Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Monday 3 May 2021

The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.200 - Gators and Galactophagists

A piece of pork fit for a king, the cracking like nothing else I've had recently, the problem was after enjoying the good food and good wine I was in two minds where to fish in the morning. I didn't have long as the weather would change but I just fancied catching a fish, any fish would do. 

So I made the decision with my feet up after consuming my body weight in Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes was to use my 14ft float rod rigged with a pole float to see what fish were swimming in these hallowed waters. I'd have a deadbait out in front of me though next to some cover though as there is that double figure Zander to catch that swims here, one BIG problem though, Pike, bleeding Pike. 

Now fish in a school are less vulnerable to predators. All cyprinids, if threatened, bunch together, and the school they form carries out manoeuvres to baffle the enemy. This stretch of canal is quite incredible with numbers of silver fish that swim there, not just fish on the bigger side either, some snack size fish as well. 

If a pike or a perch approaches, the school will keep out of the danger zone in front of the predator's mouth, if it then moves to bring the school into its line of attack, the school will split into two groups, which swim to the left and right of the enemy and re-form behind his tail in safety. 

If the predator darts forward at the school, it explodes outwards in all directions, each small fish sprinting away from the point of impact so as to create an empty space into which the predator snaps. 

These escaping movements are astonishingly fast, I remember a winter day with a crust of drifted ice lying in a side-channel of the Warwickshire Avon forming a layer thick enough to dampen out the wake of a mallard that swam past the ice's edge, and fry beneath it escaping upwards from a pike, so fast that they broke through the ice and lay thrashing on the surface, unable to return. 

It seems that the multitude of quick movements confuses the predator, so that it cannot accurately fix the position of any one victim. Pike and perch in experimental tanks have shown that they can easily capture a solitary dace or bleak, have a little trouble with a small school of eight or ten, and perform much worse against twenty or more. 

It is not just that the predator cannot make up its mind which one to go for, since then there would be strong selection for a predator that chose one victim at random and set its course for that; rather, the predator cannot tell exactly where any one victim is or will be. 

There is an exact parallel here with various anti-aircraft systems, which have worked perfectly in peacetime trials when for reasons of economy they were given only one target at a time, but which when confronted with several hostile aircraft together work out the range of one, the height of another and the bearing of a third and infallibly miss all three. 

This defensive schooling is of course more useful for prey species, which most cyprinids are, than for dominant predators, perch and zander for that matter are unusual in forming aggressive schools. 

These transient larger Zander though are difficult to locate as they are are loners in the main, but find a stretch of canal full of fish, the larger predators won't be far behind.

I was bankside for 6.00am and fished for 3 and a bit hours with breadpunch and maggots with some liquidised bread and roach groundbait. No foot traffic and only one boat in that time, in contrast a few days before I counted 15 boats in a little over an hour.

Still the fish were biting and I managed a nice little net of fish. The bites came in waves and certainly improved after the first boat. I wasn't exactly feeling it though, the weather not exactly brilliant with a cold wind and fits and starts of rain.

The smelt had been out for a few hours when eventually it jumped in to life and I struck in to a solid fish, I knew exactly what it was, yeap a big pike again. A decent scrap and it showed my canal set-up is perfect to tackle a Zander of this size. The same spawned out fish ? I didn't weigh it, but quite possibly.  My face showing the fact it was the wrong double yet again, a quick out of focus photo it was returned to go about its business again. 


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