The Chase is On
The colder months might still be favoured by traditionalists, but with no closed season in many cases, lure fishing can be carried out year-round on canals. Warmer water and more weed growth carry their own challenge and call for a different arsenal.
Modern lures such as spinner baits and weedless plastic lures are one great answer to overgrown canals or poor visibility. Spinner baits provide both a strong pulse and some snag resistance, allowing you to cast right into those hairy spots where pike lie in wait.
Haulover Canal Fishing Report Photo Gallery
Urban spots can also be highly productive: try heavy braid or single hook lures to negotiate snags.
As a general rule, predators will be higher in the water from spring onwards. On some rustic, neglected canals you might find 3ft of depth choked in weed and just 1ft of water above it. Successful fishing is all about presenting lures in the upper layers and casting accurately into little clear patches. Floating lures now come to the fore, as well as slow sinkers or those described as ‘ suspending’.
Perhaps the most exciting of all the options in spring and summer fishing is to go for a floating lure that will splash, pop and wiggle its way across the surface. Such artificial baits are a breed apart. Classic surface plugs come with scooped fronts, or even paddles and propellers to create disturbance and draw in predators. These are your choice for open water or gaps in the weed. But sometimes even more useful are weedless floating frogs, mice and other oddities that can be skipped, hopped and twitched right through lilies, duck weed and the swampy areas pike love. Some can be bought but I have had excellent fun making my own floating mice and ducklings in the past. In fact my best lure-caught canal pike, a 17-pounder, took a mouse made of balsa and deer hair!
Takes can be incredibly dramatic, with the water exploding and fish vaulting clear. Such attacks on the surface can be harder to connect with, but if you can hold your nerve, it’s often worth waiting just a split second longer to let the fish engulf the target properly.
Summer fishing does come with a little health warning, however. Pike, especially, are fragile in warm water. They thrash hard even once you get them on the bank and demand careful handling, with an absolute minimum time spent out of the water. It’s your call, but having seen pike die in hot weather shortly after release, I will no longer fish for them in such conditions.
Get stuck in!
Watch eight out of ten anglers on a canal and you’ll see the same pattern emerge: they always stop at the open swims or ‘pegs but leave the bushy parts out. In doing so, they are missing out a great deal of likely water – and pike love inaccessible, snaggy areas. For the lure angler it is a question of responsibility; you must never cast from a position where it is impossible to land a fish. But where possible, get stuck in. If you take no risks, you get fewer chances.
I caught this cracking perch from a deep canal basin. The area was full offingerling roach – so my offering of a silver shad was accepted immediately.