Fishing for Zander
Zander are members of the perch family, and not a native of the British Isles. The first introduction of the species from the continent occurred way back in 1878 when the then Duke of Bedford stocked them into two lakes on his Woburn Estate in Bedfordshire. Thirty years later, more zander were released at Woburn and then down the years the progeny of these fish were periodically and illicitly moved to other waters in the region, including Claydon Lake in Buckingham- shire and the pools which are around A double-figure zander caught just after dark on a small dead roach. Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
The first real explosion in their numbers, however, occurred after 97 were introduced into the relief channel at Downham Market in 1963. In a short space of time the drain’s zander population had multiplied dramatically — in the way of most introduced fauna and flora — with the species also finding its way into many of the other fenland drains and rivers. These fish not only multiplied rapidly but grew well, some to specimen size, by taking advantage of the plentiful supply of food present.
Latterly their numbers have stabilized on the fens, although the zander’s range is still expanding with fish now being caught much further afield on such rivers as the Thames, Suffolk Stour, Warwickshire Avon and Severn where the current record fish of 181b 120z was taken in 1993. The toothy mawed zander is very much a predator by nature and feeds by sight as is evidenced by its large glassy eyes. They hunt in packs, unlike pike, feeding on small fish such as roach, bream and dace. Dusk to dawn is the most intensive feeding period though low light levels, caused by heavy overcast conditions, can extend this into daylight hours.
Zander are more active in the summer and autumn, although specimens are caught each winter by die-hard anglers who probably appreciate having the river banks to themselves. Mild, windy conditions are more productive and colored water, caused by rising water levels after heavy rain, definitely stimulates Zander into feeding, although this could simply be due to low light levels.
Baits to use when fishing for Zander
Zander generally averages about 5lb and in all honesty cannot be said to fight that well, though it must be conceded that double-figure fish are able to ‘pull a bit’. Live or dead baits will be taken avidly in the right conditions with baits in the 4-6in size range being the optimum.
Small carp are a good, tough bait, while some anglers swear by sections of eel. Zander don’t show much of a liking for sea baits, and much prefer freshwater species (and fresh at that) although every year, just to confound the statistics, several big fish fall to half herrings and mackerel. Fish baits on standard snap tackle rigs using pairs of semi-barbless trebles in sizes 8 or 10, depending on bait size.
Zander will not always run off with a bait after locating it, which can prove frustrating. Instead, they will make repeated short, sharp attacks with their needle-like teeth leaving tell-tale puncture holes in the flanks of the bait. It is also important to know that zander are very sensitive to resistance. Some species of fish can be induced to take more boldly when resisted, but zander won’t and will readily drop baits if any is sensed.
In mainland Europe, where the species originates, zander are also caught on artificial lures. A small number of anglers have had success with the method on this side of the Channel, particularly on the river Severn, but so far only on a fairly limited scale.
Continuing experiment- ration with different patterns of plug and spoon in a variety of conditions and waters will no cloud but produce a clearer picture as to the effectiveness of lure fishing in the UK. Although the zander is equipped with sharp teeth, some anglers feel it is unnecessary to use a wire trace for them, believing zander to be incapable of biting through thick nylon. However, it is definitely advisable to use wire at all if for no other reason than times that pike may be present and would definitely bite through a monofilament trace leaving themselves possibly with a set of trebles impaled in their mouth or throat.
Zander are not lovers of fast currents and should always be sought in slacker water to the side of the main flow. The entry of side streams and smaller drains are always likely holding spots, too. On the featureless drains of East Anglia, the best way to locate them when fishing for Zander is to keep moving along the uniform bank, staying in each spot for an hour or so.
Two or more anglers leapfrogging along the bank in turn can cover quite a distance during the course of a session. Far-bank swims on these drains are often more productive than in the deeper, central channel, even though the water here can be very shallow.
The zander tend to lie close in tight amongst marginal weed growth, such as Norfolk reed, which grows in profusion along the fen drain system. The zander undoubtedly use such beds of reed as cover from which to launch attacks on passing prey. Zander will move along these margins, sometimes for quite long distances, in search of food when light levels are to their liking. Bear in mind when setting out in pursuit of zander that they are a delicate species Unhook them as carefully and speedily as you can and get them back in the water as soon as possible.
The zander is a species that does not fare well when retained in sacks, particularly during the summer and autumn when water temperatures are higher and dissolved oxygen levels reduced. In future years zander will probably become even more widespread in the UK and more accessible to greater numbers of anglers. How many will fish for the species remains to be seen, particularly after the novelty factor has worn off.
Good luck on your adventures fishing for Zander 🙂