'' Fact And Folklore ''

In or about the year of 1854 piking was at an all time high and in those days pike were considered as food for the table.
Even further back in history naturalists and fisher folk alike had observed the pike's habit of
' playing 'with a bait the typical ' mouthing ' lifting and dropping and ' false running' experienced by modern day fishermen.
Although fished for with fish baits such as roach,gudgeon and perch the pike apparently had a great passion for.

A swan's head and shoulders,
a mule's lip,
a damsel's foot,
a gentleman's hand,
tender kittens before their eyes are opened,
and the fleshy parts of a calf's head.

Then of course there were those baits and creatures that repulsed the pike.
It is said that if a toad is presented to him he will turn directly away from the loathsome creature.
Likewise if presented with a tench.

Common methods of catching pike included Snaring,'Trimmered' ,Float Fished ,' Huxed ', Trolled,'Snapped ' [ Snap Tackle ] ,Shot and Illegally Netted.

SNARING

Snaring was widely practised in the Fens of East Anglia in particular those ditches and small streams running into the River Ouse.
The general method was to cut a stiff length of aspen about twelve feet in length,From the thinnest end a length of copper wire about three feet in length was attached this was constructed as an open running noose.
In order to remove the shine and glare from the bare wire and to make it pliable it first had to be burned in hay.
On finding a pike basking in the shallows the noose was skilfully and carefully slipped over the fish's head to a point behind the gill plates.
A quick sharp tug pulled the noose [ Snickle ] tight and the pike was unceremoniously hauled from the water.
Many times the wire acted like a cheese cutter and deeply lacerated the fish.

'THE TRIMMER'

The trimmer was without doubt the most effective method of taking pike from open water frowned upon by many even in those days as totally unsporting requiring no
skill
and well adapted for poaching and the river keepers who used this method to control pike populations.

A 6 inch length of wire armed with double hooks and looped at one end was baited by threading the wire shank down through the bait fish's mouth and out it's vent.It mattered not whether the bait was dead or alive.
The hooks were then placed either side of the roach or gudgeon's mouth and the baited rig tied securely to twenty yards of 'common twine' which was threaded through a small cork and a larger bung.
The smaller of the bungs was secured 10 inches from the bait by trapping the line with a small peg pushed into the central hole running through the cork.
Correct placement of this cork bung was important as it acted as an anti-kink preventing line twist.
At a point three to four feet from the bait the large bung was secured in the same manner.
These were painted in different colours and easily seen against the glare off the water and also acted as a pilot float such as we use today.
The whole affair was tied off to a strong peg driven into the ground,a short length being reserved in a series of coils at the foot of the peg in order to allow the pike to run a short distance.
With the bait thrown out across and into the water it was then a case of waiting until the ' floats ' indicated that a pike had taken the bait.
At which point the fish would have been hauled ashore.
This simple but effective method accounted for hundreds of pike in it's day.

' THE FLOATING TRIMMER '

Another popular method based on 'The Original Trimmer ' yet again simplistic but effective.
In this version a length of rounded wood perhaps 8 inches in length had a groove cut around the centre of the 'dowel' with a half inch notch cut in at one end.
Twenty yards of 'common twine' were lightly wound around the groove and the rig baited as previously described.
A three to four feet length of twine between the bait and trimmer was left free and simply gently eased into and lightly secured in the notch at the end of the trimmer.
The whole arrangement then secured to a peg driven into the
bank
and the bait thrown into the water.
When a pike took the bait pulling the line from the notch the loosely wound twine unravelled from the trimmer and the pike felt no resistance until the hooks pulled home.

' HUXING '

This method practised the art of attaching a live bait on a 'trace' hooked once through the lower jaw or under the dorsal fin.[ Perch baits had the spiny dorsal fin cut off to make it easier for the pike to swallow ] suspended under an inflated ox bladder.
Which would hold the largest heaviest pike without being pulled under.
The erratic bobbing of the bladder denoted when a pike was close at hand stalking the bait,there was no mistaking the actual take as the pike ran the river dragging the inflated bladder behind.
It was a simple matter of allowing the fish to exhaust itself then retrieve it by hand or by boat.
Some experienced 'huxers' used live ducks instead of bladders believing that their flapping and quacking attracted bigger better pike.
It is well documented that geese were regularly employed for using this method in Irish waters.

This is still practised today in some of the southern North American States where the bladder is substituted by plastic coke bottles or such like.
Baited and left to drift several bottles are fished at once and followed downstream by boat.

TALISMAN

There is a bone deep within the pike's head that resembles a cross.
Removed,cleaned and dried these bones were worn as talismans to ward off enchantment and the powers of witchcraft.
Hungarians and Bohemians believed it an omen not to be disregarded if they were to see a pike in any still water or ditch before mid – day.

MEDICINE

It was strongly believed that pike held great medicinal qualities.

Eating the heart was said to guard against and ward off fevers.
The gall bladder [ bile ]used as a linament to ward off eye infections.
Jaws were dried and ground to dust to ward off pleurisy.
Any small fish or fry found in the pike's belly were ground and liquidised into a draught for the poor in consumption.


JOHN