Know your fish

The body shape of a fish may vary with age, season, and its state of well-being; its colours change with the background colour, breeding season, and even its emotional state. Because of this it is sometimes difficult to be sure what kind of fish you have caught. The following notes set out clearly the vital distinguishing features for each species. The important rule to remember when using these notes is that if at least two of the features given are in agreement then you can be fairly certain of the identification.

If a fish caught appears to be heavier than the national record for the species always keep it, alive if possible, until its identification has been confirmed by the appointed authority.

Hybrids:

A hybrid is produced when two closely related species breed together and the eggs and young are viable. Amongst British fishes several members of the carp family interbreed and produce hybrids, but salmon x sea trout, dab x plaice, and dab x flounder hybrids are also known. Carp family hybrids which are most often encountered are; bleak x chub, bream x roach, bream x rudd, carp x crucian carp, chub x roach, and roach x rudd. All hybrids are inter- mediate in appearance between the parents, but features vary and there is no single stan-dard for each hybrid. Anglers who notice that a ‘roach’ has a chub-like appearance about the head, may rightly suspect a hybrid but certain identification can only be made by examina-tion of throat teeth, and otherfeatures. Anglers who suspect that they have caught a hybrid should retain the fish and refer it whole to a competent authority.

Local names

Finnock. Local name (Scotland) for sea trout which have returned to spawn after one year of sea-life. (Also spelled phinock).

Grilse. A salmon which has returned during summer to its spawning river after one year of sea-life.

Peal. West Country name for a summer- or autumn-run sea trout. (Also used as ‘salmon peal’ for grilse).

Sewen. Welsh name for the sea trout, also found in Ireland and on the western coasts of

Great Britain. (Also spelled sewin).

Smort. Young salmon ready to migrate to sea or on its way there, and bright silver in colour.

Sea trout smolts are similar.

Marine fish

Pollack

Lateral line over the pectoral fin.

Lower jaw beyond upper.

Eye

Lateral line

Coalfish

Lateral line almost over the pectoral fin.

Lower jaw tip/eve/with upper jaw.

Eye relatively

Lateral line creamy or yellow.

Dab

Body scales feels rough.

Lateral line over pectoral fin.

Series of bony knobs on head behind eyes.

Colour: with dusky dots; cream ventrally.

Plaice

Body scales edged all over.

Lateral line over pectoral fin.

Behind the eyes.

Colour: warm brown with

Flounder

Scales at bases of dorsal and anal fins, and on lateral line.

Lateral line over pectoral fin.

Behind the eyes.

Colour: with darker blotches;

Tub gurnard

Lateral line notsharply spiny.

Pectoral fin reaches past vent.

Snout profile small spines attip.

Colour: dull pectoral fins with markings.

Red gurnard

Lateral line with

Pectoral fin reaches to vent.

Snout profile bluntly pointed, at tip.

Colour: bright pectoral fins

Grey gurnard

Lateral line

Pectoral fin does not reach vent.

Snout profile no small spines.

Colour greyish-brown pectoral fin

Thick-lipped grey mullet

Upper lip more than half eye diameter.

Preorbital bone and

Pectoral fin /Vogolden patch on cheek orspot at pectoral base.

Thin-lipped grey mullet

Upper lip about one-third eye diameter.

Preorbital bone and

Pectoral fin at the pectoral fin base; no gold patch on cheek.

Golden grey mullet

Upper lip about one-third eye diameter.

Preorbital bone and

Pectoral fin (folded forward it reaches the eye).

Conspicuous and gill cover.

Thornback ray

Coarse prickles and ventrally in females.

Mid-line spines large-based spines on sides of tail, on back, and ventrally.

Mottled grey or brown with

Blonde ray

Prickles in skin cover back.

Mid-line spines and on tail only.

Light fawn-brown with small dark spots which

Spotted ray

Fine prickles in skin

Mid-line spines and small.

Warm-brown on back with dark spots which

Small-eyed ray

Fine prickles in skin edge and

Mid-line spines numerous to point towards tail.

Greyish-brown on back with mostly edges of wings. £

Mako

First dorsal fin pectoral fin.

Second dorsal fin theanalfin. /Vosecondary keel on the tail fin base.

Teeth in lower jaw and visible in closed jaw.

Deep blue back the snow white underside.

Porbeagle

First dorsal fin the pectoral fin.

Second dorsal fin directly anal fin.

On the lower tail fin base.

Teeth with small cusps at base, not protruding.

Dark blue above merg/ngwith cream underside.

Blue shark

Pectoral fins

Teeth triangular, both sides.

Back ventrally snow white.

Tope

Pectoral fins

Teeth sloping with on one side.

Back creamy underneath.

Threshershark

The only other large shark caught by anglers is distinguished by its very long tail, as long as the body.

Freshwater fish

Salmon (kelt)

Upper jaw bone reaches to of eye.

Body sides flabby.

Anal and tail fin often damaged; edge of tail fin

Tail fin stalk

Coloration – head often

Salmon (fresh fish)

Upper jaw bone reaches to of eye.

Body deep, flanks firm.

Fins not damaged; tail fin

Tail fin stalk

Coloration – head

Sea trout

Upper jaw bone reaches pasftheeye.

Body flanksfirm.

Fins not damaged; tail fin

Tail fin stalk deep.

Coloration –

Rainbow trout

Upper jaw bone reaches

Tail fin stalk

Tail fin edge

Adipose fin edge spots on tail fin.

Spots on sides.

Brown trout

Upper jaw bone reaches to

Tail fin stalk

Tail fin edge or

Adipose fin edge with tinge.

Fewdark spots on tail fin.

On sides.

Salmon (young)

Upper jaw bone reaches to

Tail fin stalk

Tail fin

Adipose fin edge grey.

Black spots on tail fin.

Spots on upper sides.

Roach

First rays of dorsal fin pelvic fin base.

Mouth

Eye iris

Pelvic and anal fins

Rudd

First rays of dorsal fin pelvic fin base.

Mouth

Eye iris

Pelvic and anal fins

Dace

Free edge of anal fin

Mouth jaws extend half-way to eye.

Head narrowfrom above.

Lateral line with scales.

Scale on sides.

Chub

Free edge of anal fin

Mouth jaws extend to eye level.

Head rom above.

Lateral line with scales.

Of scales on sides dusfcygiving a network appearance.

Bronze bream

Eye snout length.

First rays of anal fin the dorsal fin.

Branched rays in anal fin

Lateral line with 57-60 scales.

Pectoral and pelvic fins

Silver bream

Eye snout length.

First rays of anal fin the dorsal fin.

Branched rays in anal fin 27-23.

Lateral line with scales.

Pectoral and pelvicfins greyish with

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