Zander - (Stizostedion lucioperca)
Zander are a predatory fish and are often described as "Pike-Perch" due to their remarkable similarities to both fish, however the zander is a separate species. Zander are long & slender with a narrow small head. Their colouration is brownish green/grey along their back, with subtle stripes along their rough flanks, which merge into a white/silvery underside.
They have two dorsal fins, the first having sharp spines like the perch and the second dorsal fin towards the rear being soft. As a predatory fish, zander have large eyes to enable them to operate efficiently in low light conditions and a fearsome set of teeth to match. Both jaws have fang like teeth which they use to catch and stab their prey, whilst smaller rear facing teeth along the jaw aid the fish in swallowing.
Zander males reach sexual maturity at around 3 to 4 years & females around 4 to 5 years and spawning occurs when water temperatures rise above 10 degrees. During spawning males & females pair off and spawn at a prepared nest built by the male in shallow water. Once spawning is completed the male guards the nest until the eggs hatch. After hatching the small fry feed on zooplankton until they are large enough to hunt other fish.
Natural Diet & Common Baits
Much of the natural diet of zander is made up of small fish, which they corrall into tight spots and gorge on in co-ordinated attacks, very similar in behaviour to perch.
Although zander have been caught on sea dead baits, they generally do not take as many sea deads as they do coarse dead baits - small roach or rudd make an ideal hook bait, although eel section also works particularly well.
Lure fishing is a great way to catch zander, with jigs and spinnerbaits working to great effect - this is also a great way of being mobile, finding the fish and increasing your catch rate over a static approach.
Zander are not a native fish to the UK and were introduced into the Ouse relief channel in 1963 by the Great Ouse River Board. They rapidly spread through the drainage network and into the main River Ouse and are now spreading across the eastern counties.
Deeper area of water is where zander prefer to be, as their eyesight can give them the advantage over their prey. Any section which has steep drop offs is a good place to look, or any man made structure which can offer cover. In still waters, any area where there are snaggy margins or overhanging vegetation is a good place to target.
Smaller zander under 10lbs are shoal fish and hunt in packs to find their prey, whilst fish over this size tend to become solitary individuals, so locating specimen sized zander is a challenge within itself.
The best times to fish for zander are dawn, dusk and through the night, this is due to their exceptional eyesight which they make great use of in low light conditions, even feeding strongly during coloured flood water.
Tackle & Tips
- Fishing for zander can be done with a barbel/carp rod, although it would be advisable to obtain a dedicated predator rod produced by the many manufacturers - aim to have a rod test curve of at least 1.75lbs.
- It is highly recommended that a wire trace is used when fishing for zander, especially if pike are present - aim to have a trace which is at least 18 inches long.
- Items that are essential to unhooking are long nosed forceps, pliers, wire cutters (in case the hooks need to be cut) & an unhooking mat.
- Braided lines are great for lure fishing and dead baiting, their non stretch ability allows fantastic bite indication when dead baiting and superior lure control over monofilament.
- Lure fishing is a great way of covering a lot of water in a session and the act of covering water naturally gives an edge over a static approach.