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By Diederik Terlaak Poot.
Herewith I want to reveal my experiences about Predator fishing in Holland in order to give tips and some advice to anglers from the United Kingdom who consider crossing the Canal in order to fish for pike and Zander in Holland. Mind you, I am not working for a travel-company, so it will be realistic and down to earth. Don’t expect me to give you prospects of lifting one big Zander after the other from the water, with some picturesque old-fashioned windmills turning in the background, or to venture out on the lakes and big rivers to catch a handful of 20 plus pike. No glamour full advertisement, but honest information.
Most UK anglers are pike anglers. In books like “The Predator becomes the prey” and “In pursuit of Esox Lucius” Holland is pictured as a heaven for the pike angler with lots of mystic waters were monsters wait for your bait. Once, a mere 20 years back, most pike-anglers in Holland only fished the small drains and canals and nearly solemnly used live baits. The lakes and rivers were untouched, and the pike in the small shallow waters hardly ever saw a lure. How that has changed! Now most serious pike-anglers will concentrate on the big rivers and lakes, using modern boats equipped with state-of-the-art fish finder and even GPS. Nearly everyone is using lures now, both on the big waters as the shallow drains and canals. Pike have wised up, and especially the last year’s new lure-methods are required to catch the big ones. Jerkbaits have been used a lot during the last years. They were the run of the mill Jerkbaits form the USA and the many sloppy imitations of the fine Jerkbaits the late Dave Scarff once made. Since Dutch and Belgian customers can order Predator Lures fact is that the anglers who use them have great results. Still it is good to be aware of the wizened up pike and be flexible with your lure approach. Varying in speed, trolling a little faster, trolling with Jerkbaits and big spinnerbaits are some of the trick to get good results.
Back to the pike fishing after the year 2000. Where and when should you put on some wooden shoes to melt in the surroundings of our flat country in order to have some decent pikefishing? Just under Amsterdam are some fine, but heavily fished lakes. They produce big pike, although you should put some effort in trying some various lures and retrieve techniques. June and October are usually the best time. The pike season starts on the first of July, but as you are allowed to fish for Zander from the last Saturday in May, a lot of Dutch anglers try to catch some needle backs by throwing Jerkbaits in the margins. Low and behold, now and then a pike is hooked by accident. I guess you get the message. Apart from casting trolling can be a good method too. Don’t fish deep in June and October. It is hardly any use to fish deeper then say 14 foot, and most of the times it is better to concentrate in the upper layers (2-7 foot). Flats near drop offs, the slope of the drop of self, emerging weed beds are places to look for. Fish fast and search the water quickly. In June and October pike is not too shy. Cover as much water as possible until you find some action. Then concentrate on that spot and similar spots. Don’t fish near the bottom, but fish your lure in mid water or even near the surface. Pike will come up easily
Other good pike waters are the various big slow moving rivers in Holland. June and October are again the best times, with October the best month of the two. Here also you should concentrate on fishing shallow parts. In the river systems pike concentrate more to the bottom area. In early morning they will because sometimes they hunt in the upper layer of the water, but 1-2 hours after sunset they will go back to the bottom. Still they can be persuaded to come up to intercept a lure. But as a general rule of thumb I would advice you to fish your lure at 2/3 of the depth of the water. Give special attention on places were a side stream enters the river or at the entrances of a sandpit. Bridges are often a magnet to big predator, but are also often a graveyard for lures…. But every lure angler should bring a lure-retriever with him anyway.
Apart from the aforementioned lakes and bigger rivers, there is an abundance of shallow canals and drains in Holland. In the summertime dense vegetation makes it hard to fish these waters, but from October onwards they become accessible for the lure-enthusiast. No need to throw 3-ounce table legs, the only effect is a change of the water level. These waters inhabit a lot of small pike. Small spinners and plugs to ½ oz will do the job in the drains. The drains will come to a bigger canal. This canal, which often contains some coloured water, will hide some heavier pike. In this bigger canal is wise to use 6-inch lures. My own favourite for trolling is the Baby Shallow Raider by Bucher, big enough for the biggest pike. But trolling means putting a boat in the water in an accessible place if you can find one. If time is limited I wander out with my light Jerkbait rod and some small Jerkbaits. Since last October the baby Hog has become my favourite. I order my ones a little extra weighted so the hang in the water during the pauses. Fishing them with short pulls, and letting them rest in the water proves to be a deadly method.
But to be honest, if I was living in Great Britain and fancied some good pike fishing, I would go to the Lake District or to Scotland. Bigger waters, more pike, less fishing-pressure and (apart from the holidays and bank-holidays) less other water-recreants. Beside that the nature surrounding those lakes is far more beautiful than our crowded country. So there you are, back on your feet again. Blown away is the Dutch dream! Or is it? No when you want to have a serous try at Zander I know you are better off in Holland. Zander may still be considered as an elusive fish, which can be caught on lure if you are lucky in England. In Holland it is just the other predator fish most anglers are after, and by using the right system on the right spot, Zander fishing can be quite easy (as I have proved Loz on his outing to Holland in June 2001). And here we have come to the basic problem: finding the right spot. It is almost impossible to find the right spots if you don’t have any local ‘knowledge or have some insights in what kind of spots Zander favour. In the rivers they like to lay down on the bottom in the outward bends, preferable on the slopes of deeper spots in the outward bend at the down stream side of those spots. The current has made deeper spots in the outward bends, and it has provided a hard bottom. Zander like to lie down on hard bottoms. Maybe they can detect prey easier by their lateral lines or by sound? Yes, Zander like some clicking swan shot in a plug. Zander thrive in the slightly coloured waters, were pike has lost its position as top-predator. Zander is just prey for pike, so as soon as pike starts to increase in number a lot of smaller Zander will be ground between the jaws of pike. Zander also prefer slim minnow plugs, probably because of their preference for smelt as food. Big Zander however will catch chunky big lures. Especially in June you can make use of the aggressiveness of the male Zander defending their nests. Big flashy coloured lures will often provoke an aggressive reaction. Takes can be very aggressive then. But normally Zander often hesitate a little and grab a lure gently. If you are not used to it you wouldn’t recognize it as take. You have to be aware of these cautious takes. Also Zander like a lure to hang in the water motionless for a while. They move in and gently take it between their jaws. On the aforementioned outing with Loz in Holland I had moved the boat to a proven Zander spot on a deep lake. The spot itself is a slope, which is 3 foot near the shore and then gradually descends till about 12 foot. I cast all the usually good producers like sinking Magnums and Slivers from Rapala, soft plastic baits, deep diving noisy plugs, but I failed to show Loz a Zander. Apparently they were not so willing to chase a prey. I then attached a Fluo Orange Yellow Zander Hog, which is no more then an extra weighted Hog that won’t rise during the pauses but just stays put. Within 10 casts a made contact with a nice Zander. In the next 20 minutes another 2 nice Zander followed that fish. All happened within half an hour on a pot that was gives some flak already with other lures. It wasn’t a case of “they even took Jerkbaits” but they only took Jerkbaits. Not tiny fry-imitating 3-inch toothpicks, but 6 inch extra weighted 1 ½ oz Zander Hogs.
Holland has some really good Zander waters, and as Zander almost inhabit all the available waters it is hard to find a water that doesn’t have any Zander in it. Leave the myth behind that Zander prefer coloured water all of the times. In a deep gin-clear sand pits there are few Zander, but they are much bigger then their brothers and sisters in the coloured Zander waters. Also if they have the choice between clear water and a connected coloured water usually the bigger fish will opt for the deeper clear water.
If you would like to have a try to do some Zander fishing I would advice you strongly to come into contact with some Dutch bloke to point you to the waters, bring you to the right spots and show you the right way of lure fishing for Zander. I think that most British anglers have still a lot to learn where Zander fishing is concerned, especially using lures, and without some knowledge of good spots it will be like finding a needle In a haystack.
Licenses are required in Holland. Apart from the State-licence obtainable in the post-offices for 4 pound, you need a licence of the local angling club. Most angling clubs are bonded together so as a member you have access to the water of the other joined clubs too. Unfortunately there is no big licence for all the waters in Holland. Therefore I suggest if you want information about specific water you contact me email@example.com and I will try to help you. (If I will receive over 20 e-mails a day I will change my address immediately, haha). Anyway I hope I have given you some realistic image of fishing for pike and Zander in Holland. Screaming drags (no snags) to you, wherever you fish. Cheers, Diederik.