch pike. For example: Mackerel, herring, sardine, smelt, lamprey, trout, eel, roach… the list goes on.

My personal favourite is lamprey, which has very tough skin making it excellent for casting out with confidence that it will stay hooked onto your trebles. It also features an anticoagulant, meaning its blood doesn’t clot, which allows it to release small and attraction into the water a lot longer than other baits.

My second favourite bait is a good old fashioned mackerel tail. I’ve caught loads of pike on this and so have mega confidence in it. Don’t be afraid to take a selection of options with you, and if you think you are in an area where pike might be, swap and change your bait approach to see what they want to take. Each day and situation can be different so it is good to have options.

A good tip is to puncture the dead bait with a pair of scissors so that it releases a lot of natural blood and oils into the water. And, more often than not, I will inject my dead baits with different fishy oils for extra added attraction. Offer them something they can’t resist. Sometimes going the extra mile with your preparation can be the difference between a blank and a big monster on the bank!


For minimal damage to the pike, hit a bite as soon as you get an indication. Even if you do miss a fish, this is far better than trying to remove trebles that have gone past a pike’s throat.

Fish Care

Although pike look rough and tough, they are actually  delicate creatures and need careful handling and respect when on the bank. Make sure you have a decent unhooking mat with you as they can thrash around on the bank and easily damage themselves on hard floor. You will also need a good pair of forceps and wire cutters with you at all times.

If you can unhook them in the water, then that is a much safer way to handle them. The least amount of handling possible is essential for their welfare. If you can’t, just make sure you get them back in the water as quickly as you can. If they don’t shoot straight off, they made need to recuperate before swimming. Just hold them into the water upright until they are ready to swim off back to their watery home.


Tight lines!!!

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