I've decided on an early start to the river piking this year, rather than traditional 1st October, i'll be out on 1st September. Although many suffered a poor winter on my local river last year, i'm going to continue with this one - the bream population seems to have suddenly expanded with matches producing 40lb+ of bream in the 1lb-3lb bracket (I assume a successful spawning a couple of seasons ago). The dace shoals will start moving downstream after the first frosts to join them, and the perch shoals will follow shortly after. The lower stretches will therefore be a good area to hit after the first frost (the plan is to monitor the match weights and follow the shoals downstream). Until then, I intend to target the middle stretches as there's always a chance of localised and very big pike, as has been proven in the past by myself and others.
This gets me on to Pike movements on this river. After fishing the river for its pike for five years, I'm of the opinion that the Pike on the middle stretches don't necessarily migrate to follow the shoals. After witnessing and knowing of repeat captures in consecutive years, and at different times of the year, I believe there is relatively little movement. This is surprising, as you would imagine they would follow the shoals of dace, however many of the big chub remain and the middle reaches are topped up each winter by grayling from the upper reaches - add to this a natural boundary in the form of a weirpool (which I imagine is easier for dace to pass), then you can see why certain big pike would remain.
Of the lower reaches, I know very little as I have done very little piking there. Certain areas of the lower stretches during winter become stacked with shoals of bream, dace and perch in the deeper stretches - the lower reaches would be a lot easier for big pike to navigate and I would theorise that the pike do follow the shoals. The good news is that, with regular matches, I can monitor the movement of prey fish shoals, and I do intend to fish the lower stretches more and more - the potential is great, it's a much easier life for a pike in the deep, slow moving water, especially during flood where the middle reach pike need to buckle down and find some slack water. It has produced big pike in the past, rumoured to 29lb+. That's not to say you have a better chance of a big fish here than upstream. I believe that, where a fish finds a suitable slack area with a good head of prey fish in the middle reaches, an easy life can follow for a number of years, and they can continue to pile on the weight - this is especially so where they have a good deep hole to move into during a high flood on the spate rivers.
I have started researching and logging particular pike that I know are repeat captures, from both myself and others, and hope to (over time) get some idea of pike growth and movement.
Target will be as always for this season - a 20+ river pike. They aren't common but I've managed three in the last five years, so it's achievable. However my other target is to learn the tactics for and habits of the pike in the lower stretches.