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Fish Identification

Bronze Bream - slow water slabs Abramis brama
Identification :- Bronze, slimy flanks, forked tail, downturned protruding  mouth.
 Common bream are one of the larger members of the carp family found in British freshwaters. They have deep, narrow bodies (hence the anglers' names for bream -dustbin lids and slabs) and can swim with ease through weedy or reedy shallow water. Their long, dark dorsal fins are set well back near their blackish, deeply forked tails.

Bream have small, underslung mouths which can project forwards while they root on muddy lake or river bottoms in search of food Another distinctive feature is their covering of thick slime.

Young bream, called skimmers, are silver and are often confused with silver bream, a different species altogether. One way to tell them apart is to look at their eyes - common bream have much smaller eyes than silver bream. Another difference is that common bream have about 25-27 rays on their anal fin, whereas silver bream have about 19-21.

As skimmers mature, however, they turn a dark, golden-olive colour. Fully mature bream have dark. Backs and greenish-bronze flanks with white undersides.

Bottom rooters

Skimmers begin feeding on algae and plankton and then graduate to water fleas. Adult fish eat whatever food is available - including a wide range of plant material, insect larvae and bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Larger, older bream sometimes feed at night on fry and minnows. Members of the shoal often roll on the surface of the water as a prelude to feeding.

A variety of baits will tempt bream - corn, worms, boils, maggots and bread -provided you fish them directly on the bottom.

Underwater cattle

Bream are a shoal fish - the cattle of the underwater world. A shoal of bream, for example, can comprise hundreds of individual fish between 1.4-1.8kg (3-4lb). One possible reason for grouping together is that it serves, as a defense against predator's -that there's safety in numbers.

Bream are thought of as Stillwater fish. They are attracted to shallow, reedy bays where they feed and bask in the sun. They are, however, more adaptable than many anglers think - they can thrive in moderate- to fast-flowing rivers, sheltering just outside the main current under tree roots, In deep pools or near undercut banks.

The key to large bream populations is the diversity and quantity of food available. Waters's rich in silt and plant life are an excellent source of food and cover. They usually contain great numbers of insects and snails - an important food source for skimmers.

Some heavily fished waters may also sustain large populations of bream, for many anglers use vast amounts of groundbait and loosefeed, providing food for the fish on a regular basis throughout the fishing season.


Spawning usually occurs at the end of May or early June - when the water temperature reaches 14-17°C (57-63°F).

The males establish territories and develop hard, spawning tubercles on their heads and bodies, It is thought that the males swim alongside the females and buffet them, brushing the tubercles against the flanks of the females. This is a signal to the females to lay their sticky eggs, masses of which are deposited on weeds, reeds, underwater tree roots or debris on the bottoms of rivers or lakes.

Each female lays as many as 300,000 to 400,000 eggs which hatch in three to twelve days, depending on the water temperature - the warmer the water, the faster the eggs

tend to hatch. Only a small fraction of the fry that hatch will survive.

During the first year, the fry reach 7,5-12.5cm (3-5in) in length. Overall, growth is slow. It takes five to six years for a fish to reach 0.9kg (2lb), and ten years for one to reach 2.3-3.2kg (5-7lb).

Hot spots:

River Wetland, Lincolnshire
This excellent river produces big catches of 1.4-3.2kg (3-7lb) bream.

Tring Reservoir, Hertfordshire A long history of producing many 4.5kg (10lb) fish.

Castle Loch, Lochmaben, Scotland One of the few top class bream waters in Scotland - many 2.3-3.6kg (5-8lb) bream.

Hickling Broad, Norfolk

Mainly boat fishing at night. Bags offish over 45.5kg (100lb) have been recorded in one night's fishing.

River Trent, Holme Marsh, Weirfield, Nottinghamshire

Packed with many 1.4-2 3kg (3-5lb) bream.

River Witham, Lincolnshire

Pleasure and match anglers enjoy catches of 9.1 -18.1 (20-40lb) of fish.

Queenford Lagoon, Oxfordshire

A famous water which produces large fish - upto 4.5-6.8kg (10-15lb).

T.C. Pit, Oxford

Regularly produces many bream between 4.5-6.8kg (10-15lb).

Attenborough Grave! Pits, Nottinghamshire

Series of gravel pits with large shoals of 1.8-2.3kg (4-5lb) bream.

Fish facts: Weight:

In Britain up to 7.2kg (16lb): in Europe up to 8.2kg (18lb). Average British size 1.4-1.8kg (3-4lb)

Average length:

35-40cm (14-16in)


15-20 years

Favorite waters:

Slow rivers and still waters. Bream are particularly attracted to weedy or reedy shallow water

• The colour of mature bream varies considerably depending on the water - from a golden-bronze to a greenish-black.

• The dark dorsal fin is set well back near the tail which is deeply forked.

• The small underslung mouth is specially adapted for rooting out insect larvae, vegetable matter and small crustaceans on the bottoms of rivers and still waters.

• They feed with their mouths pointing downward, and their deep narrow bodies pointing almost vertically upwards.

• Bream form shoals as a defence against predatory fish such as pike.

Record breakers:

Mark McKeown caught the British record bronze bream from a syndicate water in the south of England on 28 June 1991. It weighed 7.512kg (16lb 9oz).

Fish finder:

Though bream habitat is varied, big fish are usually found in slow-moving rivers and still waters such as gravel pits, ponds and small lakes rich in underwater plants and insects.

Bream often roll near the surface at dusk and dawn. They also bask in the sun, just below the surface in the afternoon.

Silty bottoms are rich in food and bream may cause quite a stir when rooting for food near weeds or reeds, or when making their regular patrol of underwater features such as ledges.


Crafty Carp Cyprinus carpio

Identification :- Long dorsal fin, two long barbules at corners of mouth.

The species of carp most frequently found throughout Britain is known as the common carp. There are three cultivated varieties of this species - leather, mirror and common -and a wild type.

Most common carp have broad, deep bodies and brown backs Their flanks range from the deep brown and yellow of most leathers to the golden sheen of wilds-Compared to the more frequently fished cultivated varieties of carp, true wild carp are more barbel-like in shape. Long and lean-bodied, they look every inch a hard fighting, fast moving fish. They lack the distinctive hump behind the head of the cultivated carp and weigh much less, rarely reaching 7.3kg (16lb).

Wild carp are descendants of the original stocks of carp kept as food fish in the Middle Ages. Once prolific, true wildies are now in decline, being found in only a few isolated waters, as interbreeding with cultivated carp has diluted the pure strain.

Other species of carp found in Britain include the crucian carp, common in eastern counties and the south of England, and the grass carp, a native of eastern China and Russia, which was introduced into European waters in the 1970s to control weed growth.


The preferred habitat of carp is still water - a mature lake, rich in plant life and nutrients, is ideal. But as they are extremely adaptable, they are also common in lowland reservoirs, many lowland rivers with a slow to moderate rate of flow and even some fast-flowing chalk streams. River-dwelling carp are slimmer and more athletic-looking than their Stillwater cousins.

Follow the feeding

Carp fry feed on plankton and water fleas, but adult carp, with their sensitive feelers (barbels) and vacuum-like mouths, are best suited to bottom feeding.

They spend most of their time rooting around in the mud at the bottom of lakes and rivers, and nothing that lives on or in the mud, including snails, crayfish, bloodworms, mussels and shrimps, is safe from the digging of carp. But as any angler can tell you, carp also feed in mid-water and come up to the surface for floating food.

Though not strictly predators, large carp have on occasion been known to eat other fish. They have extremely sensitive taste and smell receptors and can distinguish one sort of shellfish from another. This is what enables them to avoid baits on which they have been caught before. They can be spooked easily, so be careful - and quiet - when approaching shallow waters.

Temperature also affects feeding. If the water is colder than 14°C (57°F), carp feed less readily. However, canny anglers have proved that carp can still be persuaded to feed even in winter. Well-aerated water - the shallows and the surface during windy weather - also encourages feeding.


Carp only spawn when the water temperature is between 18-20°C (64-68°F), usually in late May and early June, as you would expect with a fish introduced from the warmer climes of the Continent.

Often the young carp do not have enough time to build up reserves of fat before winter sets in, and so die. Although this prevents them from taking over many waters, carp are so long-lived, surviving for 40 years or more, that even the few which do reach adulthood ensure the survival of the species.

When the water is warm enough, each female lays over one million eggs among the weeds in the shallows The eggs, small, sticky and yellowish, hatch in three to eight days, again depending on temperature. The larvae live off their yolk sacs for a few days. After that, they begin to feed on tiny water organisms.

Growth is rapid where the water is warm and rich in food. They can reach 0.9kg (21b) a year and continue to grow at that rate indefinitely, but many of the waters in Britain are too cold to encourage maximum size.

Hot spots:

The following are ten of the best known waters for large-sized carp.

Redmire Pool, Hertfordshire

Savay Lake, Denham, Buckinghamshire

Many 9-13 6kg (20-30lb) carp in this season and day ticket water.

Yateley Complex, Surrey

Fish over 18kg (40lb).

Darenth, Dartford, Kent

A leisure water with carp up to 17.2kg (38lb).

Waveney Valley Lakes, Suffolk

Fish up to 13.6kg (30lb).

Withy Pool, Bedfordshire

Many carp to 15 9kg (35lb).

River Trent, Nottinghamshire

This stretch regularly produces 9kg (20lb) fish.

Brooklands Lake, Dartford, Kent

Excellent day ticket lake with fish up to 9.1kg (20lb).

Manor Farm Fishery, South Muskham, Nottinghamshire

Many 9kg (20lb) mirrors and commons.

Tilery Lake, North Humberside

This Hull and District water is the most famous northern carp water.

Fish facts:


upto21-25kg (45-55lb), average 4.5kg (10lb). Continental carp can reach almost double the maximum British weight


up to 89cm (35in)


40 years or more

Favourite waters:

still waters, but also found in rivers

• Mirror carp have large scales.

• Common carp have small, evenly distributed scales.

" Carp have broad fins and are good swimmers. Dorsal fins are elongated with about 20 rays.

• They have four barbels - two at the comers of the mouth and two smaller ones on the upper lip. They are packed with taste buds.

• Carp are mainly bottom feeders but will also feed in mid-water and come up to the surface for floating food

• River-dwelling carp are slimmer than carp that live in still waters.

• Wild carp are long-bodied and more barbel shaped - even small ones are hard-fighting, fast-moving fish.

Record breakers:

Chris Yates caught the largest British carp on rod and line at Redmire Pool, Hertfordshire in 1980. It weighed 23,4kg (51lb 8oz).

The specimen weight for a carp caught in Britain Is 9kg (20lb); this is a common weight on the Continent.

Fish finder:


In late spring, if the weather is warm enough, carp spawn in shallow weedy water. If temperatures are too low, their arrival to the spawning ground may be put off until early summer.


In summer, carp cruise all round a water, feeding at all levels, from the surface to the bottom. They spend a lot of their time in places they feel safe - the shade of overhanging trees and among snags such as fallen trees.


As the water starts to cool down, carp spend more time in the deeper water where they patrol gravel bars and feed in the silt beds between them.


If the bed is clean, carp remain in deep water over winter. They will venture towards the shallows only during mild spells.


 Greedy chub Leucisus cephalus


 Identification :- Convex dorsal and anil fins, large mouth, brassy flanks.

 In many ways chub look like dace at first glance. Both have black tails and Grey or green backs. Chub, however, usually have brassy coloured flanks, orange anal fins and big mouths, and they grow much larger than dace. But when in doubt, look at the fish's fins. Chub dorsal and especially anal fins are convex (curved outward) while those of dace are slightly concave (curved inward).

Feeding characteristics

Small chub of 7.5cm (Sin) or so eat large invertebrates, worms and the fry offish. Chub are omnivorous; that is, they eat fish, insects and vegetable matter (such as silkweed, berries and bread). In fact, if an elderberry tree is overhanging a river bank, for example, chub often gorge themselves with ripe berries.

Fish of over 1.4kg (3lb) may eat small bullheads, minnows, roach and dace. They don't have teeth in their mouth; their mighty pharyngeal teeth, located at the base of the throat, can crush just about any food item. This includes crayfish which, despite their hard shell, are quickly demolished.


Running water is the best place to look for chub - especially in any steady-flowing lowland or middle reach of river. They don't thrive in upland waters, which are more suited to trout, salmon and grayling. Chub are a retiring fish, and they rely much on the shelter of overhanging trees, rafts of debris, underwater weeds and undercut banks -cover is an essential part of their habitat.

During the afternoon, however, chub often sun themselves. You can see them on clear, windless summer days, but be careful when approaching them, for they spook easily. They may also spook if you try to cast directly above them. Casting a yard or so upstream and in front of the fish often does the trick.

Because chub are adaptable, they can also survive in still waters; it's here where they grow fat as barrels. Crystal-clear gravel pits contain many large specimens. On shallow gravel bars between 30-90cm (1-3ft) deep you can often see them basking in the sun.


Chub usually spawn between April and June, depending on the temperature of the water. The adult's swim upstream to shallow gravelly runs and breed only in flowing water.

Each female can shed up to 100,000 eggs over gravel, weeds or debris on the riverbed. After eight to ten days the fertilized eggs hatch. The fry feed in shoals on microscopic organisms (plankton).

As they grow, they remain in shoals. Even the mature fish group together. Only the very large fish become solitary.

Hot spots:

Hardwick Gravel Pit, Oxfordshire

Some huge chub, perhaps over 3.6kg (8lb).

River Stour, Dorset

A famous chub river with many 1.8-3.2kg (4-7lb) fish.

River Avon, Hampshire

Superb chub fishing with fish up to at least 2.7kg (6lb).

Chesterfield Canal, Retford, Nottinghamshire

Matchwater with 1.4kg (3lb) fish.

River Welland, Lincolnshire

River Trent

The tidal reaches of the river Trent are home to many big chub of up to 3.2kg (7lb).

Manor Farm Fishery, South Muskham, Nottinghamshire

Many 1.8-2.3kg(4-5lb) chub.

River Derwent, Borrowash, Derbyshire

An excellent water with big stocks of chub, the matchman's dream.

River Wensum, Norfolk

Along with big barbel and roach, the Wensum upstream of Norwich offers good chub fishing.

River Derwent, Yorkshire

Many 1.8-2.3kg (4-5lb) chub.

Fish facts:


in Britain up to 3.6-4.1kg (8-9lb); average 0.9-1.4kg (2-3lb)


up to 56-59cm (22-23in)


10-12 years

Favorite waters:

steady-flowing lowland rivers and the middle reaches of rivers

• Chub can be distinguished from the dace by their convex dorsal and anal fins.

• They have large mouths for their size and their fins are rounded. The flanks are brassy and the anal and pelvic fins are orange.

• Chub will rise from the shelter of weeds to eat insects on the surface of the water.

Record breakers:

The record British fish weighed 3.743kg (8lb 4oz) and was caught by G. F. Smith on the Royalty Fishery, River Avon, Hampshire in 1913. The fish was deleted from the record list, but now it has been reinstated after members of the National Association of Specialist Anglers located the cased fish and the facts behind its capture.

Fish finder: Still water

Chub patrol along the edge of an island or bask in the sunshine on shallow gravel bars. A heavily overgrown feeder stream is also a good place to locate resting chub.

Moderate-flow river

An undercut bank may hold many good-sized fish. Chub face upstream just outside the main current to save energy.

 Debris caught under overhanging trees or bushes makes a raft, providing shelter for chub. A raft of debris caught in a fence would also be another shelter spot.

Drinking cattle often stir up insects and debris. Once the cattle leave, chub sometimes

come to feed and sun themselves in the shallow water.


Slack water at the edge of a weirpool may hold large specimens on the lockout for large gatherings of fry.
 Crucian carp - true survivors Carassius carpio
Identification :- Plate sized slabs of gold
 There is a widespread misunderstanding that crucian carp are not native to Britain. The reasons for this are uncertain, but may be because of confusion between the names crucian and Prussian and the known introduction of true carp.

Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that crucians are an introduced species Their native range is very similar to several other native freshwater fish such as the bleak, silver bream, spined loach, ruffe. All are - or were - common in eastern England, roughly confined to the area bounded by the Thames and the many Yorkshire rivers flowing into the Humber estuary. From this region some have been redistributed by man or through man's interference with nature - cutting canals for example.

Even today - after several centuries of rivers changing course - crucians are still more common in eastern counties and the south of England- They are absent from Scotland, most of Wales and the whole of Ireland.

Hale and hardy

They are most accommodating little fish, able to survive in the smallest of pools. They thrive in densely overgrown; swampy waters with a soft, muddy bed - often places where no other fish can exist.

Being remarkably hardy, they have the ability to lie dormant through the severest winters and worst droughts. Pools and rivers, which have virtually dried up during periods of drought, have been known to hold live crucian carp among the roots of reed mace. During winter they can survive being frozen under ice, buried deep in the mud or in shallow swamps, as soon as the ice melts they 'wake up' again.

Crucian carp can also live for extensive periods in water with very little oxygen. In these conditions their growth is stunted and they can only reach about 10-12cm (4-5in) in length. But In large lakes where there is plenty of food crucians become very deep-bodied and can grow to an exceptional 46cm (18in), with a weight of 3.2kg (7lb).

Follow the feeding

They are not at all fussy about what they eat, except when very young. At this stage they feed only on planktonic crustaceans. As crucian carp grow their diet widens and eventually they eat most insect larvae, molluscs, crustaceans (such as water slaters) and a lot of plants Such unfussy feeding habits are an advantage when living in small ponds where potential food sources can be limited.

Sticky eggs

Mature at three to four years old, crucian carp spawn in May-June in the margins of ponds and lakes. The beautiful golden-coloured eggs stick to fine-leaved weeds (or, in poor conditions, thin tree roots growing in the water).

The eggs hatch in a week but the young fish stay attached to the plants for two or three days more until they use up the rest of their yolk sac, when they swim off.

For the first weeks of life crucian carp form small schools living at the edges of weed beds and under lily pads. With the onset of winter these groups break up.

Crucian carp form hybrids with common carp and also with their close relative the goldfish. The former are fairly easy to identify because the hybrids have a small head -like crucians - but are equipped with one or two, and rarely three, small barbels like the common. For some reason, nearly all common/crucian hybrids are male.

Hot spots:

Crucian carp are usually found in densely overgrown ponds and lakes where they feed on plants, insect larvae and water snails.

They are hardy fish and can endure pollution, winter cold and oxygen deficiency better than most freshwater fish. In the depths of winter they may bury themselves in soft mud and hibernate. When it is time to spawn they move into the shallow, weedy areas, especially lily beds.

Fish facts: Weight:

up to 3.2kg (7lb) average 226g (8oz)


46cm (18in)


up to 15 years

Favourite waters:

ponds, lakes, canals and slow-flowing rivers

• The crucian carp has a deep body and fairly small head. Its back is olive green to golden brown and the bronze sides fade to a yellowish belly.

• The long, straight dorsal fin has 14-21 rays. There are 31-36 scales along the lateral line.

• With its well developed sensory nostrils and downward pointing mouth, the crucian carp is an effective bottom feeder. Unlike the common carp, the crucian does not have barbels.

Record breakers:

The British record is held by Peter Woodhouse for a 2.594kg (5lb 11oz) fish caught from the River Medway in June 1994.

The Welsh record stands at 0.9kg (2lb 8dm) for a fish from Wepre Pool, Connahs Quay, caught by M. Lomax in 1978.

Fish finder:

Crucian carp are usually found in densely overgrown ponds and lakes where they feed on plants, insect larvae and water snails.

They are hardy fish and can endure pollution, winter cold and oxygen deficiency better than most freshwater fish. In the depths of winter they may bury themselves in soft mud and hibernate. When it is time to spawn they move into the shallow, weedy areas, especially lily beds.

Darting Dace Leuciscus leucisus

 Identification :- Narrow, pointed head, yellow eyes, silver flanks, tail deeply forked

With their silver colouring and similar river habitat, dace can sometimes be mistaken for roach or chub. However, you can distinguish dace from roach by their yellow, not red, eyes and slimmer bodies. Dace are generally smaller than both roach and chub and their dorsal and anal fins have concave edges (convex in the chub).

Dace (also called darts) are silver with a grey or dull green back. Larger specimens take on a brassy colour and the pelvic and anal fins may be tinged pink. Their slim bodies enable them to swim for long periods in the main current of the river.Life in the fast lane

Dace favour clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams, usually with a gravelly bottom. They live very successfully in trout dominated waters or large coarse-fishing rivers such as the Thames. Once in a while they turn up in still waters as a result of becoming trapped when a river is dammed to form a reservoir. They live in large shoals to give themselves some protection from predators. Older, larger fish tend to live in smaller groups.

Although dace are common throughout southern and eastern England, they are found only in localized spots in the north and Wales. Dace are not native to Ireland, but a small population was accidentally introduced to the River Blackwater, Co. Cork. No dace are found in Scotland.Follow the feeding

With both top and bottom jaws projecting equally, dace feed well on both the bottom and the surface. They mostly eat invertebrates, intercepting drifting animals in mid water or taking floating insects from the surface. They are always on the lockout for food and readily take flies designed to catch game fish. They eat water shrimps, slaters, mayfly larvae, small snails and also a considerable amount of algae.Getting in early

Dace breed earlier in the year than most coarse fish, so they are unlikely to form hybrids with other species such as chub and roach, in February and March shoals of dace gather in the riffles to spawn. Just before spawning the male's scales become very rough and bony tubercles develop on its head. The female's scales remain smooth.

The female lays up to 28,000 pale orange eggs among plants and stones. They hatch after 25 days. Dace grow fairly rapidly at first, and adult fish are mature after two years, Females live longer and grow larger than the males - so any dace you catch weighing more than 0.45kg (1lb) is most likely to be female and at least ten years old.Hot spots:

River Tees, Cleveland Excellent dace in the 280-340g (10-12oz) class.Rivers Nidd, Rye and Swale, N. Yorkshire Plenty of dace live in these waters.River Derwent, Derbyshire Some fine dace in this trout river.River Trent, Nottinghamshire Some dace in the tidal reaches around Dunham.Little Ouse. Norfolk The river near Thetford is noted for its large daceRiver Usk, Gwent, Wales Some big bags produced in matchesRiver Kennet, Berkshire Dace approaching the British record have been caught from this venueRiver Thames, London The lower and tidal reaches between Chiswick and Richmond are bestRiver Blackwater, Co. Cork, Eire The only river in Ireland with daceFish facts:

Weight: up to 630g (1lb4oz), average 112g (4oz) Length: up to 30cm (12in ) Life-span: 10-12 years Favourite waters: clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams

• Dace have slender bodies and narrow pointed heads

• Their small, even mouths enable them to feed easily on both the bottom and the surface

• Dace have silver flanks and undersides, and grey or olive-green backs

• Both the dorsal and anal fins are concave at the edge The anal and pelvic fins are tinged with pinkRecord breakers:

The British record has stood since 1960, it is held by J L Gasson for a 574g (1lb 4oz 4dms) dace, caught from the Little Ouse, Thetford, Norfolk

The Irish record is held by John T Henry for a 510g (1lb 2oz) fish caught from the Blackwater River, Co Cork, in 1966Fish finder:

WinterIn winter, dace move to deep pools or slack water to conserve energy In February shoals gather to spawn in shallow rifflesSummer

In summer, dace move to shallow waters, thriving in the fast flow of the river They lie just under the surface, often in the shade of trees and bridges Overhanging trees provide shelter and a constant supply of insects

Enigmatic eels Anguilla anguilla
Identification :- Protruding lower jaw, dorsal and anel fins are continuous around the tail.
 No-one should have any difficulty recognizing the wriggling, snake-like common eel - also known as the freshwater eel It has a long, slimy sinuous body and a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw containing numerous small teeth its fins have become modified, the dorsal and anal fins forming a continuous line around the tail Only the small pectoral fins bear any similarity to those of 'normal' fish

Although its colouring changes with maturity, the eel is generally black or brown on the upper surface, with yellow or silver sides and a white underbelly

Adult eels vary greatly in size The female is larger than the male, reaching lengths of up to 1m (40in) - the male only grows to half this size Slow-growing, they live for up to twelve years before reaching sexual maturity and being ready for migration (though a few may never migrate as they get trapped in their freshwater home)

To many anglers they are a nuisance tangling up the line as they try to wriggle free and covering everything in slime - but to the faithful few they provide an exciting challenge

Follow the feeding

A nocturnal predator and scavenger, the eel uses its strong sense of smell and good eyesight to hunt prey It is not a fussy eater, feeding mainly on fish, freshwater shrimps and snails In gravel pits and rivers, eels rooting around on the bottom often cause damage to the spawning grounds of other fish.


The most fascinating feature of this 'snake' is its strange life-cycle The adult eel changes while in freshwater becoming more silvery with the onset of sexual maturity The head becomes more pointed as the eel ceases to feed - the fish stores up plenty of fat to sustain it on its long migration - and its eyes become larger, ready to adapt to life in the ocean.

The eel is now ready for migration a journey which can last up to three years Some of its passage may be overland It survives out of water longer than most fish by closing its small gills and keeping them supplied with water held in a large gill cavity (seen as swellings on either side of its head)

The destination is the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic near Bermuda Although spawning eels have never been captured - this is what makes the eel's life-cycle so mysterious -young larvae have been found in the plankton in this area It is thought that the eel spawns in very deep water (up to 400m/1300ft deep) After spawning the eel dies.

When the young eel hatches it is carried by the Gulf Stream (North Atlantic Drift) until it reaches Europe's shores During this journey it is transformed from a leaf-shaped larva to a tiny levers or glass eel - so called because its body is transparent Darkening in colour as it makes its way upstream the elver wiggles its way into many European waters.

Eel passes

Although extremely athletic, levers often have problems gaining access to a water Their task is made easier by man-made eel passes consisting of bunches of twigs covered in wire mesh which assist their journey over locks dams and weirs The River Severn is famous for its eel runs, and many elvers are trapped there each year to supply eel farms.

It is much better to start fishing for big eels in rivers such as the Severn, than in lakes where they are more difficult to catch


Hot spots:

Listed here are some of the top waters for eels in Britain

Abberton Reservoir, Essex

A good water for medium-sized eels

Ardingly Reservoir, Sussex

Plenty of eels of 0 45-1 8kg (1-4lb) from this day ticket water

Cheddar Reservoir, Somerset

Eels up to 2 3kg (5lb) from this concrete bowl

Delph and Old Bedford Rivers, Norfolk/Cambridgeshire

Eels of all sizes here

The Grand Union, Shropshire Union and Coventry & Worcester Canals

Good numbers of eels of all sizes can be found in these canals

Slapton Ley, Devon

A good stock of medium-sized eels

Weirwood Reservoir, Sussex

Produces only a very few eels, but those that have been caught have been very big - up to 3 6kg (8!b)

Fish facts:


Up to 6 8-9kg (15-20lb), average 227-340g (8-12oz)


Up to 1m (40in)


Up to 25 years average 14-16 years

Favorite waters:

lowland rivers and lakes

• The body is covered in minute scales which are embedded so deeply in the skin that you cannot see them

•The nose is long with a protruding lower jaw - good for scooping up food from the bottom of grave! pits and lakes

• The dorsal and anal fins of the common eel are continuous around the tail.

Record breakers:

The British rod-caught record is an 5.046kg (11lb 2oz) eel captured by S Terry in 1978 at Kingfisher Lake near Ringwood, Hampshire

The Welsh record is held by B Philips who caught a 2 95kg (6lb 5oz) eel from Trawsfynedd Lake, Gwynedd in 1978.


Deep gravel pits - which offer shelter and food - are typical eel habitat.

In very deep water - which offers sufficient shelter - the eels are often active during the day In shallow waters, however eels hide in mud or rubbish during the daylight hours At night eels rise to the surface to feed on a variety of insects, while elvers shelter in


Eels rise to the surface at night to feed on a variety of insects. Elvers shelter in the shallows at night


In very deep water - which offers sufficient shelter - eels are often active in shallow waters eels hide in mud or rubbish during the daylight hours

Gudgeon - matchman's makeweight Gobio gobio
Identification :- Like a miniature barbel

Gudgeon - the matchman's makeweight

Although tiny and the bane of many an angler, the gudgeon doesn't deserve the bad press it gets - it can save you a blank day and often forms the basis of match anglers' winning catches

A slender, silvery blue fish, it has dark patches along the flanks and black spots on its tail and dorsal fin The scales are large, numbering 40 to 45 along the lateral line The gudgeon looks quite similar to a small barbel, but you can distinguish the two by counting the whiskers - gudgeon have one pair while barbel have two.

As its flattened belly and short barbels at the corner of the mouth suggest, the gudgeon feeds on bottom-living insect larvae, crustaceans and molluscs It can extend its mouth into a tube which it uses to suck up invertebrates hiding in the spaces between the gravel - rather like a vacuum cleaner.


Gudgeon thrive in rivers and streams with a gravelly bed, but are also prolific in canals and can be found in lakes Though not very common, they grow especially large in gravel pits

They live and feed in tightly packed shoals In the summer they gather in the shallows but with the onset of winter, they retreat to deeper, slacker water where they rest, feeding little


The gudgeon becomes sexually mature at two or three years old It spawns from May to June over stones and weed in shallow water The male develops small white tubercles on its head and shoulders and rubs them along the female's flanks during courtship -probably to stimulate her to release eggs.

The female takes several days to lay between 800 and 3000 eggs in two or more batches. As this is a big effort for such a small fish, it only usually manages to spawn for two to three years before dying

The fry hatch after a couple of weeks Strong year classes are produced in hot summers since the fry can develop quickly when the water temperature is 12°C (54°F) or higher This is also true for chub in rivers and tench, carp and bream in lakes However the gudgeon's annual growth is slow compared with that of barbel and roach Most gudgeon take five years to reach a length of 15cm (6in) - only a few individuals survive to grow larger or live longer than this.

Fancy that!

In France the gudgeon is a favorite table fish and in central Europe it is fed to pigs - but in Britain it is carefully returned to fight another day

Gudgeon fishing picnics in punts on the Thames were very popular in the 19th century Gravelly shallows were raked to attract the fish to feed and then light tackle with a small redworm for bait was used to catch them In the same century, bathers at Bath spa were given plenty of gudgeon to eat because it was thought they helped digestion.

Hot spots:

The following selection of rivers and canals is recommended for catching gudgeon -though you will find them in fair numbers in many, many waters throughout England, Wales and Ireland

Oxford Canal

Around Banbury, Oxfordshire

Trent and Mersey Canal

Willington, Derbyshire

Staffordshire and Worcester Canal

around Stafford

Grand Union Canal

Near Rowington, Warwickshire

River Trent

near Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire

River Soar

Around Loughborough, Leics

River Blackwater, Co. Cork, Eire

Fish facts: Weight:

Up to just over 112g (4oz), average 14-28g (1/2 - 1oz)


Up to 20cm (8in)


5-8 years

 Favorite waters: rivers and streams with gravelly beds and canals

• The gudgeon has large scales and a silvery-blue back with dark brown patches along the flanks The dorsal fin and tail also have numerous brown spots

• The flat belly is suitable for life on the bottom

• The bottom-feeding gudgeon has a barbel at either side of its mouth These whiskers contain taste buds which the fish uses to detect and taste food

• The mouth can be extended into a tube to suck up invertebrates.

Record breakers:

The current British record is held by D H Hull In 1990 he caught a 141g (5oz) fish from the River Nadder, Salisbury, Wilts

There are no gudgeon records for Ireland, but the qualifying weight for a record gudgeon in Scotland is 112g (4oz) - a record that is extremely unlikely to be claimed since this species of fish is very scarce north of the border

Fish finder:

Gudgeon live in closely packed shoals which thrive in rivers and streams with a moderate flow and also in canals


In winter the fish retreat to deeper, slacker water and feed little


During the summer they move to the shallows to feed on invertebrates, especially molluscs.

Perch - striped hunters Perca fluviatilis
Identification :- Large erect spiny dorsal fin, dark vertical body stripes, red lower fins
The perch is a handsome fish, with striking looks well suited to its predatory life. Its flanks are an olive-green with six or seven black stripes, camouflaging it among weeds and reeds. The tail is rather small, so it is not a high-speed swimmer, but it can cruise at quite a high speed for long periods.

Follow the feeding

Perch are hunters, preying on other species. Fry feed on water fleas and other tiny crustaceans but they soon graduate to insect larvae such as bloodworms. If small enough fish are available, perch switch to a mainly fish diet when they weigh about 113g(4oz).

Perch that have made this transition grow very rapidly. Where there is no prey of this type, perch remain stunted, weighing only 113g (4oz) at about seven years old.

Young perch hunt in schools, lying in wait among water plants until small fish such as bleak or roach stray too close. The school then sets off in pursuit, harrying the quarry until it is too tired to swim further. Perch catch their prey by biting the tail repeatedly from behind and below to restrict swimming. Characteristically the perch always captures and swallows its prey tail first.

Perch usually eat small fish with a 0.5-0.9kg (1-2lb) specimen typically taking prey of about 28-57g (1-2oz). Odd though it might seem, perch seem particularly fond of catching and eating the fry or smaller members of their own species.

Life in school

Perch prefer slow-moving or still waters with a good head of small prey species. Good visibility is essential for their style of hunting and so they do best in clear water. They can also survive in relatively fast-flowing rivers if there is not too much suspended silt making the water cloudy. Perch are not found in either high, rocky streams or in acid lakes.

When young, perch form schools consisting of one age group but as they grow older they become more solitary. This is not because the older fish lose the instinct to form schools but is due to the shrinking of each school of perch as fish die and are eaten.


Male perch can be sexually mature at only 6-12 months old even though they are usually no more than 5-8cm (2-3in) long whereas females are seldom ready to mate until they are three years old. The females usually grow to a larger overall size than the males.

Spawning occurs between March and June when the female lays up to 300,000 eggs in lacy strands over weeds, twigs, stones or any other solid object in the shallows. The eggs begin to hatch out about a week after they are fertilized.

Perch plague

In the 60s and 70s an ulcer disease decimated the perch population in Britain. On waters where tests were carried out it was estimated that up to 99 per cent of the perch had died, with only a very few immature fish left.

Perch have more or less re-established themselves in British waters now but in some waters, which previously held large specimens, there are now numbers of stunted perch. With the sudden death of all the big perch which had kept the numbers of juveniles down, far more young survived. This leads to greater competition for the available food, so they all remain small.

Hot spots:

Because of the perch disease there are few notable perch waters. But the following offer a good chance of big specimens.

Ardleigh reservoir, Essex

A trout water at which coarse fishing is allowed during the autumn and winter, it regularly produces 1.4kg (3lb) fish.

Bewl water, Kent

Another trout water that provides excellent perch fishing during the close season for game fish.

Trawsfynyd Lake, North Wales

The waters are warmed by a power station and this, coupled with a big stock of rudd, makes for good perch fishing.

River Trent, Sawley Marina, Derbyshire

This is particularly good when the river is in flood, with perch to 1.4kg (3lb).

Fish facts:


up to 3.2kg (7lb); average 170-228g (6-8oz)


50cm (20in)


13 years

Favourite waters:

reservoirs and slow-flowing rivers

• The first dorsal fin is separate from the second and has 14-15 spines. It can be raised to frighten predators and rivals. There is a distinctive black spot to the rear of the first dorsal fin.

• The second dorsal fin has 1 or 2 spines and 13-14 soft rays.

• There is a strong spine on the gill cover.

• The lower fins and often the lower part of the tail are red.

Record breakers:

The British rod-caught record is 2.523kg (5lb 9oz) landed in 1985 by J. Shayler at a private lake in Kent.

A specimen perch weighs about 0.9kg (2lb), a 1.4kg (3lb) perch is worth a small celebration and a 4lb (1.8kg) perch is the fish of a lifetime

Fish finder:

In slow-flowing rivers, perch tend to wait to ambush their prey in and around reed beds.


In reservoirs in summer perch can be found roaming the shallows for food. As the weather gets cold, they move toward deeper water.


In winter they can be found in the deepest hole available.

Pike - streamlined predators Esox lucius
Identification :- Camouflaged markings, elongated shape, flattened head, lower jaw slightly.
Fast, efficient and streamlined, the pike cannot be mistaken for any other fish. Most of its characteristics are adaptations to its predatory lifestyle. Camouflage colouring, eyesight, and body form and fin arrangement all contribute to the pike's success as a hunter.

With their camouflage and short-lived bursts of speed, pike prefer to ambush their prey rather than chase it. They lurk, hidden in the weeds, waiting for the quick sprint -followed by feeding.

The jaw is extremely flexible, allowing large meals to be swallowed whole; small (jack) pike will often demonstrate this by gobbling up their siblings. Prey is usually taken from the side and then maneuvered round to be swallowed headfirst.

When water conditions prevent the pike's superb eyesight from being effective, it can fail back on its efficient sense of smell. It also has a highly sophisticated tracking system rather like radar.

Food and feeding

The pike's favourite food is fish of between a tenth to a fifth of the its body weight, but it can swallow much larger ones, as well as small mammals, frogs and water birds. However, pike usually eat only about two and a half times their own body weight in a year, so they don't need to eat every day.

Key feeding seasons are dictated mainly by the breeding cycle and water temperature Sixty per cent of a mature pike's yearly food intake is consumed in the two months following spawning (round about March and April). Females also feed heavily in October when their ovaries are beginning to develop, and there is a smaller peak in feeding just before spawning in January and February.


Pike spend much of the year in the deeper water, usually between 3-10m (10-33ft), but in spring, from March onwards, they move into the shallows to spawn.

Females usually have up to 20,000 eggs per pound of body weight, so large specimens may be carrying more than 500,000 eggs each spring. The female pike is much the larger of the sexes weighing up to 18kg (40lb) or more, males rarely top 5.5kg (12lb).

After spawning, pike feed heavily to regain their strength. The usual victims are other fish, such as perch and roach, using the shallows to spawn.

Very young pike eat water fleas and other tiny aquatic life but after only a few weeks they move on to members of their own species and other fry.

Hot spots:

River Thurne, Norfolk

Three pike over 18kg (40lb) make this one of Britain's best waters for big pike.

River Bure, Norfolk

Many 9kg (20lb) pike.

Abberton Reservoir, Essex

Huge water with pike to over 14kg (30lb).

Weirwood Reservoir, Sussex

Prolific trout and coarse fish water with lots of 9kg (20lb) pike.

Ardingly Reservoir, Sussex

Top class coarse water with pike over 14kg (30lb).

Llandegfedd Reservoir, South Wales

Home of the last two British records of 21.234kg (46lb 13oz) and other 18kg (40lb) pike.

Broadlands Lake, Hampshire

Popular day ticket pike water.

Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire

Trout water with pike to over 16kg (35lb).

Loch Aire, Scotland

Lots of escaped rainbow trout have made this a big pike water.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Huge Scottish loch with many large pike to 16kg (35lb).

Fish facts:


up to 32kg (70lb); average 3.2-3.6kg (7-8lb)


1.27m (4ft 2in)


18-25 years

Favourite waters:

lowland rivers and lakes

• The pike is designed for hunting. Its dorsal and anal fins are near the tail, giving it tremendous power to launch itself after prey.

• The mouth contains many sharp teeth giving prey little chance of escape.

• The eyes are set well forward in the head. This gives a degree of binocular vision which helps pike judge distances accurately.

• The green and yellow body markings help disguise the pike in among the weeds.

Record breakers:

The official British rod-caught record stands at 21.234kg (46lb 13oz) for a fish caught by R. Lewis from Llandegfedd Reservoir in South Wales in October 1992.

Off the record, perhaps the largest pike caught on rod and line in the British Isles is a fish taken by John Garvin from Lough Conn, Republic of Ireland, in 1920. It weighed some 24kg (53lb).

Fish finder:

Whether it is a river, lake or fen drain, a typical pike water is one, which not only provides shallow weedy areas suitable for spawning but also offers plenty of cover for this predatory fish. Prime ambush areas include sharp drop offs, sunken trees or shallow water by reeds

where pike frequently lie in wait for prey, using their camouflage to remain hidden.


Some time between January and March, pike move into the shallows in readiness to spawn. Many remain there through to May or June, feeding on other coarse fish using the shallows for spawning.


In the summer and autumn, pike roam freely throughout a water. In particular they lurk around promontories, drop-offs, sunken trees and other snags which give them cover to ambush their prey.


When the water temperature falls in winter, pike move into deep water and become more lethargic, only rarely stirring to feed.

Hardy Roach Rutilus rutilus
Identification :- Silver flanks, red eyes, red/orange fins, upper lip protrudes slightly over lower lip

The inexperienced may be forgiven for finding it hard to tell the roach from the rudd. Judging from the numbers of hybrids between the two species, the fish themselves find identification difficult. Both have large scales and greenish backs but the flanks of the roach are silvery whereas the rudd has a golden sheen. Roach-bream crosses are also quite common, as are hybrids with chub and bleak.

Follow the feeding

Fry and very young roach feed on plankton but as they grow they include algae and invertebrates such as snails and insect larvae, especially bloodworms, in their diet. Large specimens, particularly roach-bream hybrids, can become cannibals and feed mainly on fry. Roach do most of their feeding on the bottom, though at times they feed in mid-water and even come up to take insects that have fallen on the water surface.


Roach are widespread throughout England but are much less common in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They prefer slow-moving rivers and still waters but are also found in faster-flowing rivers that are reasonably deep. They do not do well in fast, shallow streams. They are a fairly tolerant species and can even be found in quite barren or polluted waters.

In some waters roach are not subject to much perdition and this can lead to overcrowding, with large numbers of small roach up to about 113g (4oz). Stunting can also occur in acid waters that are poor in nutrients.

In reservoirs, gravel pits and chalk streams which are nutrient rich and where pike, perch and trout tend to reduce numbers, the roach are far fewer but larger, it is at waters like these that specimen and record roach can be caught.


On average it takes about nine or ten years for roach to reach full size though this depends on the availability of food.

Spawning takes place in the shallows between April and June, the yellowish eggs sticking to plants and stones. Roach are prolific, averaging 20,000 eggs per 0.45kg (1lb) of body weight - another reason they are so widespread. With a mild spring, spawning takes place early and a greater number of the fry survive. Usually, though, this simply means there is more food available for the predators.

In common with many other members of the carp family, male roach develop grey-white warty lumps on the head (and occasionally the body) before spawning. These are known as tubercles and are about the size of a pinhead. Males can only be easily distinguished from females when these lumps are present.

Hot spots:

Tring Reservoir, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Famous for fish around 1.4kg (3lb).

Hampshire Avon

Contains specimens over 1.6kg (3 1/2Ib).

Stanford Reservoir, Northamptonshire

Very good winter fishing with fish of up to 1.1kg (2 1/2Ib).

River Wensum, Norfolk

Not as good as in the 70s and early 80s, but still producing fish to 0.9kg (2lb) in its middle reaches with good nets of lesser fish In Norwich.

Great Ouse, cut-off relief channel, Norfolk

Best around Hilgay Bridge area for good quality fish of 0.45-0.9kg (1-2lb).

River Nar, Norfolk

Noted for its roach of 0.45-0.9kg (1-2lb).

River Hull, North Humberside

In the Hemphoime area the roach are of a good size around 0.45-0.9kg (1-2lb).

Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire

A trout fishery which cannot be fished using usual coarse fishing methods. Huge roach of over 1.8kg (4lb) have been found dead here, though, so dedicated record breakers may like to try for them with the fly.

South Cerney gravel pit, Wiltshire

Some of the pits yield specimens of over 0.9kg (2lb).

River Trent at Dunham, Nottinghamshire

Excellent winter sport with fish of 0.45-0.9kg (1-2lb).

Fish facts:


up to 2kg (4 1/2Ib); average 110-170g (4-6oz)


36cm (14in)


10-15 years

Favourite waters:

slow-moving rivers and still waters

• Roach have large scales, greenish backs, silvery flanks, red eyes and red-orange fins.

• The slightly protruding upper lip shows that the roach is a bottom feeder.

• White lumps or tubercles on the head of the male are common to all members of the carp family during the spawing period.

• The front edge of the dorsal fin is in line with the base of the ventral fin. (In rudd, the front edge of the dorsal is behind the base of the ventral.) The lateral line has between 42 and 45 scales.

Record breakers:

The British rod-caught record was taken by Ray N. Clarke in late October 1990 from a reedy swim on the Dorset Stour. It fell to double caster on a size 16 hook and weighed 1.899kg (4lb 3oz).

The specimen weight for a roach is 0.9kg (2lb). Anything over 1.4kg (3lb) is rare and well worth a celebration

Fish finder:

In rivers, roach spend much of winter in deep water which is often found on the outside of a bend They head for the shallows in spring to spawn. Roach will be found all year round in a steady glide of water - 2.4m (8ft) deep. In winter, roach gather in deep water. In summer they often roll on the surface at dawn and browse on silt beds during the day. At dusk, they move into shallow water to feed during the night.

Golden Rudd Scardinius erythrophthalmus
Identification :- Golden flanks, scarlet fins, lower lip protrudes.

At first glance it's easy to confuse the rudd with its close relative, the roach But the rudd can be recognized by us red fins (brighter on the underside), deep bronze-gold flanks and a distinctive steeply angled, protruding lower lip (The roach, less vividly coloured, has silvery flanks, dull orange fins and a protruding upper and receding lower lip)

Another identifying feature in the rudd is that the beginning of its dorsal fin is set well behind the front of the pelvic fins In roach, the beginning of the dorsal fin is directly above the base of the pelvic fins The rudd also has a sharp ridge, or keel, between the pelvic and anal fins.

Rudd and roach hybridize freely and there is great confusion about its identity when a hybrid is caught One way of checking a hybrid is to look at the Sips - the roach/rudd hybrid often has equal lips, neither protruding nor receding

Positive identification is only important when the catch may qualify for a new record in this case the fish may have to be killed so that experts can examine its pharyngeal (throat) teeth Rudd have two rows of throat teeth, while roach have only one row Hybrids, intermediate between the two, have only a partial second row.

The rudd's body is deep and a large, well-fed specimen can be very broad across the shoulders


The roach is mainly a fish of still waters, with few populations thriving in rivers It prefers reed or tree-lined waters where it can feed on fallen insects using its well-adapted mouth The Norfolk Broads are idea! rudd habitat, but gravel pits, ponds, canals and lakes also have good populations

Only nutrient-rich waters support large numbers of rudd for some reason they tend to overpopulate suitable waters, resulting in thousands of stunted fish

Follow the feeding

Because of the shape of the mouth - with the protruding lower lip - rudd feed more on the surface than roach in warm weather they lie in shoals just under the surface, feeding on insects of all kinds Rudd also take a variety of crustaceans and snails from the bottom and a limited amount of plant matter - foraging about among weeds and reeds in the margins and middle depths of the water

Large specimens occasionally take fish fry, while the young - like most members of the carp family - feed on animal plankton.

Rudd are known to come readily to a variety of baits - sweetcorn, maggots, bread and so on - but shoals take fright very easily, bolting away at the slightest disturbance. Because the fish scare so quickly they are tricky to approach and it can sometimes be quite difficult to catch more than one or two from a large shoal.

Summer spawning

Rudd spawn at the end of May or early June, each female shedding anything from 90,000 to 200,000 tiny transparent yellow eggs which stick on to weeds and reed stems The young, which hatch after six to eight days, are no larger than a pinhead and spend the first part of their life sheltering in shoals in the water margins.

As the fry grow larger, they move out into deeper water and begin to feed on insects -both adults and larvae They are fairly slow-growing and in some waters can take up to four years to reach maturity Unfortunately, the rudd is declining in many waters perhaps because of competition

from other fish - roach in particular. About fifty years ago roach were rare in Ireland, where they are not native. But in recent years the populations of introduced roach have pushed the rudd into the background in many places. The situation is similar in quite a few waters in England

Hot spots:

Rudd populations are declining in many waters because of competition from other fish species - notably roach

Norfolk Broads

Large numbers of rudd - the shallow, reed-lined water suits them.

Old Bedford Drain, Cambridgeshire

Rudd thrive in this crystal-clear, lily-covered drain.

Peterborough brick pits, Cambridgeshire

Good fishing for rudd over 0.9kg (2lb).

Ivy Lake, Chichester, West Sussex

This water has produced many rudd of 0.9kg (2lb) or more.

Yatley Complex lakes, Surrey

Plenty of rudd up to 1.36kg (3lb).

Lough Ree, Galway, Republic of Ireland

Still produces big rudd in spite of the invasion by roach.

Annaghmore Lough and Kilgias Lough, Co Roscommon, Republic of Ireland

Excellent rudd fishing including some of record size.

Fish facts:


up to 2.3kg (5!b); average 227g (8oz)


40-45cm (16-18in )


10-12 years

Favourite waters:

mainly still waters

• Rudd have rich gold flanks and a deep body.

• The bright red fins are its most noticeable feature. The dorsal fin begins just behind the front of the pelvic fins.

• Rudd have a distinctive protruding lower lip.

Record breakers:

The British rod-caught record - a long-standing one - is held by the Rev E.C. Alston who caught a 2.04kg (4lb 8oz) rudd in Thetford, Norfolk in 1933.

The 2.097kg (4lb 10oz) specimen caught at Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire on 28

September 1986 by D. Webb was a hybrid.

The rudd record for the Republic of Ireland is a 1 474kg (3lb 4oz ) fish from Annaghmore Lough, Co Roscommon. It was caught by Steven Wilks on 27 May 1991.

Fish finder:

In a typical Broads water, shoals of rudd surface feed on insects blown from alder and willow trees. Rudd also feed and shelter among lily beds.

In fenland drains rudd feed under the water surface and browse around the stems of reed beds.

Mud-loving Tench Tinca tinca
Identification :- Green flanks, red eyes, paddle-like fins, two barbules on upper lip.

There is something very satisfying about the appearance of the deep-bodied tench. It is a member of the carp family and can vary in colour from almost black through green to pale yellow. The most usual colouring is a deep olive-green back and flanks, with a paler belly. There is also an ornamental golden variety, which sometimes has black patches on its back and sides.

Follow the feeding

Tench feed almost exclusively on the bottom - finding their food by rooting around in the mud. As they do this they often release strings of fine bubbles. These come from pockets of marsh gas (mainly methane) disturbed by the fish as they feed in the mud. The gas filters through the tench's mouth and gills, and the fine gill rakers produce characteristic pinhead bubbles,

Tench eat all the small prey animals found on the bottom but are especially fond of bloodworms, jokers and other insect larvae. They also eat larger items such as worms, snails, mussels and even some small fish. They feed mainly at dawn and dusk, but sometimes continue through the day or night, depending on the venue. In winter they hardly feed at all, lying inactive on the mud for long periods.

More and more very large tench are being caught in Britain. There have been several theories to explain this. Perhaps the most likely is that as more and more farm fertilizer has leaked from the land into the water, so waters have become much weedier and richer in invertebrate life. As this forms the largest part of the tench's diet, the fish has started to grow even larger,

Lazy stillwater fish

Though some tench are found in quite fast-flowing rivers such as the Trent, they thrive best in rich still waters, sluggish rivers and canals. You won't find them in very fast water or poor upland lakes, but they are highly tolerant of low levels of dissolved oxygen, and so do well in shallow ponds, which have low water levels, or even become stagnant, in summer.

Tench won't spawn unless the water has remained at 18°C (64°F) or above for at least two weeks. They therefore spawn later than most other British coarse fish - between May and August. Each pair takes several weeks to spawn, leaving many clusters of pale green eggs stuck to the stems of water plants. Large females carry as many as 750,000 eggs.

The eggs hatch out in four or five days but the larvae remain stuck to the plants by their heads until the yolk sac attached to their bellies is used up. Then the fry must forage for food. The young fish live in the weeds and are very rarely seen or caught, though large numbers of them die in the first year, probably during the winter,

Growth is very slow at first - they only reach 20-30cm (8-12in) after three years, and spawn for the first time after at least four. In ideal conditions, they reach about 2,3-2.7kg (5-6lb) after ten years and can live up to twice that age.

Fishy tales

Tench slime was thought to have magical medical properties - other fish would deliberately rub against them and be cured of all ills.

In the Middle Ages tench slime was believed to cure headaches, toothaches, jaundice and many other illnesses.

People also believed that pike would not eat tench, perhaps because of their mythical powers. Those anglers who have felt the frustration of losing tench at the net to pike know this just isn't true.

Hot spots:

Sywell Reservoir, Northamptonshire

This 100 acre water yields many 3.2kg (7lb) fish and some of 3.6-4.1 kg (8-9lb).

Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, Hertfordshire

Few fish but they reach over 5.4kg (12lb)

Blenheim Lakes, Oxfordshire

Lots of good sized fish.

T.C. Pits, Oxfordshire

Used to produce fish over 3.6kg (8lb) and there are still some big specimens.

Bradley's Lake, South Cerney, Gloucestershire

Fabulous (and large) gravel pit for quality tench.

Johnson's Lakes, Kent

Big fish up to 4.5kg (10lb).

Yately Lakes, Leisure Sport, Hampshire

These waters hold many big fish.

Fish facts:


up to 6.8-7.3kg (15-16lb); average 1.4kg (3lb)


60-66cm (24-26in)


20 years

Favourite waters:

Still waters, particularly shallow ponds and lakes

• Tench are covered in tiny scales which are well embedded in the skin and covered with a thick layer of slime.

• The small eyes have red irises. The upper lip is larger than the lower - a help to the bottom feeding tench. There are two tiny barbels at the corners of the mouth.

• All the fins are large and rounded. The males have longer pelvic fins than females and this can be used to tell the sexes apart. On males the fins reach back as far as the anal vent.

• The tail is very slightly concave. The 'wrist' of the tail is extremely thick.

Record breakers:

The British tench record is 6.548kg (14lb 7oz), taken by Gordon Beaven in September 1993 from a private gravel pit.

Until the 1970s, the specimen weight for tench was about 2.3kg (5lb) and a tench of 3.2kg (7lb) was the fish of a lifetime. But now, partly due to advanced fishing methods and the fact that fish may be getting bigger, the specimen weight is now about 3.2kg (7lb).

Fish finder:

On still waters such as lakes and ponds the sight of tiny bubbles fizzing on the surface usually means that the tench are about and feeding.

Tench feed in the black silt around the bottom of reed mace beds. They remove snails and snail eggs from the stems of Norfolk reeds and dig out small freshwater mussels from the edges of gravel bars. They also patrol the silt between the gravel bars, sometimes stopping to feed in the mud.