In terms of body shape the Ruffe resemble Perch, a close relative, but they are shorter and stouter and their two dorsal fins are joined. They are pale brown and covered with numerous black speckles that decrease in size the closer they get to its white belly, the head is large with a down turned mouth and the eyes quite large, appearing lilac in colour. The two dorsal fins (both spotted) are joined, the front one having a serious array of spines, as do the pectoral and anal fins, the gill covers are also spiky – a generally awkward individual !
Most Ruffe are between 7-12cm in size, with a specimen being 13cm, but can reach 17cm in ideal conditions and in fact the British Record was caught from a lake in Cumbria. Fish in captivity have even reached lengths of 25cm.
Ruffe can be found in both fresh and brackish water, doing well in a variety of habitats in lakes, large and small rivers, estuaries, and ponds: surviving in water as shallow as 1 foot to as deep as 250 feet. They are found in low nutrient waters to highly enriched waters, but their abundance seems to be adversely affected by eutrophication and nutrient inputs. Ruffe prefer slow moving rivers and prefer soft bottoms without vegetation in lakes.
Ruffe appear to prefer spending their days in hiding in deeper water, moving to the shallows to feed at night on aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fish, bottom dwelling organisms, and occasionally the eggs of other fish. Ruffe rely on their well-developed sensory system to allow them to feed with confidence in the knowledge that they can detect their predators as well as being well camouflaged against them and having large eyes to spot movement: demonstrating very successful adaptation for a variety of habitats.
Female Ruffe can sexually mature within two or three years, but males may mature in just one year in warmer waters. An average female can produce anywhere between 4,000 to 100,000 eggs per season, depending upon their condition. Between April–July with water temperatures between 8 to 16°C, the sticky eggs are stretched over the virtually any substrate in interwoven strands. Eggs can potentially hatch in just 5 days in warm conditions and 10-14 days in colder temperatures. The 3mm long fry develop quickly and have a faster first year growth rate than most of its competitors, being highly omnivorous, opportunistic feeders. Female Ruffe often reach an age of 7, but can live to 11 years of age, with males living only having an average life span of 3-5 years.
Try fishing close in the margins, with small worms or pieces of worm or of course maggots fished on hooks no greater than size 16, hard on the bottom with a either a small feeder or fish a waggler float over depth. Strike early at bites to avoid deep hooking of Ruffe as they often swallow a bait quickly, like its close relative the Perch.
But remember that this method could also find the Tench and occasional Crucians that patrol the margins as well of the more obvious Carp, so you could get a surprise. You can also try the sections of the River Wey at Elstead, fishing similar tactics, but expect 20+ Gudgeon before you hook one.
When handling Ruffe, slide a wet hand down over the fish to close the spiny dorsal, pectoral and anal fins and the sharply pointed gill covers all at the same time: by maintaining gentle pressure on them the fin and gills will stay closed enough to prevent you receiving a painful jab when un-hooking the fish.
On Farnham Angling Society waters, try Badshot Lea Small Pond
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The Ruffe is found in Europe and Eurasia and have become established in the United States of America and Canada, probably having traveled ‘bottom class’ in the ballast water of transatlantic ships. Their highly evolved defences and ability to adapt to many environments has made the species a successful invader, sparking investigation by the Authorities as to how they may control its spread to reduce the impact upon indigenous species.
Female Ruffe can sexually mature within two or three years, but males may mature in just one year in warmer waters. An average female can produce 13,000 to 200,000 eggs per season, and between April–July with water temperatures between 8 to 16 degrees C, the sticky eggs are stretched over the virtually any substrate in interwoven strands. Eggs can potentially hatch in just 5 days in warm conditions and 10-14 days in colder temperatures. The 3mm long fry develop quickly and have a faster first year growth rate than most of its competitors, being highly omnivorous, opportunistic feeders. Female Ruffe often reach an age of 7, but can live to 11 years of age, with males living only having an average life span of 3-5 years.
Although quite closely related, Ruffe and Perch are not known to hybridise.
Few things appear to feed on Ruffe, largely likely to their camouflage and nocturnal feeding habits, with predatory fish only feeding on them in numbers if other food becomes scarce. Ruffe maintain a well developed system of hollow bone canals within their heads that contain sensory organs called ‘neuromasts’. These are also found in the young of Perch, but they tend to solidify as they become adults, but in adult Ruffe they are still present: so providing them with very good sensory organs that detect water vibrations given off by both predators and prey and of course heavy footed
Ruffe have several other names, also being referred to as Pope and Daddy Ruffe. The Greek name actually means naked head, deriving from the Greek words ‘gymnos’ meaning naked and ‘kephale’ meaning head.