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Gravel Pit Piking

Ian Wakeford

Topography and History

Gravel pits offer the best access for anglers to stillwaters, they are extremely common in certain parts of the country, and the last ice age combined with the road building program is partly to blame for their existence.

Gravel pits are usually full of features and these are usually as a result of the gravel extraction process.  Features which normally put in an appearance as are follows.

Access Ramps - These are gradually sloping ramps which gravel lorries used to drive up and down into the pit.  They tend to run alongside a bank running out from a corner.   These are rather infrequent as pits tend to be dug by cranes from the bank . 

Bars - These are ridges of gravel left over from from the digging process.  As machines tend to work in lines, left overs from caterpillar tracks, and digger shovels can cause ridges to form.

Plateaus - These are areas for some reason or other the gravel extractors have decided not to excavate as much.  It may be that the gravel deposit is not as deep, or that it was just a pile of gravel that never got cleared away. 

Islands - This are clearly bars and plateaus above the water level, and occasionally the gravel extractors leave an island for conservation or other reasons.  Very often an electricity pylon or something is left on the island.

The other interesting feature about gravel pits is that they are usually in close proximity to a river, and share the same water table.  In periods of wet weather when the river is in flood, gravel pit water levels rise.  Some pits can rise a metre over a period of a week, influenced by the water level in the local river.

Gravel pits when flooded can be a bit bleak to start with, but within a few years, they will have developed an invertebrate food supply, and usually pike will have found their way in waiting for the first stocking of coarse fish.  Theories abound as to how pike get into lakes, the accepted theory is that they spawn early with sticky eggs.  These are picked up by bird legs and feathers, which hatch out at a later date, hopefully when the bird is on another lake.  I have fished lakes that have never been stocked, and appear not to have any coarse fish at all apart from pike.  The pike get by on cannibalism, frogs, birds etc, they may not grow into monsters but seem to peak at about 10-15lbs.

Fish Location

Three factors seem to influence where pike are, features, weather and food supply.   I will deal with each of these but clearly a combination of these factors have to be accessed and a decision of where to fish made.

Features - Pike will be influenced by features, they are predators and as such will want to position themselves in places which afford them ambush cover.  Or in a place which avoids being eaten themselves.  Bars are used as features which food fish travel along, pike will hide on the drop off of a bar, hoping to grab a fish as it passes over the bar.  Jack pike will very often sit in very shallow water, on top of a bar, they avoid being eaten but also take a share of the small fry that frequent these warm and sunny areas.  Weed beds are pike's favourite places to hide, and many pike that are caught are covered with leeches and lice, which indicates that these parasites have attached themselves from weedbeds.  Do not be put off by fishing weed beds, just work out rigs to overcome them.  Always fish a feature, and don't forget the ones under your feet, the bottom of the shelf, can be very productive.  The diagram below summarises the best places to fish on a typical gravel pit.

pit.gif (12543 bytes)

From the diagram above, suggested holding places are rapid drop offs, i.e. the West bank, weedy corners, the long bar, both on it and on the side off, on the East bank, and around islands.


Firstly, lets not assume that pike fishing has to happen in the winter, the best fishing is to be had in the summer, especially in the close season months.  Pike, spawn early, and then go about finding the other coarse species, which are bunching up to spawn themselves.  In the summer pike will be in the weedy, shallow areas as well as their usual haunts.  But also lets assume that most people don't bother to fish for pike until the Winter.  No matter what the weather is, pike are always caught, but some conditions in my experience are superb, where as others are very slow.  The best weather is 12 degrees C, Westerly Wind, and rather windy, fish right into the teeth of the wind, the pike will be off of the foam line that forms.  If the temperature is below about 5 degrees C, it is probably too cold to bother fishing.  Flat calm, bright sunny days are usually slow, where as over cast days or broken cloud are better.   Foggy Days are slow and those cold damp damp days called anti-cyclonic gloom are as bad.  Infact low pressure or falling pressure, is the weather to go for, plenty of wind and cloud cover, and even a little rain does no harm.

Food Supply

Pike have a varied diet, and generally for a rule of thumb will go for food sources that offer them the greatest food intake for the least effort.  For instance during a typical year the diet of a pike may follow the following pattern.

January Probably rather dormant due to cold weather, fish will pick off the odd dead fish or live fish that passes by.  Not actively seeking out food.
February Depends on the weather, can still be very cold, so as per January.   But some years spring comes early.  Pike will be bunching up to spawn.   Frogs will also be active, and make a very easy meal.  Pike will also drive shoals of roach/bream into corners, to pick off.
March Pike will be actively feeding on shoal fish and frogs, very good month for fishing.  Fish will be heavy due to spawn.
April Pike should have spawned and their attention will have switched to piling on weight.  Weather will be mild and in the 12-15 degrees C band.  Pike will be actively seeking out food and will eat anything edible, alive, dead or artificial.
May Rather similar to April, but activity will wain on particularly hot days.   Best to limit fishing to dawn 'til mid morning.  Coarse fish will be thinking about spawning and will be bunching up in spawning areas, in the shallows.  Pike will be close by the shoal fish, feeding heavily.  They also have a liking for chicks, these can form a major part of a diet, especially around weedbeds and lillypads.
June Similar to May, hotter weather will limit pike activity to dawn and dusk.   Night fishing is worth trying but I have only had limited results on this.   Pike will be following shoal fish around, work out where these fish are.   Still eating chicks too.
July Feeding seems to reduce, or at least fishing results drop.  Shoal fish disperse due to finishing spawning, and plentiful food supply all over the lake.   Pike mainly caught at dawn and dusk.   They will also have an eye on voles and water rats.
August Rather similar to July, a bit tricky to find the fish.  Dawn and dusk, and the fish often hold up in ambush places, like weed beds and along bars.   Any fish species will be taken.
September If this is a hot month then rather similar to the previous two months, but late September will trigger the pike to start feeding up to get them through the winter.   This can be a very productive month fishing dawn 'til midday, pike will be actively seeking food, and will be patrolling bars and drop offs.  Fish features.
October Again, a good month for piking, the weather is still mild and the pike are feeding hard.  Shoal fish will still be dispersed and the pike will be hunting them down.  Pike will often latch onto a shoal and follow it around.  Learn the patrol routes of bream etc, and fish these places.  Talk to other coarse anglers, fish the good roach and bream swims.
November Big shoals of coarse fish will form, making fishing for them a bit difficult.  Pike will be following them around, or laying in ambush along their patrol routes.  Fish features like bars and drop offs.  The easiest fish to find may be other pike, so they may start to turn their attention to their own kind.
December Usually still quite a mild month, again the shoal fish are bunched up.  Pike will either take it easy picking off the odd easy or passing meal or wander around after shoals if they track them down. 


The main thing to think about when gravel pit fishing, is think like a pike. 

What time of year is it?

What are pike likely to be feeding on and where will they be? 

What is the weather, is a mild wind howling into a corner?

Where is a good place to ambush prey or patrol, how will features effect this? 




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