Etienne Fleurant is a superb fisherman specialized for taking big pikes out of their homes.. After he sent us plenty of photos with really big fish, we asked him if he would like to share some of his secrets, experiences and fishing stories with us.
So lets go…
Hi Robert, hi Goran, I’m glad to talk about pike fishing with you. I have followed some of your outings and I have to say there seems to be many more things to discover in Croatia. You have a lot of different places, preserved, as well as beautiful landscapes. In short, lot of good reasons to visit you again. I could even see some pictures of big pike. And as you know, pike is one of my favorite- hand by hand with black bass.
What kind of water do you prefer for pike fishing? Big, or small, shallow or deep, lake, or river?
I love them all!
But I must confess that my favorites are the great outdoors. I love big lakes. They hold a lot of mysteries. It’s a bit silly but when I fish these places, I always tell myself that there are giant fishes, measuring their home. May be a resurgence in the Lockness monster story…
What kind of feeling is to catch pike on large, deep lakes?
Pike fishing in big lakes is special. It requires extensive research and a lot of practice time to get consistent results. This is a fishing where involvement is very large and it gives weight to each capture. Pike is the iconic predator in France. Pike fishing in large and big lakes adds some greatness to each fish. Each bite, your heart beats faster, as you can have an appointment with a giant.
I’m sure Lokvarsko lake in Croatia holds very large fish.
How to find big fish in this kind of lakes?
As everywhere, food is an essential element for predators fishing. So, the research of position of baitfish is an essential step. In deep lakes where the water is clear, pike move a lot. They stop only a few places more or less time. The feeding periods are generally short and sudden. Suddenly, they bite. Then about ten minutes later, it´s dead calm. I most often search baitfish with sonar. I like when the baitfish’s position indicates that fishes are disturbed. It is better to see lots of small balls exploded than a big school placed near the bottom. The other important factor in this kind of lakes is the wind.
At each appearance, or change of direction, pike can become active. During this time,you must be fishing your best spots!
If you caught big fish on lake you know, do you try to find similar situation on a lake where you are the first time? Does pike live and hunt on same place the whole time?
Every situation is different. And, yes, experience can be a good tool, but it is necessary to analyze each of them. It depends on so many factors. The season, type of lake, weather, fish population…
But I think in large clear lake, pike don´t have really special areas. To me, they spend their time in swimming, to find water temperatures that best match their thermal preferences. This is very different from the smaller lakes or shallow rivers where pike can have their territory. But one thing is sure,to take big fish, you have to fish places where they are. And a lake that has already given big fish continues to produce big fish because it has the characteristics needed for that.
Best time for pike fishing (calendar month and part of the day)?
Without any hesitation, autumn.
The baitfish begin to regroup and fish are easier to locate. In addition, the weather conditions are favorable with windy days that I love. You can get bite at any time during the day. Sometimes the sign trigger is hardly perceptible. But to catch big fish regularly, you must be prepared to spend many hours on the water.
Does this change from water to water or there is some pattern?
As I told you before, each situation is different.
It would be too easy if there was a model that was still running… The most important thing is to know your lake and pike behavior. For example, in France, pikes of alpine lakes do not behave like those of the West Lake.
When you´re after a big fish, do you spend more time looking for the right spot, or you spend most of the time casting? Do you change your strategy if you can´t get a bite?
I never change strategy when I search specifically for a large fish. I’m looking for baitfish, and if I see pike around, I fish. If it does not bite, there are several solutions. When I do not know much about the lake, I remain long on the spot and wait for pike to become active. If I know the lake better, I exchange areas and try to find which area will be good. Sometimes I fish only ten minutes before a zone change. But this approach requires a very good knowledge of the fishing area and in order to do that, you have to fish every day of a week.
After it can also be a mix of both. I can only select two areas and divide my time. Sometimes, the feeding zones are very small. Other times, they can be very large. For example, during my last trip, the first day we took all our fish on an area of 50m². But the second day, at a time of the day, we were getting bites all over the lake.
Do you think that big pike is a teritorial fish? Do you change spot if you have bites from smaller pikes? Or did you have situation where you had more ( 90 + ) big pikes at one spot?
Pike does have a territorial behavior, but lake is very different. I think the fish evolve with congeners of the same age class. When I fish big lake for big pike, each catch of 75cm fish pushes me to change the area.
Does pike prefer big meal or smaller ones have a pass to?
I am not a pike for answer to this question… I often use 15cm baits. There are sufficient to sort little fish and not too big for use all day long.
If pike is not active can you triger the attack with bigger bait?
I often say that we fish only active fishes. We are not smart enough to fool the fish who do not wish to eat. Especially a big pike is a fish of a old age and it managed to grow so big because eating is it´s job! It is often said that the pike is akward. I do not think so. It distinguishes perfectly that your lure Is not a prey.
What lure strategy did bring you the bigest fishes?
Cranking shad. Retrieve a 15/20cm soft bait lure.
Do you think that big pike is a lazy fish or it will run for a meal?
Big pike are not lazy!
They can travel great distances to find a diet that suits them. They know their environment and prey. They capture only during periods of activity because apart from those moments of euphoria you can not deceive them. But when a big pike hunts, it can swim more than 20 m to take your lure.
What kind of setup do you use for big pikes?
I use tackle adapted to my lures. But for catching big pike as all the other species, tackle is not the most important. I just want to be sure of reliability. But I understand that you would like some clarification.
So my ideal ensemble consitutes like this:
- 7.4 feet XH rod able to cast a 100g lure
- 6.4 ratio reel with a good and progressive brake
- 0.25mm braid
- 0.40mm leader on fluorocarbon
- 0.80mm terminal on fluorocarbon
- 15/20cm soft bait with jighead adapted for the lake I want to fish.
I hope I answered some of your questions. But the best thing that I can do is to come again to you so we can try to catch big Croatian pike together. In the meantime, there are some beautiful days by the end of the year to catch a big fish, so I look forward to your pictures…