Ruffe - Gymnocephalus Cernuus

About the Ruffe.
The ruffe is closely related to the perch and therefore is similar in body shape and colour. It is a much smaller version of its cousin however, and happens to be the prey of its larger relative as well.

Curiously, when caught by an angler, it keeps its mouth closed making it almost impossible to remove the hook from its mouth. Other species of fish will gladly keep their mouths open!

Ruffe Identification

The ruffe is a tiny yet handsome fish that can actually be held in the palm of your hand. It is another of the mini coarse species of fish together with gudgeon, minnow and bullhead.

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It is not as long as its close relative the perch, nor is it as colourful. Its body is solid and short and is an olive green - brown colour, which lightens to a creamy white on the underside. The body is marked by rows of dark brown patches, which are also found on its tail and dorsal fin.

The ruffe has two dorsal fins along its back. The first is spiny and is raised when faced with an aggressor of some kind, whilst the second is soft. There is no gap between the two fins, unlike the perch whose two fins are separated by a gap. The anal fin also contains two sharp spines at the top with a singular prickly spine on the pelvic fin.

The ruffe has scales on its body but not on its large head. The big eyes are adapted to see in dark murky waters. Below the head the ruffe possesses several cavities that are filled with a slimy mucous, which act as sensory canals so that movement and predators in particular can be detected. The ruffe's body is also very slimy to touch and this fish must be handled with care.

Ruffe Habitat

The ruffe occurs naturally throughout most parts of Europe and some parts of Asia, yet it is absent from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), Wales and Scotland.

Ruffe are common to the east of England, in lowland areas where there are plenty of fen drains, lakes, canals and slow-flowing rivers.

They can be found in some parts of Lancashire, Strathclyde and Staffordshire but this is through introduction.

This fish is not often found in still waters and likes to make its home in clean and deep slow-moving waters with a sandy or gravel bottom and with little vegetation. It can tolerate cold temperatures yet has a preference for temperatures around 25°C.

Natural Ruffe Food

Ruffe move in small shoals and scour the bottom of the river or lakebed looking for food. They like to eat bloodworms, small insects and small crustaceans, as well as the eggs and small fry of other fish. They are known to heavily reduce the numbers of some species of fish if they make fish eggs the main part of their diet.

They themselves are the preferred food of larger fish such as perch, pike and particularly zander.

Ruffe Reproduction

Ruffe are ready to reproduce when they reach two years of age or even a year in very warm waters. They migrate to shallow waters during the months of April or May and the female lays up to 200,000 sticky eggs that adhere to the plant and stones in this area. The eggs take approximately one or two weeks to hatch and the small fry stay in the shallow water consuming nearby available food until they are ready to make their way into the bigger world.

Growth can be moderate but essentially varies on water temperature and the availability of food.

The Ruffe's Vital Statistics

  • Average weight: 1oz - 2oz (28g - 56g)
  • Average length: 4 inches (10cm)
  • Life-span: up to 9 years
  • Current UK record: 5oz 4dm (148g) (West View Farm, Cumbria)
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