Salty pike

Published May 2nd 2002

GFF partner Martin Joergensen has been fishing for pike in the ocean. Did you know that was possible? Yes, pike do go into the ocean - as long as it is brackish enough. And the southern coast of Sweden is.


Pike caught - A pike on a Valeur pike streamer
Pike caught
Stony waters - The stony archipelago is typical and these shallows hold some really nice pike
Stony waters
I am used to fishing the coast. It is my every day fishing, and as such I feel very much at home wading the shallow coastal waters of my home island. Even though I was wading a coast very close to my home, I still felt a little different this day.
First of all the coast was different. It was rocky, filled with large boulders both in the water and on the beach, andmy target was not my trusted sea trout, but ocean dwelling pike. Yes, pike! Like the pike you find in lakes and slow rivers and streams in most northern fresh waters. But these pike were roaming the salt!

Salty pike

The reason for the precense of the pike in these waters are twofold: the waters are very brackish, and thus far from as salt as most oceans. Secondly the area is very close to estuaries that empty several Swedish streams and rivers into the Baltic. Hence the pike can travel from brackish to fresh in very little time. They might do that and they might not, but at least it is possible. This day we hoped they had decided to travel into the ocean.

Gearing up

When pursuing pike you need some reasonably heavy gear in the 7-9 wt. class loaded with a floating WF or shooting head to match. The leader can be simple. A couple of meters of 0.40 monofilament (6' of 1X) or a heavy tapered or knotted leader of the same length.
Because of the toothiness of these monsters you also need a shock or bite tippet. This can be very heavy monofilament, special braided and coated pike wire or straight piano wire. I personally prefer the latter, but your milage may vary. The advantages of the straight wire is its sturdiness. It will rarely bend or curl, and definitely not be marred by the pike's teeth. I attach the bite tippet with an Albright knot, but loops and Trilene knots will do well too. The only disadvantage of the piano wire is the need for tools to make the loops. On the other hand the coated wire has the same drawback - you need at least a sturdy cutter and a lighter for melting the coating together. The only really hassle free bite tippet - in that respect - is the heavy monofilament, but it is not as durable as the other types.

A bunch - Pike flies have to be large and gaudy as this prepared bunch shows. All these flies have been mounted with a bite tippet of piano wire.
A bunch
Bagged - Few fly boxes are large enough to hold the large pike flies with 20 centimeters of wire. Bagging them individually like this is an easy solution to the problem. Stuff the bags in the vest or jacket and you are ready.


Your flies need to be large a gaudy. Any colorful fly that adds up to about 10 centimeters (4") will tease a pike. I had lots of succes with the Valeur Pike Streamer on this particular day, spreading bronze and copper flash straws all over the Swedish archipelago as the pike slowly shredded the flies. My other succesful pattern was a Splayed-A-Live Pike Fly of my own construction - much like a Seaducer or a Stu Apte tarpon fly. Any color is likely to work, but my success was with a white variation that took two or three of my five to six pike that day. Large Bunny flies are good too as are large muddlers, but try to keep the amount of material down - especially the types that pick up a lot of water. They add a lot of weight to the fly once it has been fished for a while.

Kasper - No matter how good it looked and how well Kasper fished, our second outing for the Swedish pike yielded nothing.
Room enough - The sky is high in Sweden. There is enough room to breathe.
Room enough

The coastal pike

These coastal pike are roaming the lightly salted water for food. I can only guess to their nature and behaviour. It sounds reasonable that they migrate from the many fresh water areas into the salt for food, and it also stands to reason that it is mainly the larger fish that do so.
Sizes on these fish vary, but a fish under 3 kilos (6 lbs.) seems to be rare, and specimens of up to 10 and 12 kilos (the 20-25 lbs. range) are not uncommon.
My largest fish this particular day was about 4.5 to 5 kilos, while the largest one of the day - caught by my good friend Asger - was estimated to pass 7 kilos.

Sunset - The sun goes down over a beautiful day. As soon as the sun hits the horizon, you realize that it is literally freezing and actually late November.
Light and rough water - The fantastic light over the Swedish archipelago. The fishing for pike was equally fantastic in spite of the rough water and heavy wind.
Light and rough water


I had never tried this before, but apart from the rocky environment it was not far from an accessible combination of my usual coastal fishing for sea trout and fishing for pike in lakes with water lilies and other vegetation. Replace the soft green stuff with some hard black stuff and adjust your strategy accordingly and you are there.
The pike seemed to be waiting in suitable spots between the rocks, and all of my fish were caught on casts going along the coast or even inwards, rather than the traditional way of casting outwards, as we do for sea trout.
Secluded places between rocks that seemed to have a good view over a larger area - preferably a medium size sandy patch - soon became my favorite spots to cast to. Passing a fly by these hideouts proved on more than one occasion to be a good choice.

Contrary to what you should think, the fish are not in the deeper parts, but will rest calmly in thigh or knee deep water. So you need to find them, and staying on your feet, constanly moving and poking your fly in all the nice little spots will probably bring you more fish than waiting them out on a spot that seems good to you.
The fish are blitz fast and attack the fly viciously. I had only one false alarm this day with a fish that struck, but did not stick. All the others were thoroughly hooked in the jaws and fairly easy to release.

Decent pike - GFF partner Martin Joergensen presenting a decent pike. Not elegant, but then again... these critters have a lot of teeth. This is by the way the last picture ever of that Ketchum Release... a moment later the pike wiggled and the releaser took a lovers\' leap into the dark waters of the Baltic never to be found again.
Decent pike


Landing a pike might seem dangerous to your fingers, but grabbing it over the neck or under the jaw between the gills is safe, and if you have a set of pliers, unhooking the fly is easy. Do not attempt to use your fingers! These are nasty critters with nasty teeth, and as Asger could testimony after having used his hand to unhook his deeply hooked 7 kilos fish, they will bit you… and you will bleed.
I tried using a Ketchum release size BIG, but with little luck. Once I got it over the line, the pike made a swift wiggle, at the Ketchum was the one to be released! It disappeared, after a graceful flight, into the water close to me. No matter how much we searched, we did not locate it again between the rocks. the pike was released using a set of pliers and I could fish on.

Finding the pike

The pike seem to be widely spread on the Swedish eastern coast from about Åhus and Bromölla and further east and north into the Baltic - the area called Blekinge. The whole Swedish Skärgård (Archipelago) is well known for its pike fishing and both the areas around Öland and Swedish capitol Stockholm is often mentioned as good places to hunt for pike in the ocean.

Beautiful water - It certainly is beautiful when the sun shines on a calm November day. Unfortunately the pike seem to feel better and more in the mood in rougher water and cloudier weather.
Beautiful water
Reeds and stones - The reeds are an indication of the brackish character of the water in the Swedish archipelago. It is close to fishing in a lake.
Reeds and stones

Pike fishing on Global FlyFisher

Bunny Split - rabbit tail pike fly
Tooth and Nail - flies for pike
The Splayed-A-Live Pike Fly - a tarpon fly goes pikey
A one foot fly amidst the lily pads - Ad Swier's pike story
Salty pike in Sweden - pike in the salt  <<< You are here
Pike bite tippets - stuff to widthstand toothy beasts
Tandem fly for pike - a beautiful Dutch fly
The Tinsel Fly - a universal killer
Valeur's Pike Streamer - flash galore
Monster Muddler - Deerharius gigantus

Pike fishing on the web

Pike Hunters - a Swedish/Danish group of fly fishers specializing in pike fishing in the ocean.
Ad Swier - Dutch pike fisher and artist.
Partridge pike hooks - Ad Swier's and the John Holden hook
Hardy Pike Teaser - Hardy's Ad Swier designed special rod for pike fishing. Unfortunately Hardy removed their web page on the rod.

Pike flies - Kim Rasmussen\'s fly box dominated by Icelandic sheep wool flies
Pike flies
Large fly - A large sheep hair fly ready to be torn by a pike
Large fly
Wet Splayed Pike Fly - It does not look much when it is wet, but this fly obviously seems very attractive to pike. Kasper managed to snoop a couple from my fly box. We still caught nothing...
Wet Splayed Pike Fly
Splayed Pike Flies - Two Splayed Pike Flies. They are simple flies, quick to tie and very effective.
Splayed Pike Flies

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