Zander - Stizostedion Lucioperca

About the Zander.
Although native to Eastern Europe and nowadays with large populations in Germany, France and Holland, the relatively recently introduced zander has surprisingly thrived in our waters and is steadily spreading in number and area across southern and central England.

This large predatory fish is a highly effective hunter due to its excellent eyesight enabling it to see in dark or murky waters, its sleek and powerful body and not forgetting its sharp fang-like teeth, which it uses to grab its prey.

Zander Identification

The zander was often referred to as the pike-perch due to similarities between the species. It is a member of the perch family yet is not related to the pike although has similar hunting characteristics.

The zander has a greenish brown coloured back with golden flanks and a white underside. It has a number of brownish bars hanging vertically from the top of its back.

The two dorsal fins make the zander stand out. The first is made up of 13-15 long and strong spikes, whilst the second dorsal fin contains only two sharp spines and 19-24 soft-branched rays. The membrane between the spines is light brown in colour and peppered with dark brown spots.

The anal fin is situated directly underneath the second dorsal fin and contains two sharp spines as the first rays. The pectoral and pelvic fins are both almost transparent and convex in shape.

Highly adapted to hunt, the zander's large eyes have a special layer of pigment within the retina that is able to absorb light. This means that when it is dark and other fish cannot see, the zander has perfect eyesight and is easily able to spot its next meal.

The mouth of the zander is large and contains two rows of very sharp teeth on both the upper and lower jaw. Once a small fish has been gripped within these jaws there is little to no chance of escape.

Zander Habitat

After being localized for eight decades in the Woburn Abbey lakes in Bedfordshire, 97 zander were released into the Great Ouse Relief Channel in 1963. Due to favourable breeding conditions they spread fairly quickly through the Fenland drainage system and into other systems such as the Midlands canal network and the River Severn catchments. The numbers of zander are growing rapidly across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire in particular.

This species of fish prefer lowland rivers, canals, drains and large bodies of still water and can be found in many drain systems, reservoirs and pits.

Zander do not like intense light and will move to shallower waters at nighttime staying in deep water during the day. They are more active at dusk, dawn and during the night, which is when they feed and are able to do so due to their excellent eyesight.

Natural Zander Food

Young zander begin feeding on insect larvae, water fleas, worms and small fry of other species and quickly graduate to a diet solely of fish. Their particular favourites are roach, gudgeon and bream and they have been known to help deplete numbers of these fish in certain areas. Curiously, large zander love to eat smaller zander and this phenomena means that zander numbers are kept under control. Zander generally tend to hunt and feed in shoals, leaving little chance of escape for nearby prey.

Zander Reproduction

Zander are ready to reproduce after around three or four years. Spawning takes place during the months of April - June depending on water temperature and several males gather together with one female as she lays her eggs in a prepared nest, usually at the base of aquatic plants, trees, reeds or in a gravel bed. The males and female will ferociously guard the nest for 5-10 days until the eggs hatch.

Female zander produce approximately 200,000 yellow, sticky eggs per kilo of body weight.

Zander grow slowly in comparison to the pike reaching only 30cm after three years, although warmer waters encourage relatively quicker growth.

The Zander's Vital Statistics

  • Average weight: 3lb (1.4kg)
  • Average length: approximately 18 inches (45cm) and up to 40 inches (1m)
  • Specimen weight: 10lb (4.45kg)
  • Life-span: up to 20 years
  • Current UK record: 21lb 5oz (Fen Water, Cambridgeshire)

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