A study done by researchers at Carleton University's Cooke Lab has shed light on a common fishing question: what happens when a pike swims off with your lure?

Graduate student Chris Pullen hooked pike in four different parts of the mouth with colour coded crankbait lures fitted with radio transmitters.

The fish were then released into a small lake and tracked.

The pike shook the lures with ease.

"By and large, most of the lures were shed in a relatively short period of time," said Pullen. "Barbless hooks - as one would expect - came out usually within 24 hours. And deeply hooked [lures] also came out relatively quickly, although they were retained for a number of days."

Colour coded crankbaits with radio transmitters

These colour coded, floating crankbaits were hooked to pike for the study and the fish were then tracked. Most lures were dislodged by the fish within a couple of days. (Photo credit: Chris Pullen)

The pike in the study were hooked in the lower jaw (with both barbed and un-barbed hooks), through both the upper and lower jaw together, and deeply in the mouth.

Pullen said pike hooked in the lower jaw actually took longer to shed the lure than those hooked deeply near the back of the tongue.

He said the theory with that is the hook in the jaw is less of an annoyance than one that is deeper and impacting their ability to forage.    

"We have a pretty good idea now, for pike at least, with crankbaits, what likely happens with the lure," he said. "And that is faster than people might think, that fish is able to get that hook out."

Chris Pullen, Carleton University researcher with Cooke Lab

Chris Pullen, researcher on a hook retention study of pike done through the Cooke Lab, Carleton University. (supplied by Chris Pullen )

Pullen said the study shows anglers who want to release a fish are likely better off cutting the line on a deep hooked pike then trying to pull out the hook itself.

He said research shows pike are easily stressed by over-handling and prolonged air exposure.

The study was supervised by Dr.Steven Cooke and the Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Lab at Carleton.

The field work was done at the Queens University Biological Research Station (QUBS).