Roach - Leuciscus Cephalus

About the Roach.
Although native to southern parts of England, the roach is now common to most UK waters, particularly in the lowland rivers and stillwaters of England and some parts of Ireland. The roach is able to cope with moderately polluted and low oxygenated waters, which is why this species of fish is one of the most prolific.

Formerly, the angler's favourite fish to hook, the roach, a member of the Cyprinidae family, has been knocked off the number one spot by its cousin the carp.

Roach Identification

The roach is a simple fish yet one of great beauty. It has several distinctive features that make it easy to recognise, although due to its size and colouration, it is often confused with the rudd.

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The roach is not a large fish by any means. It can reach a maximum weight of 4½lb (2kg) but most fish average around 4-6oz (115 - 170g).

It has very large scales on its metallic and silvery body. Its back is mainly a dark green - brown which can appear blue in clear water.

The roach has a small head, without scales and a small mouth where the upper lip protrudes slightly, indicating that this species of fish feeds on the bottom of the river bed.

Its eyes are not particularly big, although the roach has a distinctively large iris that is a bright red colour surrounding the tiny black pupil of the eye.

The fins of the roach are all brightly coloured, ranging from bright red to a dusky reddish brown. The dorsal fin is slightly concave and is located directly above the base of the flat-edged pelvic fin.

The pelvic and anal fins are branched with approximately 10 rays.

The tail or caudal fin is deeply forked and its tips are round. It is a deep reddish brown colour.

Roach Habitat

The roach is a fairly prolific species of fish found within the UK, predominantly in England and some parts of Ireland. Its preference to slow moving rivers and still waters means that they do not thrive in upland areas with fast-flowing waters, although they can still be found in these areas.

Different times of the year will determine where the roach is found, as is common with most species of fish. During the winter, roach congregate in the deep waters of a gravel pit or on the outside of a river bend. As the temperatures rise, they head upstream to the shallows to spawn.

During the daytime roach generally feed on the bottom, yet at night they venture to the surface for their meals.

Specimen roach are often found in waters that are rich in nutrients such as gravel pits and reservoirs where they live side by side with the predatory pike, trout and perch. These larger fish will reduce roach numbers, leaving less competition for food, thus enabling surviving roach to grow much bigger. Large fish are not often found in rivers.

Natural Roach Food

Roach do not eat other fish and mainly consist on an insect and vegetable matter diet. The exception to this is the large specimen roach who have been known to feed on small fry.

Young roach feed on plankton and miniscule water fleas and as they mature incorporate snails, small insects, weed and plant material and crustaceans onto their menu.

They generally root around on the bottom of the water bed for their food but can venture to the surface to pick off fallen insects.

Roach Reproduction

The roach grow at a very slow rate, reaching only about 5cm after one year and slightly more than double that in the second. Likewise, they are slow to reach spawning maturity; males usually by their third year and females from their fourth.

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Roach reproduction generally takes place between April and June when the water temperature rises above 12°C. At this time the males develop white pimples or tubercles all over their head and most of their body, which is common in many members of the carp family. The male roach uses these bumps to stimulate the female into laying her eggs as he rubs up against her.

Adult female roaches can produce thousands of eggs depending on her weight and size. On average, a female roach can carry 20,000 eggs per pound of body weight. This is why the roach is a very prolific species and can often overrun certain waters.

The female spawns in shallow waters where there is an abundance of weed cover, plants, tree roots or even stones upon which she can lay her sticky yellow eggs. After releasing the eggs they cling to the underwater vegetation until they are ready to hatch, which is usually 7 - 10 days later. The young fry then rest in this area and feed upon the nearby sources of food until they are ready to head off and make their own way in the world.

Roach Hybrids

It is fairly common for roach to cross breed with other species of fish, particularly those that live and reproduce in the same area. The male roach can confuse the eggs of his female with those of another species and fertislise the other eggs by accident.

Hybrids of roach and bream or rudd are most common, although crosses between roach and chub or bleak may also be found.

The Roach's Vital Statistics

  • Average weight: 4oz - 6oz (115g - 170g)
  • Average length: approximately 14 inches (36cm)
  • Specimen weight: anything over 2lb (0.9kg) with over 4lb (1.8kg) being rare
  • Life-span: around 15 years but up to 20
  • Current UK record: 4lb 5oz (Long Lakes, Cambridgeshire)

Rivers with big roach include:

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