Zander (Stizostedion lucioperca)
In the UK, the average zander weighs around 8 lb (3.6 kg) and is between 65-90 cm (25-35 inches) in length. A small zander found in a shoal will weigh 1-3 lb (0.4-1.2 kg).
A zander above 10 lbs (4.5 kg) would be considered a fantastic specimen. Compared to other coarse fish species, pound for pound zander do not provide quite as much of a good fight once on the line.
Also known as
LC – Least Concern
The zander is the largest and most impressive member of the perch family. It has a tough, muscular body which is long and somewhat resembles that of the pike. Its back is green-brown in colour, the flanks are decorated with dark vertical stripes (similar to that of a perch) and its underbelly is cream-white.
The zander has powerful jaws and long sharp teeth lurk within, the front two are particularly long and give the fish a vampire-like appearance. The eyes are large and in murky waters, often turn opaque to allow the zander to spot its prey. As a member of the perch family, it possesses the same distinctive double dorsal fin. The front part is spikey, with 14 sharp, tough rays whilst the rear area of the dorsal fin is long, soft and convex in shape. It also has a flat spine on the rear of the gill cover. The tail fin is dark whilst the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are all an off-white colour.
When young, the zander has a silvery appearance, primarily across its flanks, as the fish grows and matures this becomes a green-gold colour. Young zander are also found in large shoals, these shoals decrease in size as the fish within them grow in size and weight, with the largest, oldest specimens typically being found in isolation.
Warning: Zander have been illegally introduced into many of the UKs waterways. By law, zander cannot be returned to the British canal network.
So how do we catch one?
Zander are carnivorous and will consume almost anything that they come into contact with, from shrimps and mussels, to other coarse fish, including even each other! Deadbaits are the best options for catching zander, with roach, a section of eel, lampray and sprats all being very effective. Lure fishing for zander with small lures or spoons can work well too.
Using fish as bait requires either a double or treble hook, along with a wire trace. A section of the hook keeps the bait in place, whilst the other section is used to hook the target fish. The bait can be used in a similar fashion to a lure, where it is cast out and then retrieved, alternatively, it can be held in place with a weight.
Zander are most active in the summer and so are best caught throughout these warmer months. They have enhanced vision at night, typically feeding during the twilight hours, making dawn and dusk ideal times to fish for them.
Zander thrive in large, well oxygenated waters such as reservoirs, gravel pits and large rivers. They are most abundant in East Anglia, although in recent years have been introduced into other regions and countries across Europe. Zander are not as widely distributed as either pike or perch, but large populations do exist in some rivers and canals.
Favourite Feeding Places
Zander are excellent predators, preferring murky, heavily coloured waters in which to find their prey. Great places to catch zander include canals and deep rivers. They like to lurk around bridges and other structures, as the reduced light levels in the water below allow them to hunt more effectively. Presenting your bait slightly further upstream of a bridge is a great tactic to employ when out fishing for zander.
Methods & Rigs
Go for si milar tackle that you would use for catching pike when out after zander. A rod with a test curve between 1.75-2.75 lb will work, pair it with a spinning reel holding 10-15 lb monofilament line if ledgering, if float fishing use 40-50 lb braided line. Tackle which is on the lighter end of this scale will work, but if you are able to, opt for heavier tackle. Big zander will require a heavy bait and if you’re using light tackle that will make casting a challenge.
Monofilament line is generally better for zander fishing, particularly when ledgering, as zander have a tendency to violently shake their heads from side to side when they reach the surface. Monofilament line is great for absorbing those head shakes whilst braided line can end with the hook coming loose and a lost fish.
Hook-wise, don’t use anything above a size 6 hook or anything smaller than a size 8 when fishing for zander. Using hooks smaller than a size 8 will yield results, but catches will only really be between 1-4 lb. If this doesn’t matter, then, by all means, use a smaller hook with a smaller bait. Zander do have fairly small mouths, but they’re not tiny.
The use of wire is a contentious topic, with some anglers claiming that zander do not like it and that it puts them off. We recommend using a wire trace when fishing for zander. Take a quick look inside a zander’s mouth and you will see plenty of teeth and bone, but not much flesh. It is therefore unlikely that the fish will be able to tell the difference between wire and braid (or any other line for that matter). The reason that you want to use a wire trace is because most waters which stock healthy big zander, will also hold pike. It is not uncommon to be fishing for zander using a deadbait only to find a pike on the end of your line. Pike will easily slice through monofilament or braided line so using a wire trace will stop this from happening.
Lure fishing for zander is a very effective technique, particularly jig fishing and can provide a great day by the water. Lure fishing from the bank will work, but the best way to catch zander when lure fishing is to fish from a boat for them. When at the bank, the jig or lure can only be kept in the optimum area for a very limited amount of time. This is not the case on a boat, you can keep the lure in the right area for far longer.
When lure fishing for zander by boat, start by trolling for them with diving lures. Set the lure out behind the boat and wait for it to drop to the bottom, next shorten the line until the lure is running about a foot or two off the bottom. This can take some time to master and will depend on the speed and direction that you are moving in. Generally, the slower you can move and still maintain action in the lure, the better. However, as with all lure fishing, mix it up, as there will be days where the fish are more interested in the lure when it is moving faster, or even slower, that what you would usually do. Once you’ve located some zander, get the jigs out.
Jig fishing is a very tactile method of fishing which requires a fair bit of skill. Zander respond well to very slight movements in the jig. Simple, short raises of the rod just off the bottom, or not even moving the rod at all and letting the flowing water move it for you, will work wonders. Zander tend to take the bait as it falls and an echo sounder is a great tool as it lets you see where the shoals are, as well as the jig itself. Jig fishing for zander is a very rewarding way to fish and when done using short rods and light line, will cause every fish to put up a great fight.