We examined the relationship between bait and lure size and type and body size, injury, and handling time for northern pike Esox lucius, an important recreational fisheries resource in much of North America and Europe. Bait type and size were significantly related to the size of fish captured and hooking location. Hooking in critical locations (i.e., gills, gullet) was more likely to occur with natural bait, soft plastic shads and jigs, and spoons than with spinners and wobblers (i.e., plugs). Small baits (<75 mm) were more likely to hook the fish in the gills and less likely to hook the fish in the upper jaw than larger baits. It took longer to remove hooks from gills than from other hooking locations. Frequency of bleeding was related to depth of hooking but was unrelated to fish size, bait type, bait size, or fishing method. Initial mortality of northern pike was low (mean ± 95% confidence interval = 2.4 ± 1.5%), and hooking mortality was significantly related to the level of bleeding as a proxy for severity of injury. Results of this study suggest that using large artificial lures and large natural baits can effectively reduce the incidence of hooking small northern pike (i.e., those that are sublegal in some jurisdictions). However, the use of natural bait can also result in a higher incidence of deep hooking, which in turn increases the likelihood of injury and bleeding. This study revealed the complexity associated with using bait and lure restrictions to complement standard harvest regulations in northern pike recreational fisheries.
Angling with hook and line experiments