Early Tench Attack
26th February 2015
A couple of very early spring fish, February 2014
I know to a lot of anglers this may seem early in the year to be thinking about Tench with many of you not even considering this species until May/June. However, with the air temperatures currently around 10-14 Celsius, and the nights not dropping much below 4-6 Celsius, for me, this is the right time. There are a number of reasons behind my thinking. In my experience, one of the key factors is the amount of the day light hours. This is a trigger point for a lot of animals and plants, so why not fish? Daffodils always come up at the same time, whether there are 6 inches of snow on the ground, or it’s an unexpectedly warm spell. I believe that all fish, irrespective of their habits, start thinking about spawning with their trigger point being the length of the days. Having not eaten much during the cold months, I believe all fish have to start packing on weight in readiness for spawning and in particular, Tench. Another reason I like to start ‘early’ is to get them used to my chosen bait. For me, this year, it’s going to be a Krill with Maple and Almond top flavorings. I will be using ground-bait, pellet and bolie’s all with the same base flavor and ingredients. The final reason, other than gut feel, are the lakes are at their quietest, and you will often have the place to yourself.
A Big Male. It is suggested you can double the size of a male to give you the size of the females!
So, which type of venue is best during this time of the year? Over the last few years, I have had more success on lakes of around 3-10 acres with an average depth of 4-8 feet. Smaller, shallow venues warm up quick and the fish respond quicker to increased sunlight hours (even with cloud cover). Whereas in the later months, I tend to fish big waters – 50 acres plus – with more depth variation, but they do take longer to warm up and so do this fish. The ideal venue for me would be an old, shallow, estate lake of 8 acres, with a lot of weed and lilies. Obviously, the lilies won’t be showing yet but the young shoots will be, and especially Canadian pond weed. In turn, as these new shoots show, the insect life starts to lay eggs on these, and this is another trigger point for the fish. When you think about it, Mother-Nature is an amazing thing – weed grows, insects lay their eggs, giving the fish good levels of protein in readiness for spawning and food for their fry. I try to consider what is going on under the surface, with last year’s weed, decaying leaves and what impact early pondweed growth has. Importantly, I think about how the fish will respond to this, where they will be and how they are likely to feed. It’s worth remembering that fish have a sweet tooth in the winter because the last sustainable food sources in autumn are the berries that fall from the trees. So with this in mind, they will still have a sweet tooth, but as insects lay their eggs and larvae hatches, their taste buds will become more savory, so a good balance between these is a good bet.
This time of the year, I go easy on the feed, little and often is a good idea. You can always put more in, but you can’t take it out. Feed tight, sparingly and wait for the fish to respond. The number of indications, bubbling and bites will tell you how much grub they want. I also like small baits such as 8mm pre-drilled pellets, 10-12mm boilies, maggots and my favorite being maize. On the subject of maggots, Tench do have a liking for plastic baits. I also like small hooks, 14, 12 and 10s. I tie these to fluro-carbon hook lengths, normally 6-8lb, although I will say that I am targeting big Tench, 8lb and upwards.
When and if you do venture out this time of the year after Tench, then try to get there for first light and watch for movement. They won’t roll much this time of the year, but if they do, it will be at first light. Go to the fish, don’t try to make them come to you, they won’t move far. Key bite times are the first couple of hours, midday when the sun is at its highest and just before dark, During the night, then expect bites at any time, especially on clear venues, but you may find between 12am, and 2 am is a good time. You won’t catch anything sitting in doors watching TV. Go Catch, SteveD…