It is debatable whether roach still retain top spot in the coarse angling popularity charts. What is certain is that there is a special satisfaction in catching decent-sized roach or amassing a good of net of these fish. They are the classic quarry - present almost everywhere, capable of being caught using a wide range of tactics and baits, yet wary enough to provide a real angling challenge.
Variable in form
Because roach can inter-breed with rudd and bream, hybrids are not unusual. The main external characteristics of true roach are the red eyes, the position of the paired pelvic fins (below the front of the dorsal fin) and the 42-45 lateral line scales; there are internal differences, too. Such bald descriptions ignore the considerable range of colours and shapes which roach can exhibit, presumably in response to environmental conditions. Fish can be slimy or firm to touch; the fins may be deep red or insipid pink; the back and flanks may be pewter-coloured or off-white; and roach tend to become deeper in the body and more hump-backed as they grow larger.
The life-style of roach is varied, and they can flourish in fisheries as diverse as upland tarns, lowland rivers and farm ponds. Their diet is equally catholic, and roach will eat water plants and invertebrate animals, including surface insects. However, the presence of water snails appears to be necessary for fish to grow larger than about six or seven inches.
It stunts your growth
A large female roach can lay as many as 200,000 eggs, these being plastered on water weeds or underwater stones. Fry survival is influenced by water temperatures and the availability of small food items, and first-year growth tends to be good where there is a rich 'soup' of plankton. This can result in the over-population of a fishery with small, stunted roach.
Waters containing stunted roach are ideal angling venues for 'tiddler snatchers'; if larger fish are required, some of the small roach will have to be removed to allow those which remain to grow bigger. Fortunately, stunted fish are a rarity in fisheries also containing fish predators because roach provide good feeding for pike, zander, perch, chub, trout and eels.
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