Few British fish stir the emotions like zander. Although the species was first introduced into Britain in 1878, it was not until the release of just 97 small zander into the Great Ouse Relief Channel in 1963 that the fish flourished. Its subsequent and rapid spread through the associated drainage system stirred controversy that still smoulders today. And the illegal introduction of zander into other waters has probably generated more screaming headlines in the angling press than any other fish.
The real horror story is for the fish on which a zander is so well adapted to prey. The large mouth contains numerous small, backward-pointing teeth, but it’s the two pairs of fang-like teeth – used for stabbing and holding its victim – which endows the fish with its vampire looks. Zander feed mostly on small fish, although large zander will tackle quite substantial prey. Where large numbers of zander are present, they are said to feed so efficiently that there is an initial collapse in the numbers of small prey fish. This allegation was the main reason for the infamous ‘zander cull’ on Fenland waters in the 1980s.
Beware the glassy stare
Zander are members of the pike-perch family, but they are not hybrids between these two species. They share many characteristics with perch, such as the apparently slimeless, rough scales and the double dorsal fins (the front fin is impressively spiked). But it’s a zander’s eyes which gives it that remarkable blank stare! Each eye includes a silvery, reflective layer, or tapetum, which helps gathers the available light and enables the fish to hunt efficiently in low-light and coloured-water conditions.
Hunt in packs
There is no doubt that zander are very active, mobile predators that hunt in packs, often comprising similar-sized fish. Shoals of prey fish are attacked en masse and with speed – hence the blindingly fast runs which zander anglers experience. If you encounter zander feeding in this manner, fish can be caught with great rapidity until the pack moves on.
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