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Gassed Up Pike
There are varying opinions of how long we should play our pike. The text book style is playing fish until they are rolling on the surface with exhaustion... or… playing the fish quickly and landing the fish with the minimum of stress and netting it as soon as is practicably possible. Both practices are loosely based on fish welfare. Both can and do from time to time create their own unique problems.

What do we mean by ‘gassed up’? It is the inability, on occasion, of pike to release gas from their swim bladders. Noticeably, in some instances, on releasing the fish, instead of swimming off strongly the fish tries to dive, but then wallows on the surface alive but belly up. Some pike will actually 'appear visibly bloated' and swollen, others are simply unable to keep their balance and remain upright. Divers suffer the bends when returning to the surface too fast... the equivalent in pike is to be 'gassed up'.


'Gassed up' pike are more frequently encountered in deep water swims. Hooked near the bottom they are then wound to the surface too fast ...Water pressure not allowing for any immediate changes to the swimbladder giving the fish some degree of discomfort. Pike have been seen to 'blow bubbles' whilst being played which would strongly suggest that they do have the ability to regulate the air/gas content of the swimbladder; releasing excess gasses in accordance with any particular water pressure encountered.

Pike can become 'Gassed up' in shallow water due to a prolonged fight and the build up of lactic acid due to their overexertion and exhaustion. In extreme cases is potentially dangerous as it upsets the whole chemical balance within the fish's body. Fish that have been played hard and seem to be strong swimming away well on release, only to suddenly roll onto their side are not 'gassed up' but simply suffering from pure exhaustion and a lack of oxygen. Keeping fish out of the water for longer than is absolutely necessary combined with high water temperatures during the summer months and naturally depleted dissolved oxygen levels greatly increases the problem.


Under these circumstances what can we, as responsible anglers, do to aid the pikes recovery? Firstly, find a quiet stretch of water close at hand, preferably with a solid current, and erect a cradle from banksticks with a submerged suspended weigh sling or whatever you can utilise at the time. Gently place the fish facing upstream into the belly of the cradle and simply leave it in peace, once the lactic acid levels have equalised and the fish is fully rested and oxygenated, it will swim off happily unaided. This process varies the actual recovery period peculiar to each individual pike and can take from a few minutes to several hours.