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How To Catch Zander

The zander (Stizostedion lucioperca) is the largest member of the Percidae family of freshwater fish. Because of its appearance, it is often referred to as the pike-perch, but this fish is a distinct species and not a hybrid of the pike and the perch. Its body shape is more streamlined than a perch but, like a perch, it has two dorsal fins, the forward one being spiny, the rear one being soft. The fish are grey or brown in colour, sometimes with poorly defined darker spots. The dorsal fins are yellowish grey in colour with black spots. The fish has large eyes which give it good vision at night and in low light conditions. Although having smaller jaws than a pike, it has large, sharp, interlocking teeth at the front of its upper and lower jaws, which make it very effective as a predator.

This breed of fish is a native of Eastern Europe and was introduced into the Great Ouse Relief Channel in Cambridgeshire, in 1963. It has subsequently spread to much of the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and has also been introduced into other areas, including the Sharpness Canal in Gloucestershire, the rivers Severn and Avon, as well as other canals and lakes in the Midlands. As a consequence of their Eastern European heritage, these fish don't tolerate high temperatures and waters with low oxygen content, so their distribution within the UK is a little uneven and not connected simply to the availability of potential prey. Because the fish is not widely distributed, throughout the UK, many experienced anglers have never come across this species. The fish's common nickname among the angling fraternity is 'zed'.


This type of fish reaches 10 lb (4.5 kg) or more in weight in many fisheries. A fish of this species weighing more than 10 lb is often referred to by anglers as a 'double'. The UK record is 19 lb 5 oz (8.8 kg) for a fish caught in 1998.

How And Where To Catch Zander

These fish are serious predators found in many waters including slow moving rivers, canals, reservoirs and ponds. They appear to thrive better in cloudy water than in clear water, where pike tend to be the dominant predator species. This type of fish usually prefer to lie quietly in deep water during the day, but emerge into shallower water in the early morning or evening to prey on a variety of different fish species. In this context, shallower water still means water about 6 feet (180 cm) deep. When they are young, these fish hunt in packs, so it is quite possible to come across shoals in some waters. Most anglers enjoy this type of scenario because the chances of a good catch are high under these conditions. When they increase in size, usually above 10 lb (4.5 kg), they tend to become more solitary in their habits. This means locating the larger specimens can sometimes be difficult.

Breeding Habits

This variety of fish spawns during March and April, when the water temperature is between 12c and 14c. A mature healthy female can lay up to 300,000 eggs in a season. The eggs are pale yellow and stick to sand, pebbles, plants or sticks. The male guards the eggs, until they hatch, but that is the limit of his parental responsibility; the eggs hatch after 5 to 10 days. Initially, the fry feed on plankton and small insect larvae, but they start to take small fish when they reach 1.2 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) in length. Once they reach this size they start to develop their distinctive spiked dorsal fins which, combined with their rough skin texture, gives them a certain amount of protection against being consumed by pike or herons.The fish takes around three years to reach maturity.


Freshwater fish deadbaits, such as gudgeon, roach, perch or eel slices, 2? to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) long, are the preferred bait for catching this type of fish. Saltwater fish pieces such as herring and mackerel are not generally as successful when used as bait. Small freshwater fish livebait is also popular with some anglers. These fish can also be caught using a variety of lures including jigs, spoons, crankbaits and jerkbaits.


It is advisable to use a rod similar to the kind that you would use for pike fishing, particularly as it's not unusual to attract a pike when you are attempting to hook a 'zed'. A 12 foot (365 cm) carbon fibre rod with a 2? lb test curve would be a suitable choice under most circumstances.


The most important factor to consider with rigs for this type of fishing is that they should be free running. If the fish feels any pressure as it starts to take the bait, then it will let it go immediately. Two different rigs are generally used, in attempts to tempt this variety of fish on to the hook.

Ledgering Rig

The most popular rig for this type of fishing is a ledgering rig, which is just a baited hook attached to a lead weight on a swivel located a short distance from the hook. A common issue with this type of rig is that the lead weight does sometimes fall off, giving the fish a warning as it starts to take the bait.

Paternoster Rig

The other alternative, favoured by some anglers, is the paternoster rig. This well-known style of rig consists of a lead 'bomb' connected to a short line that is attached to the main line about 3 feet (90 cm) from the hook. This arrangement allows the baited hook to be positioned optimally in order to increase its desirability to the fish being targetted.

Books And Websites On How To Catch Zander

Two specialist websites cover this area of fishing: Zander Fishing ( ) includes sections on fish anatomy, tackle, rigs, baits and other topics of interest.




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