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How to Identify Your Catch - Coarse Fish found in Britain
Pictures and Features to Aid in Identifying what you have caught.
To View the Identity Details of the each Coarse Fish species found in Britain click on the links below:-
Main Identifying Features of a Fish
Freshwater Fish Basic Anatomy:-
The Mouth - Through which fish feed and breath - just like us!
However, Carp and many fish that feed on the bottom have their top lip longer than their bottom lip (q.v Carp left). This enables them to hover over the bottom "hoovering or sucking up" food.
Whereas, predatory fish, like trout, that chase live food (flies, other small fish etc.) catch their food unawares from underneath, so a longer bottom lip enables them to feed in this way. (q.v Trout right)
The main parts of a fish that you need to remember. Don’t worry if you can’t right now as they will "stick" in your mind in time.
The main parts are:-
The Tail - Also called the caudal fin (from the Latin cauda - meaning tail), located at the end of the caudal peduncle (The narrow part of a fish’s body to which the caudal or tail fin is attached.) which is used for propulsion or swimming.
The thickness of the caudal peduncle, gives an indication of the power and speed of a fish - usually the thinner the faster, whereas a thicker one being less streamlined typically indicates a more sedentary (but not less powerful) fish.
The Vent (just behind the Anal Fin) - to you and I - our bum. This is where the fish poo’s.
Dorsal Fin - This big fin gives the fish stability when swimming.
Anal Fin - Like the dorsal fin helps stabilise the fish.
The Gills - A fish "breathes" not like you or I by breathing air, but by breathing in water through its mouth. The blowing the water through its gills. The gills are like our lungs they extract oxygen out of the water and pass it directly in to the blood. Question: If your head was dunked under water how long could you breath? Answer: you can’t. How long can a fish hold its breath when taken out of the water? Answer: Not long, so it is imperative that a fish is quickly and gently returned to the water once any hook has been removed!
Barbules (dangly bits below the Fish’s chin) - These help bottom feeding fish find food and more importantly for us - our bait!
Pelvic Fin - A pair of fins on the underside of a fish’s body, attached to the pelvic girdle and helping to control direction.
Pectoral Fin - A pair of fins situated on either side just behind a fish’s head, helping to control the direction and movement during swimming or remaining stationary. They correspond to our arms.
Eyes - Vision is important to fish, helping them to find food and to spot anglers and avoid them!
Gill Covers (called gill plates) - A flap of skin protecting a fish’s gills that help them "breath", typically stiffened by bony plates.
Scales - Scales vary enormously in size, shape, structure, and extent, ranging from strong and rigid armour plates in fishes such as Common Carp or absent in fishes such as the Leather Carp. They help protect the fish and help reduce water turbulence during swimming.
Slime - Fish secrete slime from the cells in their skin to help protect them from parasites and to make them waterproof. to attach.
Nostrils - Two just above the mouth. They help the fish "smell" and, actually, they have a very good sense of smell. ... Most fish species have very sensitive olfactory receptors, capable of detecting the presence of molecules in very low concentrations. Fish have one or two pairs of nostrils through which water flows into the nasal cavity.
The Lateral Line - Is a system of tactile sense organs located in the head and along both sides of the body of a fish. Usually seen as a physical line of tiny scales. It detects movement and vibration in the surrounding water and bank side disturbances such as the noise from heavy or running feet of anglers! So being quiet and walking carefully and stealthily on the bank side is important.
Common carp are fully scaled, that is completely covered with scales. They have a large mouth, as do all varieties of carp, with the mouth facing downwards. Carp feed by hovering over the lake or stream bottom and wafting the bottom into a cloud of mud.
They then suck up the mud and filter any food out of it using their pharyngeal teeth. That is the teeth at the back of their throat, and blow out the unwanted cloudy mud through their gills. This means that when carp are feeding in the margins you should nearly always see the water becoming cloudy.
A good sign that they are on the searching for food. So where should you put your bait or ground bait?
The Mirror carp has very large, silvery coloured scales which is why they are called "Mirror carp" as their scales look like broken pieces of a Mirror. These scales can be seen along the back of this carp. Often Mirror carp fight harder than common carp. Sometimes Mirror’s are not fully covered in scales, having patches of leathery like skin between the scales. Again, as can be seen on this carp picture.
Other Mirror carp have a straight line of scales along their lateral line, these carp are Mirror carp but referred to as "Linear Carp" because of their straight, or linear, line of scales. Feeding is exactly as for common carp.
A Leather carp should have no scales at all anywhere on its body. However, contrary to popular belief, a leather carp is not a Mirror carp without scales; there is a distinct genetic difference. Leather carp are permitted a few scales either along the dorsal line or the wrist of the tail.
Leather carp also have reduced numbers of red blood cells, slower growth rates, which makes larger leather carp extremely sought after and rare. Signs of feeding and catching them are exactly as for common carp.
Grass carp have elongated, chubby, torpedo-shaped body. The mouth is slightly oblique with non-fleshy, firm lips (like a Mullet), and no barbules. The dorsal fin has eight to 10 soft rays. The anal fin is set closer to the tail than most cyprinids (Carp).
They have a dark olive shading to brownish-yellow sides, with a white belly and large, slightly outlined scales.
Averaging about 60–100 cm (23.5–39.5 in) with a maximum length of 2.0 m (6.6 ft), with a maximum weight circa 99 lbs. They eat up to three times their own body weight daily.
They thrive in small lakes and backwaters with an abundant supply of freshwater vegetation.
Crucian carp are short and dumpy. Their colouration varies greatly, like all carp, but in generally crucians have a rich golden colour.
They don’t have barbules which helps when determining between a true crucian carp and a ’normal’ carp.
The fins are very rounded and the dorsal fin is rounded with a convex shape (rounded outwards), unlike all other carp which have concave (rounded inwards) dorsal fin.
Found in Europe and Great Britain, mainly in rivers but often in specially stocked lakes. The chunky chub has a large blunt head, a cavernous mouth and a long and cylindrical body with large greenish/brown scales with a slight black edging across the back.
Then working down to a lighter golden flank and a light belly with a dark brown or black tail. The dorsal fin of the chub is a greyish/green colour, and all the other fins are a orange/red colour. It has an unusually large Anal Fin with a slight rounded edge. The Chub’s large mouth has thick rubbery lips.
It has a voracious appetite and will eat almost anything. It is voracious and preys on insects, plants, and other fish too. A fantastic fighter providing the angler with good sport. It grows to about 60cm (2ft) long and maximum weight of 7–8 kg (15–18 pounds).
Look here to read about Chub Fishing at Nine Oaks.
Barbel are light brown to greenish brown in colour with yellowish sides. The barbel’s fins are darker except for the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins which are a yellowish orange. The body of the barbel is elongated with very small scales that makes them appear scale less.
The head of the barbel is pointed with rather small set high on the sides of the head. Barbel are easily recognised by its under slung mouth (indicating a bottom feeder) with thick lips with two short barbules on the top lip and two longer barbules underneath at the corner of its mouth.
The barbules have taste and touch cells that help the fish to locate food. They feed extensively on the bottom searching for fresh water shrimp, snails, insect larvae, caddis larvae, nymphs, crustaceans and molluscs, grubbing around among the bottom debris for the many micro-organisms which live there.
Barbel grow fairly rapidly and mature when they are five or six years old. Unbelievably fast and powerful even when a juvenile fish.
Adults are deep bodied and bronze in colour with darker, occasionally with black fins. The bream has a deep slim body with a obvious covering of protective slime. It has a long anal fin compared with the dorsal fin, a forked tail and a relatively small head and mouth with a protruding upper jaw.
Small bream up to about 8oz. are called ’skimmers’ and are more silvery in colour, turning darker bronze colour as they mature. The average bream will be 12 - 14inches long and can grow to 19+lb. A fish over 4lb is considered a good fish. Bream are a shoal fish and catch one there is a good chance of catching more.
Large bream are nicknamed ’slabs’ or ’dustbin lids’. Found in lakes, ponds, rivers and canals but more often found in still waters. When they are about to spawn from May to June, the male bream develops white tubercles covering the head and upper body. Bream often interbreed with other species, creating hybrids such as the roach-bream hybrid.
Bream are predominantly bottom feeders (top lip longer than the bottom lip), moving around in shoals feeding in the silt. They feed extensively on algae, plankton, insect larvae, pea mussels, crustaceans and molluscs, also grubbing around among the bottom debris for the many micro-organisms which live there.
Nicknamed "the Dart" as a fast, lively, active fish, it earned it’s name because of the way it darts through the water.
Although closely related to the Chub, it is a smaller, more streamlined fish with concave (outside edge of fin bends inwards) anal and dorsal fins, whereas the Chub’s anal and dorsal fins are convex and red in colour. Dace also closely resemble the Roach, both in size and shape but the Roach has red eyes and the Dace has yellow eyes.
The Dace has a slender body, a narrow pointed head with large yellow eyes and a small mouth. The body has a greyish blue back with silvery flanks, a white belly and a narrow deeply forked tail, white ventral and anal fins tinged with pale red and the dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins are tipped black.
Dace easily hybridise with Chub and Roach producing Dace/Chub and Dace/Rudd hybrids which can make identification rather difficult. Dace are small fish and one of 8 ounces is considered a good catch. The current British rod-caught record Dace is 1 lb 5 oz 2dr.
Dace prefer clean, well oxygenated water, they are often found in shoals in mid water or near weirs and weir pools. They prefer rivers and streams with a sand or gravel bottom, the Dace are also found in lakes and still waters. Natural foods for Dace is algae, worms, insects, larvae of aquatic insects, snails and small crustaceans.
Dace are often seen feeding from the surface taking flies and non-aquatic insects.
A long elongated slender body, similar to a snake, except that it has long slim fins along its back and belly and small, rounded pectoral fins. Like most fish it has round eyes, small in youngsters and large in older Eels.
It has a protruding lower jaw longer than the upper jaw and small and vertical gill openings. The anal fin is set slightly behind the anus. Adults in freshwater are greenish-brown on black with a whitish-yellowish belly.
As Eel numbers have severely declined and in order to conserve their numbers it is an illegal act to remove any Eel from any UK water and take it/them elsewhere!
Eels predominantly feed on the bottom and are usually found near underwater obstacles or among reeds.
Here you are able to read about Eels at Nine Oaks.
The similarity between the Gudgeon and the Barbel and their habits makes it difficult for the inexperienced angler to correctly identify them.
However, they are easily be identified - A gudgeon is small and slim with two barbules ( one barbule either side of its mouth ), whereas a barbel has four and much bigger, and a stone loach has six barbules (see below).
Gudgeon, like the Barbel, are bottom feeders with fins a brownish colour with faint dark bands. They use the barbules to search for food on the bottom (of a lake, canal, stream or river) where it lives.
It is small, a fish of 6-9oz would could be a record, it has a rounded, elongated body with a slightly flattened belly and rather large scale less head with an under slung mouth and thick lips. The dorsal and anal fins are short and heavily spotted.
It is a silvery blue or greeny-brown on the back with a row of large, dark spots on the yellowish flanks.
Although living in streams, preferably cold, clean water, the Grayling is a member of the Salmon family. They are omnivorous and feed on plants, fish eggs (including those of Salmon and Trout!), crustaceans, insects and their larvae, small mollusc’s and even small fish.
The are fairly flat-sided with a small head and an unmistakably very large dorsal fin. With quite large eyes, their top lip overhangs their bottom lip. Young Grayling are a light silvery green with bluish spots on their sides, and mature fish develop a greyish green back with silver/grey flanks and black spots on the front half of the body with a white belly.
The top and rear half of the dorsal fin is red coloured and red spots between the rays of the fin. The rest of the fins tend to be red to orange. Sometimes there is a yellowish tinge on the bottom of the gill covers and occasionally on their flanks too.
Caution: Perch have a row of sharp pointed spines along the edge of the dorsal fin so use a cloth when handling them, and always move the cloth from head towards the tail in order to lay the dorsal fin and its spines down before any further handling. That way the spines are safe and out of the way. Their body scales are rough to the touch.
A perch is probably the first fish an angler catches as they almost "jump" on the hook and swallow the bait deep down. Perch will live in all waters, from still, slow and fast running water, to lakes, ponds, rivers and canals.
Perch can be found where there is underwater obstacles or structures, tree roots, weed beds and overhanging trees, these are all good places to hide and ambush anything edible.
Larger perch are predatory and will eat smaller fish such as minnows, roach and dace and their own young! Other food include; crustaceans, insects, flies, mayfly, caddis fly, larvae, worms and all fish fry. Maggots, sweetcorn and casters too.
Perch on average are 4oz - 1lb with anything over 2lb considered a specimen.
Pike are unmistakable with a long, lean generally green body and horizontal striping or creamy spots. With a large broad head, long flattened snout and a huge mouth full of sharp, backward facing teeth.
Its torpedo shaped and camouflaged body is built for speed. Its dorsal and anal fins are set right back near the tail unlike most other fish.
Pike eat all species of fish and almost anything that moves in or on the water. Larger pike will eat smaller pike, ducks, any rats or mice moving in the water. Pike prefer still or slow moving waters as in canals and lakes.
A moderately deep bodied fish with silvery white sides, red/orange eyes, a silvery grey back with a bluish or greenish sheen, big silvery scales and red lower fins, earning their nickname of ’Redfin’.
Also, a Roach’s tail or Caudal fin has a slight “convex” (rounded outwards) shape.
A Roach’s irises are red.
Most fish will be 6 - 8ins long, but it can grow to 4lb or more. Any fish over 2lb is considered a good fish and a 3lb fish would considered a fish of a lifetime!
They are found just about everywhere in Lakes, ponds, rivers and canals.
About the awesome Roach Fishing at Nine Oaks Check here to read about them.
Bleak (Alburnus alburnus) live in large shoals and a skilful angler can whip out several in a minute.
They are tiny fish with bright silvery sides, a small head and a very large eye compared to its size. Bleak have a forked tail and can be distinctly identified by a keeled belly and it’s upturned mouth with a protruding lower jaw.
Their scales are delicate and easily detach so handle them extremely carefully.
Current record is 4oz 9dms (2015).
They can be identified by the lateral line (along the centre of the fishes body) which is a row of dark row of scales.
They live three to five years.
Match Anglers like bleak because as they congregate in shoals so vast that skilled anglers can catch a fish every 15 seconds in a five hour competition!
Like the rudd, bleak primarily feeds at the surface which makes them difficult catch at times. Success often follows a “trial and error” feeding approach to strike a balance between getting bites and hooking a fish. Usually, overly wetted ground-bait slop mixed with maggots and hemp included. Feeding lightly and constantly with this sloppy mix creates a fine cloud of suspended particles at the surface of the water encouraging the bleak to feed with confidence. Use a fine line and small hooks.
They are primarily caught in river fisheries, and many canal pounds close to the confluence with a river may contain bleak.
A rudd has flattened sides, with a back blue-green back and a silvery white belly. The dorsal fin and pectoral fins are reddish-grey and all other fins are a deep red.
Rudd are often mistaken for a Roach. A Rudd’s dorsal fin is set further back and starts behind an imaginary line projected vertically upwards from the pelvic fins.
Also, a Rudd’s tail or Caudal fin has a slight “concave” (rounded inwards) shape.
Its eyes have yellow to orange irises unlike a Roach which are red, and the Rudd’s mouth curves upwards.
Rudd tend to shoal and are usually found in the lower reaches of rivers, backwaters and ponds having plenty of aquatic vegetation and profusely overgrown.
A relative of the Perch and sometimes mistaken by young anglers as a baby perch due to the similar spiny dorsal fin.
A small fish, on average 4 to 5 inches long occasionally growing larger. With quite large eyes and a small, slightly down turned mouth with bristly teeth.
It is an olive green or pale brown colour speckled with dark spots. Larger spots on its back decreasing in size and fading to a whitish underbelly.
The Ruffe has two dorsal fins that are joined; the forward dorsal fin, like the Perch, has sharp spines and the rear fin has soft rays or spines.
Also, the gill covers of a Ruffe are sharp and spiny. Like the Perch handle them with a damp cloth.
Generally the Ruffe is a shoaling fish preferring slow moving rivers but can tolerate brackish waters, in rivers, lakes and ponds.
More active at dusk and dawn feeding on insects, larvae, worms and small fry fish.
Stone Loach - Barbatula barbatula
The general appearance is of a slim, long bodied pale brown fish, with a mottled body of yellowy-brown blotches and darker markings. It has six barbels on the mouth. The stone loach, a clean river dweller and mainly night feeder, is a small, slender bottom-dwelling fish with a maximum length of roughly 14 cm (6 in).
With eyes located high on its head, it has three pairs of short barbels under its underslung mouth.
With an almost cylindrical body, it has a rounded dorsal and caudal fins with slightly notched tips.
It is yellowish-brown with blotches and vertical bands of darker colour. The fins are brownish with faint dark banding and have straight edges - not concave or convex like most other fish.
It has an unusual and almost hidden dark line running from the snout to the eye.
It is easy to identify a Tench with their well rounded, dark olive green colouring and thick set body. The fins and tail are all rounded and the scales are very tiny giving them the appearance of being scale-less.
They also feel smooth and a little slimy. The caudal or tail fin is large and almost rounded with a shallow fork. You can distinguish a Male tench which has very large round shaped pelvic fins whereas those of the female are more triangular in shape and longer.
The average Tench will be 12 - 16ins long. They can grow to well over 5lb, and a fish of 5lb would be considered a good fish. There are also golden, yellow and orange tench usually found in ornamental ponds.
The tench used to be called the ‘doctor fish’ because other fish would deliberately rub against them and be cured of their ailments with the slime from the tench which was thought to have healing properties.
They are found in lakes, ponds, slow running rivers and canals and most often in still waters.
An alien fish introduced to Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and now spread throughout the land. Good strong Pike like tackle needed to catch them. Beware of their teeth!
The catfish, so named for their prominent barbules that look like a cat’s whiskers is the longest and heaviest species of fish in the UK.
looking similar to an eel with a long scale less body, an enormous head with six ’whiskers’ protruding from it and an equally enormous mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
The large head tapers back to the large tail. It has a small dorsal fin and an anal fin that almost runs the full length of the body until it almost reaches the tail.
The paddle like pectoral fins are very large. With tiny eyes and two very long barbules, one protruding from underneath each eye, and four shorter barbules on the lower jaw.
The mouth is filled with lots of tiny soft teeth which are used to grip its prey before passing it backwards to the two sets of crushing pads deep in the throat.
The catfish is normally a dark greeny, brown black body with creamy yellowish sides that together give it a mottled camouflage effect.
A pointed flap of skin behind the vent indicates a male, and the females flap of skin is shorter and fatter.
An alien fish originally introduced into the Fenland Drains of East Anglia in the early 1960’s.
They are now found throughout East Anglia and the Midlands in the river Trent, river Severn and Warwickshire Avon and Woburn and Old Bury Hill Lakes and the Gloucester Canals.
None in Scotland, Wales or Ireland.
They have similar features to the pike with their elongated body and the head of a perch with their spiny dorsal fin and small glassy eyes.
With a grey or brown coloured back with black dappling occurring in vague stripes similar to those of the perch but are clearer on young fish. Sometimes the stripes completely disappear in mature fish.
The Zander has two dorsal fins, the first is spiny with about 14 hard rays and black spots over a pale greyish yellow background, and the second is soft.
These spines and others on the gill cover and anal fin mean that the fish must be handled very carefully.
Again like the Perch and Pike use a damp cloth moved down from the head to close the dorsal fins and make them safe.
The tail is speckled grey with a white lower lobe.
The sides of young Zander are silvery, while an older Zander has greenish yellow sides, The underside and lower fins are generally white although a hint of blue is sometimes noticeable.
The mouth is large with prominent backward pointing teeth. Pairs of fang like teeth found on the front of the lower and upper jaws fitting into hollows in the opposite side of the jaw.
These are used to inflict a fatal wound and then to hold their prey.
Typical colouration of a Brown Trout, milky-cream belly, Reddish/Brown spots all over the flanks and a Brownish back
Although there are Brown Trout here at the Fishery, they’re not big ones.
Notice the bright red band along the flank of the Trout - this is typical Rainbow colouration, white belly and silvery back. With a big upturned mouth full of needle sharp teeth and a spotted all over its body. It has a big tail and a small dorsal fin set in the middle of its back
Click here to read about Trout Fishing at Nine Oaks.