Sunday, November 25, 2012

Zed's a pred baby, Zed's a pred.

Zander, also known as zeds. A freshwater predator introduced to the East Anglian drainage system in the 1960's and a species that I find quite intriguing for some reason. I was planning to try for them next year, until my mate Martin asked me a few weeks ago if I fancied a weekend on Rutland Water down in England targeting them. Often overlooked by some predator anglers who instead prefer to target the more widely distributed pike and perch. Whilst they grow bigger than perch, they don't grow to the same size as pike and in addition they're also not renowned as being much of a fighter when hooked which is maybe the reason why some don't target them, these facts haven't dampened my interest in this species though so I happily said I would go with him so we could hopefully both catch our first one.

Off we went on Friday, fully aware that some harsh weather was forecast but determined to fish anyway. Sure enough when we woke up on Saturday morning it was very foggy as predicted, so much so that we weren't even sure we would get out in the boat. Upon arrival at Rutland Water we had to wait for about an hour for the fog to lift a bit before we were allowed to get in the boat, set off and begin fishing.

Martin pilots out boat out of the marina and into uncharted territory.
When does mist become fog? The shore begins to vanish.
Slug-Go rigged on a 25g jighead with a #8 stinger attached and ready to go.

We started fishing near the concrete tower in the main bay and after a few drifts the fish finder marked structure below us and a few fish. Using 25-35g jigheads to keep in contact with the bottom as the boat drifted and working our lures slowly it wasn't that long before Martin hooked and landed his first ever zander. It looked like it had been in a fight or two.

Battle scarred with a heavily damaged dorsal fin and a few scars and wounds on it's flank.

At this point the fog began to close in again. So much so that we could hardly see the shore in any direction. We decided to stay near the tower and a short time later Martin had a second smaller fish in the boat.

Smaller but in much nicer condition. Martin was chuffed and things looked promising.

Just after he had returned it I hooked a small one too and brought it up to the surface. Rather than wait for him to grab the net though I decided to lift it up the foot or so into the boat and you can probably guess what happened next. A splash. I watched as my would be first ever zander shot off and escaped. So near yet so far. Having just hooked three fish in a relatively short period we were fairly confident we'd get a few more but as the fog began the lift again due to the wind picking up a fair bit, the fish that had been showing up on the fish finder disappeared. We tried a few more drifts around the tower to try and locate them again before moving to the north arm of the reservoir to try our luck there. As the day went on however the wind got stronger and stronger and it started raining. With virtually no action at all on both our rods I started to wonder if I would end up blanking and really regret my earlier decision to lift the fish I had hooked resulting in its subsequent escape. We decided it was time for a hot drink and a rethink!

I try to see the funny side of things over a mug of soup.
After a short break we decided the tower where we had seen the only action was our best option and headed back.

By this point we were both looking like a couple of drowned rats and my hands were pretty numb. It was now so windy that we were using two drogues to try and slow the drifts down. With less than hour left we finally picked up a few fish on the finder and after several drifts over the area and trying various lures as well as a spot of drop shotting I finally hooked another fish on a 5" Xorus Dandy Bass in Ayu. Martin was ready with the net this time and after a nervous moment my first zander was in the boat.

A small specimen but I didn't care. Mission accomplished and the sense of relief was overwhelming!

It would be the last fish of a hard day's fishing and to be honest I think we were both very relieved to have caught, myself in particular! This feeling was magnified tenfold when upon returning and tying up the boat in the marina we were told that due to the gale force winds forecast for the following day no boats would be launching. That night we headed down to the pub and talked over the days events and both agreed we'd been quite lucky to even get out fishing at all due to the fog. We laughed about me almost blanking due to my haste trying to land my first zander before retiring to our hotel. This morning we thought about trying to fish somewhere else but decided to head up the road early instead. Despite the weather and the trip being cut short we both enjoyed our first zander trip and it's definitely a species that we'll both be targeting again with a trip to Europe next year a possiblity.

Tight lines, Scott.

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