Holland. Big Waters, Even Bigger Pike!

Holland? What comes to mind when you think about our neighbour from across the North Sea? Stag parties? Amsterdam and it’s ‘attractions’? What about Pike fishing and in particular Pike fishing with Lures?  Having spent some time in the country more famed for its tulips  and windmills than Pike fishing I would like to share my experiences with you.

Taking up a long standing invite from close friend and Dutch predator ace Thijs van der Sanden I found myself at Birmingham International Airport boarding a flight bound for Holland, my head filled with visions of monster pike. On arrival I was met at the airport and away we went to Thijs hometown of Eindhoven to discuss the coming week and organise the trip ahead.

The plan was to spend the whole week lure fishing on 2 of Holland’s vast inland waterways, The Veluwe and The Nulde. These 2 venues are in the north of the country and are joined together, eventually spilling out into the North Sea. We were to fish exclusively from Thijs boat using a combination of trolling and casting. Unlike some of the large waterways in England these venues are totally man made and surprisingly the average depth is only 12feet.  This would make fish location that bit easier as the margins were very shallow for up to 100metres from the bank. This created plenty of drop offs and plateaus that were easy to find and held large amounts of roach and bream shoals. Using the echo sounder and the GPS on the boat to locate areas that had previously produced would make finding the vast shoals of prey fish that bit easier.

Before we could start our trip I needed to purchase a licence, these can be bought from not only tackle shops but also most pet stores (which are plentiful in Holland). It is worth noting that the rules and laws with regards to licences are vastly different to ours. Firstly licences vary from region to region and the price reflects this. Mine cost me 35 Euros and covered waters in the middle and northern areas of the country. If you were to buy one in Amsterdam it would cost more in the region of 75 Euros and cover the majority of waters in the country. They not only cover you for the use of 2 rods but also to fish individual waters  without buying day tickets or club books (this may not apply to private waters but certainly does for rivers and large ‘public’ waters). The licence also permits you to fish 2 rods but if you have more made up with hooks on you will get fined for each extra rod that is ready to fish with, always worth bearing in mind as the rules are enforced not only by the waterways agency but also by the police and very strictly. Whilst on the subject of rules and regulations, it is illegal in all parts of the country to fish with live baits. This is enforced extremely strictly by not only the police but your fellow anglers as well, who will report people seen to be using them. All laws are governed by fines with no rod licence being 50 Euros, extra rods is 50 Euros per rod and live baiting is 75 Euros per live bait.

It was with anticipation and a hint of excitement that we headed north the day prior to fishing. We had rented a static caravan for a week situated in close proximity to a public slipway. This meant we could get the maximum amount of fishing time on the water possible as we could be afloat within 20 minutes of leaving the caravan. With an early start the following morning the fishing gear was organised, the plan for the following day was discussed and I decided to have an early night.

The alarm sounded and before I knew it we were at the slipway loading the boat with an assortment of lures, rods and the all important echo sounders. Before long we were on the water and came across a local angler who was having a few hours fishing from his boat before work. He informed us he had already caught 2 pike upto 93cm in length and had 3 ‘takes’ (the Dutch measure as oppose to weighing their fish and Thijs certainly raised his eyebrows when I produced my Avon scales and weigh sling!). With hopes high we headed out into open water to start the day with some trolling at mid depth. There were shoals of preyfish in abundance so I was sure it wouldn’t be long before my first take. Unfortunately Thijs then made a comment that made my confidence drop! Over the previous 4 days there had been some very cold, clear nights which had seen the water temperature drop from 18 degrees to 13 degrees.  Thijs was under the impression this would be perfect as the pike would feed in earnest at 13 degrees but I had my doubts. As with my barbel fishing come the autumn and winter I take a great interest in water temperatures and a sudden drop was sure to have switched the fish off until they had acclimatised. And so it was proved, we fished that 1st and 2nd days very hard using a large selection of lures covering many aspects of fishing including trolling, casting, jigging, shallow and deep water fishing and after 2 solid days of 12 hours each day all we had to show for our efforts were 5 pike of a moderate size.

We decided a change of venue may be in order for day 3 and when we checked the weather forecast we realised a trip out on the lakes would have been far too dangerous. Heavy winds and rain overnight and all the following day saw us heading for a canal that ran through a local town and industrial area.

We arrived early and once again a pike graced the boat early giving us a nice confidence booster. Alas this was to be the only action of a very wet and miserable morning. Late afternoon and I managed a small jack pike on a trolled Shad Clone and we decided to call it a day. Wet through and quite despondent the warm caravan and a few beers seemed very appealing. Before we left we thought ‘1 last troll’ was in order. So I attached a very large spinner bait and cast it out beyond the back of the boat. Within minutes the end of the rod slammed over and line started tearing from the tightly set clutch. ‘Fish On’ was the shout and as I lifted the rod a huge pike I had dreamed of came to the surface………….thrashed its head……………..and it was gone! In the blink of an eye the fish of my dreams had thrown the spinner bait and sank bank into the depths to leave me wondering just how big a fish I had just lost.

Down but certainly not beaten I had 2 days remaining to rectify the loss. After the rain and winds the weather had settled and as we arrived at dawn the lake resembled a giant mirror. We quickly organised ourselves and hit the water. It was with great confidence that Thijs announced the water temperature had risen since our last visit.  True to form within minutes of our first troll Thijs rod hammered over and fish number 1 was on. A modest pike of about 7lbs but very very welcome.  This time it proved not to be a false dawn but the start of 2 days fantastic fishing the pike had ‘switched on’.

We fished the open water extremely hard but had only a few fish to show for our efforts. Thankfully Thijs had an ace up his sleeve……………..the many harbours that surrounded the lake were home to a lot of pike and he had a feeling this is where we would find them, possibly still in there after the heavy storms of the previous day. This theory was proved right as almost instantly we were into fish in every harbour we fished. I still had the loss of the previous day on my mind and knowing it would have beaten my Pb I was determined to make up for it. Before ecstasy though must come agony and I lost a further 2 big pike, 1 of which would have obliterated my pb of 21lb 9oz. We were finding that the smaller fish were really hammering the lures but the bigger fish were being very cautious with both big fish throwing the hooks not long after being hooked. I decided to change the size of lure I was using in the hope a big fish might hold onto it harder. So it was proved right, on a troll around a small part of a harbour my rod sprang into life and I had a pike on. As soon as it came to the surface I knew it was a good fish, with some coaching from Thijs I gently brought her to the boat and she was mine. Thijs confidently ‘gloving’ her for me. The tape measure and my weighing apparatus were readied and I was the proud owner of a new Pb. 118cm long and 22lb 10oz! Photographs were taken and hands shook as relief swept over me, success at last.

The final 2 days of the holiday made the whole week. We landed a total of 16 pike with 3 of them being over the Dutch big fish benchmark of a meter. In all 25 pike were landed and the same amount lost to hook pulls (the perils of lure fishing). Now to February were I have a date with my new Pb at her winter weight.

 

Top 5 Tips

 

1)    Local knowledge is best, always try to have at least one guided day on your trip, there are many areas of these vast waterways that are devoid of fish.

2)    Always have a large selection of lures, some days the pike will hit anything others only 1 or 2 lures will work.

3)    Do your homework for the area your fishing. Accommodation, access and licences.

4)    Take plenty of warm, waterproof clothing. Even early autumn can be cold and very wet.

5)    Consider the time of year you’re going the Dutch pike fishing close season runs from 1st April to the last weekend of May.

 

 

 

 

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