PERCH: Perca fluviatilis

Waters: Rivers, canals, reservoirs, lakes, ponds.

Baits: Worms, maggots, small live fish such as minnow or gudgeon.

Artificial lures, small plugs and spinners.

Techniques: .Spinning, float fishing, legering, paternostering.

There is no doubt that the perch is one of the most handsome of our freshwater fishes. It is deep-bodied, and slightly hog-backed. There are two separate dorsal fins, the first with sharp spines, the second with soft rays supported at each end by spines.

The general coloration of the perch is a dark olive-green along the back. Shading through golden-yellow on the flanks, to white or silver on the belly. The pelvic and ventral fins are tinged with red. When the fish is in prime condition, and at spawning time, the dark vertical bars on the Hanks are very distinctive.

The perch is a predator, which feeds on any small fish it can catch. It likes to lie in ambush for its prey. Keeping in submerged roots, weedbeds, supports of bridges and piles, indeed any obstruction that offers cover. From here it makes fierce attacks on small passing fish. In winter it can often be detected by the sudden surface panic of a shoal of small fish as a perch comes marauding from its hiding place.

The predatory nature of the perch makes it susceptible to a moving bait, so spinning with small flashy lures can produce some larger-than-average specimens, in the 3 lb (1.36kg) class. You should work the spinning lure or plug along the fringe of a weedbcd. Across the mouth of a tributary, or close to likely hiding places. Keep the spinner moving well, but constantly vary the depth, for the perch will be attracted by an apparently ailing fish moving erratically through the water.

To lake perch on a bait, cast a lobworm or small fish inio the swim, using a float to present the bait at about mid-water level. The size of the float will depend upon wind and water conditions. It pays to keep the bait on the move by recasting, and vary the depth of the bait by moving the float up and down the line.

A redworm, hooked once in the middle to leave both ends free to wriggle, also makes a good perch bait; it will attract any perch in the immediate vicinity. Small perch can be laken on maggots trolled down in the river current.

Perch of average size stay in shoals. When such a shoal is found it is fairly easy to hold the fish with feeder panicles while float fishing a maggot hookbait. A fair number can be taken this way. If the takes dwindle it can occasionally pay to switch to a worm bait, fishing this through the swim. The shoal may have a hefty specimen hanging round the fringe, and a large lob may tempt a big fish where the smaller maggots fail.

The paternoster can be effective if an area of lake needs to be searched systematically. One of the main advantages in using this method is that a bait can be presented just where it is required, and held there if need be. When paternosiering. Worms and small fish on a size 8 or 6 hook should be used as bait.

For really long casting, switch to a basic leger rig. It usually comes into its own when lake fishing, for rivers are rarely as wide as lakes. Big perch can lurk round known weed beds well out in pits or lakes, and a large lob is the best bait to entice them to bite.

The perch has a spiny front dorsal which bristles defiantly when it is in danger or under stress. This makes it advisable to use a net when handling the fish.

ZANDER:. Stizostedion luciiperca

Waters: Lakes, canals, drains and slow-moving rivers. Baits: Small fish such as minnows, bleak, gudgeon and other small cyprinids, and lobworms. Techniques: bloat fishing, legering, paternoster, free-lining, spinning.

The zander is also known as the pike-perch, but despite this it is not a hybrid but a distinct species. An attractive fish, it has a long, slim body, with silver to greenish-gold on the sides, merging into a silvery-white belly. The back is greenish-grey, and there are two speckled dorsal fins, the first spiny, the second with soft rays. It can reach quite weighty proportions, possibly over 20 lb (9kg), but fish of near that weight are rare.

The fish is a nocturnal predator on all fish when adult, zander fry feeding on insects and crustaceans. The larger specimens are often solitary, Spawning activity occurs between April and June.

While small zander are usually found near the bottom, bigger ones can be caught almost anywhere on a water, but being predators they will always be in the vicinity of a shoal of small fish. To catch zander the angler should rove the bank, searching all the likely places until the fish are located. Each area should be fished for about 30 minutes before moving to another spot perhaps 20yd (18m) further on.

Once found, a shoal of zander will offer exciting sport, but they will all be of average to small size. They can be attracted into a swim or induced to feed by groundbaiting with chopped or minced fish. The best hookbait is a small fish, presented live on float or paternoster tackle.

For float fishing, use a rod of about 11 ft (3.4m), with a centrepin or fixed-spool reel. The terminal tackle should include the lightest float that supports the bait. Foralivebait, the ideal float is one that the fish can tow but not pull under. The bait should be mounted on size 8 or 10 trebles, one or two on a line-wire trace or substantial nylon. Some anglers prefer a wire trace in case a pike takes the bait, bites through the nylon, and swims off with trebles embedded in its jaws.

Legering is ideal for long-range fishing and deep swims. The rod should beabout 10-llft(3-3.4m), preferably fitted with interchangeable quivertips. Bites can also be registered by a bobbin or some form of bite indicator on the line. The fixed-spool reel allows longer casting. Load it with 8 or 10 lb (3.6-4.5kg) b.s. Line depending on the water. Select the lightest free-running weight that can be used effectively. For this style, a single size 6 hook is preferred and the bait can be lobworm or deadbait for long casting.

Take care when removing the hooks, for zander have long sharp teeth which can cause painful wounds.

Some water authorities and angling associations have banned the zander from waters they control. This means that illegal slocking with the species can lead to prosecution. Anglers are also expected to remove any zander they catch from certain waters. Fishermen who like zander fishing must respect these rules, but there is a bonus in that the fish is good to eat.

The zander is a sleek, predatory fish with a large, tooth-filled mouth. It may be encountered in a wide variety of waters.

WELS Silurus glanis

Waters: Lakes, reservoirs, canals, rivers.

Baits: Worms, luncheonmeai, dead fish.

Techniques: Various legerand float- leger styles.

The wels, or catfish, is not often taken in Britain, for it has a restricted distribution, being confined to waters in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire to which it was introduced from the European Continent. In Europe it is common in lakes and rivers in Russia, southern Sweden, Germany and so on, and was particularly associated with the Danube basin, receiving the name Danubian wels in consequence.

The wels prefers sluggish waters, muddy lakes and the deep pools of large rivers. Like all the catfish family, it has barbels round its wide mouth. The head is broad and the back smooth, apart from a small dorsal fin near the head. A very long anal fin runs back to the tail. Coloration is drab, with a greenish-brown back, shading to a mottled yellow-brown on the Hanks and a pale cream belly. Sometimes the back is a sooty dark grey, mottled with yellow.

This fish can grow to enormous size, with authenticated weights of 500 lb (227kg) from eastern Lurope. Since so few are caught in Britain it is difficult to give an average weight, but any wels over 30 lb (13.6kg) is considered a large specimen. It is thought that wels of at least 70 lb (32kg) exist in Engfish waters.

In fishing terms the wels is a most exciting fish. Many very large specimens have been hooked by big-fish specialists who are used to grappling with this ponderous yet powerful creature.

Any angler hoping to tangle with a wels must be armed with high-powered tackle. A 10-11ft (3-3.3m) rod with a strong, reliable fixed-spool reel holding at least 150 yards (137m) of 15 lb (6.8kg) b.s. Line provides the basics. A large landing net will be needed to safely engulf a large wcls, one with a 3ft (1 m) diameter carp net and a bag about 4ft (3.6m) deep.

Wels tend to be most active in the summer, when shallow stillwaters are at their warmest, although these fish have been tempted well into October when an Indian summer has stretched beyond the usual period. They feed by day and by night, and if the regulations of the water permit it, night fishing is probably the favourite lime, one reason being that it will be quicier. The half-dozen 6in. (15cm) barbels round the fish’s mouth will pick up the smallest bankside vibration, sending the fish back into the security of the depths.

The most common fishing style is simple – no rig at all, just a strong size 2 or 4 hook, depending on bait size, tied free-line fashion direct to the reel line. The eye of the wels is small. So it is not surprising that it hunts for food mainly by smell and ‘feel’ using its barbels. Its natural food is small fish -alive or dead – and to these baits the angler can add small pieces of squid, bunches of lobworms, or a variety of ‘cocktail’ specials.

Heavy prebaiting or groundbaiting probably has more drawbacks than advantages, so once the baited hook is cast out fishing is simply a waiting game, often long and uneventful! But when that line begins to twitch and then hiss from the open spool the fun and skill really begin. Great care should be taken when playing the fish. If it is a really big wels do not bully it or hurry it. The fight can last half an hour, and if you have a reliable friend take advantage of that spare pair of hands – they will be needed when you get the angry thrashing monster to the landing net.

Not a fish many people would call attractive, the wels has a broad head, wide mouth with very long barbels, and a long tapering body. The skin of the ecls is quite scaleless.

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