Tench have a thick set, deep, powerful body with rounded fins and a large broad tail fin like, with colour varying from a pale olive green to very dark brown green, they have a light golden to almost orange belly. The eyes are quite small and are very distinctive as they are red in colour and are located on the side of their rounded heads, a single pair of small barbules are set either side of its fairly narrow mouth set with thick lips. The fins are grey and appear almost black in colour at their margins.
Their bodies are covered in tiny, scales that are deeply set in its skin and their entire bodies and covered in thick slime, making them very soft and quite difficult to hold.
Historically, Tench were commonly known as the Doctor Fish, with rumour suggesting that other fish rub against them because of their healing properties, this belief has not been proven. However the belief led to boiled Tench slime being used as medical treatment.
Golden, red and even blue varieties exist in ornamental pools, their survival in waters with natural predators would be highly unlikely.
Tench are predominantly a stillwater species, but will also be found in some lowland river systems, where flows are slow and the water is deep. They are a very hardy species, able to live in water with poor oxygenation, and as a result are often the only fish to survive pollution incidents.
Tench spawn later in the year than most other species, requiring warm water temperatures to spawn, so it is normally restricted to June and July with water temperatures needing to be between 18-24°C and sometimes into August during a cool British summer and starting in May if summer starts early, though this unusual.
A few males will normally chase several females, with the actual spawning occurring early morning. The Hotel end of Frensham Great Pond is a great place to observe the ritual in the shallow clear water through the reeds and the tree roots that are along the margins by the pond outlet.
A healthy female Tench can produce approximately 300,000 to 400,000 eggs/kg of body weight dependant upon how good her condition is. So a very healthy female Tench weighing 8lb 8oz could increase by 25% to 10 lb 10oz, that’s 2lb 2oz of spawn containing potentially 1.6 million eggs !
The Tench prefer to spawn in shallow beds of thick, soft weed and algae or marginal vegetation, with eggs being laid and then the males fertilizing them by releasing their milk directly over them. Spawning can be repeated within 14-days and several spawning’s may take place in favourable conditions in an ideal habitat where excellent pre-spawning conditioning has taken place.
The adhesive eggs stick to the aquatic weeds and branched plants. These hatch within 4-6 days and the 4-5mm long larvae, which have coloured eyes and a black stripe from eye to the lower edge of the tail providing perfect camouflage, whilst they simply hang vertically from vegetation. During the next 5-10 days they absorb their yolk sac and then at about 6mm in length, detach themselves and start to feed.
The Tench fry start to initially feed on unicellular algae and zooplankton (such as cladocera and copepods – see photo below), and these often remain their staple diet until 12cm, though they will also consume the young larvae of aquatic insects and micro crustaceans.
As they grow in size, Tench become largely carnivorous, becoming pre-occupied with tiny food items such and insect larvae such as caddis and mayfly larvae, gnat larvae (bloodworm) and Asellus (which look similar to woodlice), also feeding on worms, freshwater mollusc’s and small crustacean.
Juvenile Tench have a black stripe in front of their caudal fins that disappear as they grow. It is quite rare to catch small Tench in large waters, where they simply seek sanctuary within thick weed surrounded by the zooplankton on which they feed. However, in small ponds such as Wyke Pond and Stockbridge Pond where their populations are large and predators are few, that can be caught at just 12-15cm in size.
Initially the sexes grow at the same pace, but after 2-3 years the males slow considerably. At around 2 years old the males develop larger pelvic fins than the females, these large paddle like fins have distinct hard muscles immediately above the base of the fins and an upward curving front ray. At this age the fish are sexually mature, though the fish may be just 12cm in size when first spawning.
Whilst Tench usually live for around 15 years they can live longer in ideal conditions and have been known to live to beyond 30 years old in captivity.
Spawning may prove unsuccessful in some years, especially those with cold summers, and recruitment is definitely strongest during warm summers.
Tench are excellent fighters, powerful and making good runs on well balanced tackle, often changing direction to seek the refuge of weed beds and lilies if present in your swim or the margins.
Tench fishing is very popular and whilst there are rods designed specifically for them, any rod with a 1.5lb test curve and a medium action will allow you to enjoy the powerful fight of the fish, whilst retaining some power to ease it away from potential snags.
For standard Tench fishing, use a mainline between 4lb and 6lb with hooklinks between 3-6lb, however if weed is present it would be wise to increase both so fish are not lost. Balance your tackle to the conditions and size of fish that you are likely to hook. Use strong hooks between 8 – 18 depending upon the bait used, size of fish and the nature of the swim being fished.
Targeting and finding Tench in lakes is reasonable straightforward during certain times of the year as the fish are never too far from weed beds and marginal shelves, which provide both cover and feeding areas. They also give there location away at dawn and dusk, throughout the year by rolling. Obviously this is exaggerated during the summer and you may well need to train your eye to spot them.
Tench can produce streams of tiny bubbles when they are feeding and the movement of reeds and lilies and coloured water are always useful pointers. Binoculars can assist greatly when searching for these signs on large waters, especially if you can find a good point to use them from.
The tell tale Tench bubbles themselves are created when the tench forages in the weed and silt, sifting debris out before crushing its food, and the bubbles escape through the gills. So, if you see the tiny white bubbles on the surface, often produced in distinct meandering lines, you will know that browsing Tench are not far away. Sometimes despite these encouraging signs, the fish will be preoccupied on tiny natural baits, so either keep ringing the changes with small baits or move to a different swim where you may encourage the Tench to feed on the baits that you have with you.
Since their natural foodstuff are bloodworms, small crustaceans and microscopic foods such as daphnia, Tench are naturally attracted to worms, red maggots and casters, however they can be quite easily be tempted by bread flake, pellets,sweetcorn, luncheon meat, prawns, cockles as well as Boilies. The use of cereal groundbait, plain breadcrumb or with flavourings, will often encourage Tench to investigate. Tench also love hemp, which works extremely well during the spring when maggot is your hookbait. Try to use a fine groundbait with just a few freebies within as particle loaded groundbait will see the tench becoming pre-occupied and difficult to catch.
The pre-baiting of swims can help greatly, especially if after a large net of Tench. It’s especially useful if fish are to be drawn into an area that may not have the ‘classic features’ such as lilies, weed beds and reeds. Since you are encouraging the fish to you rather than having to find them, the baited area should be easy to reach and as snag free as possible. If fishing a water containing Bream, remember that these as well as Roach will also be attracted to the area in considerable numbers, not only reducing your chances of hooking your intended quarry but also hoovering away your bait !
Pre-baiting is best done on a little and often basis rather than giving a swim a one-off big introduction. Pre-baiting tactics should be well thought out and then adhered too. Introduce bait every other day, for as long as you can leading up to your session and increase the amount that you put in once you see evidence that fish are present. Pre-baiting is most effective during the spring when tench are beginning to wake up but can also be brilliant in the winter.
A reasonably cheap pre-baiting mix is to simply use brown breadcrumb (cheap) with frozen sweetcorn (cheaper than tinned) and chopped worms (which are free from a compost heap). Chopped Boilies and casters can also be a useful addition, but do increase the cost of the operation. Vitalin is also a cheap alternative with hemp being the best bait to introduce by far.
Since Tench are bottom feeders, the bait has to be presented on the bottom, fairly close to lilies and reed beds is always a good starting point: but fish a few feet away to give yourself of stopping the first run of a hooked fish as it makes straight for the sanctuary of the weed beds.
Using a waggler float and fishing an inch or two over depth or fishing the lift method are the best methods. Tench can sometimes ‘play’ with the bait, resulting in lifts and dinks of the float, but be patient and the float will eventually disappear when they take the bait confidentially.
Maggot feeders is great over a bed of hemp and open ended feeders plugged with groundbait that contains a free offerings of hookbait can work well as can ‘The Method’ or a semi fixed bolt rig with a PVA bag of pellets attached to it. Tench can be fussy feeders so keep alternating baits until you find what they prefer. Again, bites can sometimes initially be twitchy, but will usually end up in a confident take that will result in your indicator, be it a float, swing tip, quiver tip, or bobbin set on slackened of bait runners showing or sounding a positive take.
Tench are docile fish and are out competed for food on waters holding Carp. Waters that are rich in natural food such as weedy gravel pits, will produce an ideal environment and usually produce specimen Tench. Fisheries where Carp outnumber the Tench, and due to the aggressive rooting around in search of food by them may lead to the water becoming highly coloured and weed free, an environment which often results in Tench not having their staple diet freely available, leading to fish of of a much smaller average size than would be found if the Carp were not present.
The larger Tench that are sought after by specimen anglers are females, with a 7lb fish nowadays being regarded as a good fish. Tench of 8lb+are present in many waters although more often than not caught as ‘nuisance’ fish by Carp anglers. However, it is the smaller males that generally fight harder, with a specimen male of 5lb in weight putting up a memorable fight for its size. Tench have a loyal following and are one of the most sought after fish of pleasure and specimen anglers alike.
Many FAS waters hold good stocks of Tench to a good average size, with Frensham Great Pond fish offering the best chance of a net of fish to a good average size. Averaging between 3lb to 5lb, 6lb & 7lb fish are not uncommon with the odd fish exceeding 9lb reported each season.
These contain small 4oz Tench of 15cm to fish up to 2lb, and there are a few Golden Tench present as well. Use light float tackle on running line or a pole or a small feeder and quiver tip.
Some good fish are present in the Big Pond and ‘The Method’ or feeder tactics should get you some fish. Tench of all sizes are present and you could be into a fish anywhere between 1lb 8oz to 10lb! Be prepared for a lot of Bream averaging 5lb – 8lb+ and a few Carp, so would advise the use of 6lb hooklinks to give yourself a fighting chance of landing them!
Contains a few Tench averaging 3lb, but recorded up to 8lb.
A very heavily weeded mature gravel pit, containing a lot of Tench that can be very reluctant to show to traditional methods, but regularly coming to the Carp anglers who are present. Pre-baiting likely to play dividends with some very large resident Bream likely to make an appearance on your baited area.
Contains some very good Tench averaging 4lb but with the FAS record of 10lb 4oz (link to photo) caught here, a double is always a possibility. ‘The Method’, feeder tactics or scaled down bolt rigs and PVA bags with mini Boilies or pellet hookbait will all catch fish, but be prepared for Bream !
Plenty of small Tench to be caught here with pole fishing, waggler and light ledger tactics all working. Tench run to 4lb and there is a trophy (The Alan Peach Tray) awarded each season for the biggest Tench landed.
A fantastic water to target Tench with fish averaging 4-6lb, with 7lb and 8lb fish often showing amongst the 100lb + bags of fish that are caught every season. Float fishing is easiest from the car park bank, but waders are required, with traditional feeder, ‘The Method’ or scaled down bolt rigs with PVA bags all working. Small boilies work well if ledgering however maggot, caster or corn over groundbait is deadly when float fishing. Dawn and dusk are best, but if conditions are overcast you may find them on the feed all day, and possibly even when it’s a scorcher !
Another very good Tench water, but with a slightly smaller average size and smaller bags of fish likely. The same tactics used at Frensham Great Pond will work equally as well here.
Contains some good Tench averaging 3-4lb but up to 9lb, likely to be caught on mini Boilies in conjunction to scaled down carp rigs and PVA bags or whilst feeder fishing, but be prepared for Bream !
Tench are present but not as common as in Tarn, however the potential is relatively untapped and it’s a water that could well turn up the odd surprise
This contain small 4oz Tench of 15cm to fish up to 3lb. Suggest using light float tackle on running line, pole or a small feeder and quiver tip.
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