Pike, zander, and perch in fresh water and brackish water

Angling for pike, zander, and perch is very popular, and these predatory fish can be caught in many different ways – either from land, from boat, or fishing from belly boat.

The pike, zander, and perch are at the top of the menu when a predator angler sets to sea. They are found especially in our many lakes, but they also occur in many of our rivers, fjords, and the brackish water areas around the southern parts of Zealand and the surrounding islands.

These predatory fish have great recreational value as they are interesting for both novice anglers and more experienced predator anglers. But also because these fish can be found in many different waters around the country and are accessible to every angler. In Denmark, we have a great number of public lakes where one can fish by boat, bridge, or shore in concordance with local rules.

Here is an introduction to them as well as a guide on how to catch them.

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The pike

The pike has thousands of teeth in its ferocious mouth. It is often regarded as the most popular game fish in the lakes. In part because its appearance is akin to the fresh water crocodiles of the south, but also because it reaches a length of up to a meter and a half.

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The zander

The zander is related to the perch, but it grows much bigger. The mark of the zander is its vampire-like fangs, which it uses to hold onto its prey.

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The perch

The perch is seen by many as the little, whimsical fish full of energy. But the black-striped predatory fish can achieve a size that is certainly worthy of a predator angler.

Methods for pike fishing

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Fishing rod, reel, and line have to match the method of angling you wish to do. If you are new to pike fishing, the perfect rod is around 8 to 10 ft. with a casting weight of up to 40 grams. The line can span from 0.17 to 0.20 millimeters. This allows you to throw heavier bait.

Always remember to use a leader of wire or thick fluorocarbon to ensure that the pike doesn’t bite through your line. The pike’s sharp teeth will easily bite through nylon or braided line. Look further down on this site for tools recommended for fishing for predatory fish.

Casting

There are many possible types of casting for pike. Some of the most popular lures are spinners, crankbait, jerkbait, and shads. The pike is quite responsive to sounds, motions, and vibrations. When casting, the speed of your lure can be essential. In the cold months, your lure should be slow while it can be a good idea to speed it up during spring, summer, and fall.

Trolling

You troll from a boat with oars, gas engine, or electric motor. Be aware of the local rules at your lake. Fishing from motorboat is not allowed in every lake.

Trolling with artificial or natural bait such as roach can prove an effective way to scan through a lot of water. Keep your bait about 15-30 meters behind the boat in order to control it most effectively. If you use more than one rod, it’s a good idea to keep your baits at different depths to better locate the fish. Troll right under the surface of the water, in the middle of the water column, and down at the bottom until the predatory fish finds just what the doctor ordered.

Baitfishing

If you prefer a more easy-going form of angling, fishing with float might be the thing for you. You put a sinker and two treble hooks under a float. You then put the baitfish, typically a roach, onto the hooks. After that, you just have to wait in your boat or by the lake shore.

If you use cork, it’s important that you place the hooks correctly so the pike doesn’t feel them right off the bat.

Fly fishing

Fly fishing for pike is very entertaining. By using synthetic material, you can make light flies that don’t soak up water. You can even use larger flies for fly fishing. Use a fly rod with an AFTMA number between 6-8. These are powerful enough to cast larger flies and allow you to maintain some control over the pike once it’s hooked.

The pike isn’t shy when it comes to fly fishing, so you can easily use a leader of 1-2 meters. You should have a leader capable of withstanding the pike’s teeth right in front of your fly. Your best option is a line of hefty fluorocarbon of 0.70 millimeters or a steel leader customized for fly fishing. If you use a regular steel leader, the steel will weaken over time, making the leader brittle and easier to break. Ask your local angling shop what leader is best for fly fishing for pike.

 Methods for zander fishing

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The zander can be caught in many different ways, but some ways are more effective than others. The gear is adjusted to the form of fishing you wish to pursue. If you’re a beginner, an 8-10 ft. rod with a casting weight of 30-40 grams is a good all-round set. In addition, you want a size 2500 fixed spool reel with braided line of 0.14-0.18 millimeters.

Remember to use a sturdy leader, so the zander doesn’t bite through it. A leader of fluorocarbon/monofilament of at least 0.50 millimeters line diameter is recommended.

Vertical jigging

If you are fishing for zander from boat in deep waters, vertical jigging is both fun and effective. An exciting form of fishing, where you need to keep a cool head in order to lure the zander to bite. In this situation, echo sounding is an important tool for finding the zander at the right depths.

Trolling

You can also catch zander by way of trolling, where you pull rubber lures or crankbait through the water from a slowly moving boat. Seek the zander out by bluffs and slopes in the lake.

Baitfishing

If you prefer a more easy-going form of angling, fishing with float might be the thing for you. You put a sinker and two treble hooks under a float. You then put the baitfish, typically a roach, onto the hooks. After that, you just have to wait in your boat or by the lake shore.

Methods for perch fishing

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Perch seldom grow above a couple of kilograms, and you’ll have the most fun if your gear is adjusted to fishing for the little, black-striped rascals. A rod of 6-8 ft. with a casting weight of up to 20 grams is perfect. It is powerful enough for larger jigs and crankbait while still retaining the fun of competing with the fish. If you use braided line, you won’t have to use line with a diameter above 0.15 millimeters. If you use nylon line, a diameter between 0.20 and 0.25 millimeters is more than enough.

Casting

The perch mostly keeps to the bottom but hunts in every part of the water column. Thus, it is important to have a well-stocked tackle box. Small spinners in sizes 2 or 3 are always sure things. Small crankbait and jigs are also great for fishing perch. Remember to vary your spinning and technique. The perch is whimsical and doesn’t go for just anything you put in front of it.

Natural bait

The perch is used to eating small fish and insects, and fishing with worms or small fish can be effective as bait for perch.

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Did you know?

Did you know that perch is found in 96 % of all Danish lakes?

Button: Maintaining the perch population

Open and closed seasons

Fishing for pike, zander, and perch peaks in different months depending on weather and other circumstances.

Pike

Open and closed seasons

Pike - Fresh water:
60 cm (Closed season from april 1st - april 30th)

Pike - Salt and brackish water:
60 cm (Closed season from april 1st - may 15th)

Zander - Fresh water:
50 cm (Closed season may 1st - may 31th)

Zander - Salt and brackish water:
No minimum length (Only in Randers Fjord *)

Perch in brackish water: 20 cm

The food intake and shape of body varies greatly from season to season. The pike spawns during spring and expends much energy doing so, and as a consequence, the pike is quite lean after spawning. It is usually very hungry after spawning and wants food in order to fill out once again. This yields some rather explosive bites when fishing for them. In summer, as the temperature rises, the pike can be almost sedentary. It preserves its energy, but if an easy victim comes swimming by, it has a hard time resisting a little snack. In winter and until spawning, the pike is at its heaviest. The females are full of roe, and its food reserves are full. Even though the food intake decreases because of the cold, it’s in winter you find the heaviest pikes.

Zander

The zander loves heat. It is at its most active from spring till autumn but can also be caught during winter. The temperature of the water is significant for the food intake of the zander, and its growth almost stops by temperatures of 8-10 °C. The zander primarily spawns in May, which is why this month is closed season. After spawning, the zander is hungry and wants food in order to fill out once again. This is why it’s especially ready to bite from June through fall. If you dream about a heavy zander, your best bet is in the spring months before spawning when it is most heavy and beautiful, although a bit hard to catch.

Perch

Temperature matters a great deal for the food intake of the perch. If the temperature rises, the food intake almost always increases in turn. During summer at its hottest, the perch can devour up to 16 % of its own bodyweight a day. During winter, with lower temperatures, the perch still eats, but its food intake can go as low as 0.1 % of its own bodyweight. So if you want the perch at its most active, aim for spring, summer, and fall.

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Zander

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Perch

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Equipment for predatory fish

When fishing for predatory fish like perch, pike, or zander, always make sure to have the right equipment in order to handle the fish properly.

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Follow this advice to take care of yourself as well as the fish

  • Always have a set of tongs on you. All predatory fish have teeth and will often swallow your bait making it difficult to retrieve. When fishing for pike, the tongs should be long for you to properly reach down into its throat without harming yourself. If the predatory fish is hooked in the gills, make sure to have a set of pliers handy to cut the hook. The pike can easily survive a hook for a short while, as it will fall out on its own. Make sure to cut the hook as close to the point of the hook as possible.
  • Wear gloves when unhooking pike or zander.
  • Always unhook the fish in the water. If this is not possible, use an unhooking mat as it protects the skin mucus of the fish.
  • A net enables you to land the fish properly as well as give you the time to calmly unhook the fish. If it’s been a long struggle, keep the fish in the net to keep it vertical. Doing this increases your chance of setting the fish free without harming it.
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Did you know?

Did you know that the zander prefers hunting in open waters?

Geography and conditions

The pike

The pike is found in most Danish lakes, as the pike doesn’t demand much as far as the quality of water goes, so long as it can find food and shelter. Even in small lakes and bogs, the pike can reach a significant size, which makes it a much desired prey for many anglers.

The pike mainly hunts by sight, so the best conditions for fishing pike is windy weather with light cloud cover. Unruly waters make the prey fish eat the whirling microorganisms, making them vulnerable to the pike’s ambush. As a bonus, the pike is very hard to catch a glimpse of in these conditions, thus making it perfect for fishing.

The zander

Today, the zander is prevalent almost all over the country. Healthy populations are often found in larger lakes especially on Zealand and Funen as well as in East Jutland.

The zander thrives best in lakes with murky water, and it hunts actively in open waters. It is nocturnal, which is why many fish for it during dusk and at night – especially during summer and fall.

In lakes, the zander most often hunts in open waters, making it difficult to find. Large schools of prey fish can indicate that a zander is close by. Bluffs, headland, and peaks are also attractive locations for the zander . The optimal weather conditions for catching zander are light cloud cover, stable air pressure, and light to no wind. Light cloud cover is perfect, because it protects the eyes of the zander from being blinded by the sun and thus not biting. The zander, like the perch, has a closed swim bladder, which is the organ enabling the fish to lie neutrally in the water. When the air pressure decreases or increases, the pressure in the bladder is regulated which makes the fish sedentary. It is not vital, but stable air pressure significantly increases the chances of making a catch. If you fish from a boat, you’ll avoid too much wind in order to sail above the fish found by echo sounding.

The perch

The perch exists in almost all lakes in Denmark because it is a great survivor. This gives us anglers plenty of opportunity to find a local spot to fish for perch. It is an opportunistic fish that remains adaptable and effective no matter the environment.

In lakes, the perch hunts in schools and most often in open waters but also in lower water levels along reeds and the like. Large schools of prey fish are a good indication of perch close by. Like the zander, the perch can be found near bluffs, headland, and peaks. Optimal weather conditions are light cloud cover and stable air pressure. Light cloud cover is preferable for most predatory fish hunting by sight. Like the zander, the perch has a closed swim bladder, which is the organ enabling the fish to lie neutrally in the water. When the air pressure decreases or increases, the pressure in the bladder is regulated which makes the fish sedentary. If you wish to experience first class perch fishing, plan to fish on days with stable air pressure.

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Did you know?

The pike can eat as much as three thirds of its own body length. A examination concluded that a pike of 102 centimeters cannibalized other pike and ate fellow pike in the lake at 42, 55, 62, and 74 centimeters.

Biology

The pike

The pike is the largest fresh water predatory fish in Denmark. It has backwards teeth, which it uses to catch its prey. If the pike clamps down hard on its prey, the prey seldom escapes the jaws of the pike.

It has different hunting strategies. A favorite is lying in wait in vegetation, where it is camouflaged with its green and yellow dots. When the prey fish comes along, the pike makes a surprise attack, shooting forward from its hideout with surprising speed and sucks the prey into its mouth with a vacuum.

The pike is found in most Danish lakes, as the pike doesn’t demand much as far as the quality of water goes.

It spawns in April, making this month closed season for pike in fresh water. It spawns in low waters, which is why you often find pike in low waters just before or after it spawns.

The male seldom reaches over 80 centimeters of length while the female can reach up to 150 centimeters and a weight up to 30 kilos. The pike mainly lives off fish, but sometimes frogs, toads, and even the odd surface-dwelling duckling as well.

The official Danish record: 22.16 kilograms.

The zander

The zander is whimsical as well as the second-largest predatory fish in Danish fresh water. It is related to the perch, but grows significantly longer than its cousin. They both share the spined dorsal fin, this being less obvious on the zander. The zander has a pair of long fangs used to clamp down on its prey by which it has earned the nickname “the vampire”.

It prefers lakes with warm and murky water, where its brilliant eyesight enables it to sneak up on its prey. It primarily hunts alone in open waters in the larger lakes of Denmark and lives exclusively off different prey fish often consisting of roach, bleak, smelt, and stickleback. The zander most often spawns in May, which is closed season for zander in fresh water. It spawns at bluffs and peaks in lower waters and can often be found here before and after spawning.

In Denmark, the zander can reach 95 centimeters of length and a weight of as much as 10 kilograms. But it is increasingly rare to catch a zander above 90 centimeters and 7 kilograms. This is why a zander above 5 kilograms is recognized as a trophy fish among anglers, even though catching any zander is an accomplishment in itself.

The official Danish record: 11.00 kilograms.

The perch

The perch is the most diverse predatory fish of the lakes. It is found in 96 % of the lakes in Denmark. They are practically everywhere and are great survivors. Their numbers give anglers plenty of opportunity to find a local spot with perch.

Clear water lakes are often dominated by predatory fish that control the number of individuals of the prey fish by way of their food intake. The perch is the most important predator in Danish lakes because it eats the most prey fish. This means that the perch can have a significant regulatory effect on the density of the species of prey fish including its own spawn, which it eats just as eagerly as the spawn of other species. By regulating the species that murk the waters, the perch plays a deciding role in the lake environments.

The perch actively seeks out its prey. Mosquito larvae and the like are gathered individually from the bottom. The hunt for prey fish is often conducted in small schools attacking in unison. The perch attack the school of prey fish from beneath to lead the prey towards the surface, where the possibility of escape diminishes. When more perch attack a school in unison, the possibility of escape for the prey fish is diminished further. This hunting technique has also enabled gulls to hunt for prey fish more easily by way of their proximity to the surface.

Research has shown that the prey fish under threat of being eaten by perch become more sedentary. This points to the movement of the prey as an important facet in the perch finding its prey.

Most of the caught perch consist of smaller individuals, but it actually is able to reach a respectable size. It seldom grows beyond 2 kilograms and 50 centimeters, but perch beyond 1 kilogram and 40 centimeters are recognized as trophy fish among anglers.

The official Danish record: 2.785 kilograms.