Darting dace

Darting dace

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 prolonged 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 domi- nated 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 preda- tors. 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 lookout for food and readily take lures designed to catch game fish. They eat water shrimps, slaters, mayfly larvae, small snails and also a considerable amount of algae and other vegetable matter.

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 lays up to 28,000 pale orange eggs among plants and stones—these 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 1lb (0.45kg) is most likely to be female and at least ten years old. help to maintain a fairly even, high temperature – warm water outflow pipes or boats, for example.

Wind direction

Although wind has a less direct effect it should not be ignored.

A warm wind from any direction can often breathe life into a still, cold water and encourage fish to feed. A pool under crystal-clear, mirror-calm conditions may look more inviting than when it is grey and choppy but more often than not it seems