Gudgeon have quite a large head with a slim, streamlined body with a flat belly, its mouth being under-slung with one pair of barbules. It has a mid-brown coloured back, whilst it has dark bars along the flanks which have metallic blue sheen fading to a white belly: fins being pale brown with dark speckles.
Gudgeon are small and average 8-12cm in length and a 3oz fish would be very large. The fish is somewhat more thickly set than Barbel with which they could be confused when Barbel are very young: the easiest way to distinguish them is remembering that only Barbel have two pairs of barbules.
Though ideally suited to fast rivers, they will also inhabit lakes, ponds and canals. They are shoaling, bottom living fish living, sometimes found in their hundreds. They feed by searching gravel and substrate where they use their barbules to detect scent as well as physically locate small crustaceans, worms, fish eggs insect larvae and are especially fond of maggots and chopped worms all year round.
Gudgeon spawn when the water temperature has reached 14ºC, normally around May to June, and may take place over a prolonged period tapering off into July. Females lay between 1,500 – 6,500 adhesive eggs amongst weeds and stones, comparatively large and varying in colour from an off-white to a deep yellow with some being tinged with blue, the eggs hatch in about 10 days.
The young live in a shoal at the spawning site. They sexually mature at 2 – 3 years and only live for 4 – 6 years. Populations can vary enormously over time, with explosions to disappearing shoals with sudden ‘comebacks’ being made.
Trout, Chub, Perch & Pike as well as Grey Herons, Kingfishers and Divers predate upon Gudgeon. In times gone by, they were a food source and even the Victorians considered Gudgeon a delicacy, being fried whole !
Since Gudgeon are found on the bottom, small swim-feeders or a float fished over-depth will soon find them, especially on baits such as small worms and maggots.
If you find a large shoal when river fishing, fun can be had by seeing just how many Gudgeon a worm (not one chopped into pieces to use one at a time though), on a hook will catch you, my own record being 14 on one brandling !
|River Nadder, Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire