Although a few tench are found in flowing rivers, they are basically a fish of lakes and ponds. The tench is a beautiful olive-green fish with large powerful fins and tiny red eyes. Tench are a summer fish although a few are caught each winter. Tench are the one species where it is easy to distinguish between the males and females. The male tench have very large, spoon-like pelvic fins. The muscles around the base of these fins are also large, giving the fish a very lumpy appearance.
Tench can be found in large shoals and some very big catches can be taken. In a number of small weedy lakes, tench fishing can be very easy. The tench in this type of water are unlikely to grow very large but when you consider that small tench weigh between one and two pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kg) some hectic sport can be enjoyed. In larger lakes and gravel pits, tench may not be so prolific but they grow to a good size. The record tench from a British water stands at io lb I oz (4-6 kg) but larger fish have been caught suffering from dropsy (a disease where the fluids accumulate in body tissues). Tench are prone to this disease and become very bloated, resembling a football with fins.
Tench are very powerful fighters and are one of the most popular species with anglers during the summer months. They require very high water temperatures to spawn successfully and in many lakes do not spawn until July or even early August. In high altitude lakes the tench may not spawn every year if the summer is a cool one. One of the peculiarities of tench is that very small specimens are rarely caught. This is probably because the tiny tench live amongst the thick weed beds. It is certainly unusual on most waters to catch a tench weighing less than one pound (0.45 kg). June is definitely the best month for tench fishing since they have seldom spawned by early June and the fish are fat and healthy. This is the time of year when some really exceptional tench are caught. When tench begin spawning the fish do not feed, but as soon as spawning is completed the fish are likely to go on a feeding spree.
Locating feeding tench in a small lake or pond is not very difficult especially if the water is fairly shallow. Large numbers of tench feeding on the bottom discolour the water. Tench grubbing around on a silted bottom create masses of tiny bubbles which rise to the surface in clusters. Pre-baiting with lots of groundbait will attract tench into a swim. Concentrate the groundbait, rather than spreading it around. If weed-beds are nearby, lay trails of ground-bait from the weedbeds to the main area. Tench are often associated with a thick, muddy bottom but in reality they prefer a fine gravel or silt. The most favoured conditions of all for tench is a gravel bed covered with a layer of soft silt.
Baits and tackle for catching tench
When you discover a lake bed of this nature, put all your groundbait in before you tackle up. Mix dry bread-crumb into balls by soaking in water, and liberally fill these balls of ground-bait with maggots by moulding the ball into a cup shape to enclose them. Throw the balls of groundbait into the area you intend to fish. The groundbait will break up and cover the bottom but the maggots will quickly burrow into the layer of silt. The maggots are unable to burrow very deep because of the hard gravel below the layer of silt. Tench attrac-ted to the area by the groundbait soon gobble this up but whilst doing so waft some of the maggots out of the silt with the movement of their fins. Once they have discovered lots of maggots in the silt the tench will spend a long time digging for them. I have had tench feeding continuously for 12 hours after pre-baiting in this manner. Early season tench are not usually selective over bait but maggots, lobworms, breadflake and sweetcorn are probably the best baits. If small fish or other species are present it is advisable to avoid maggots. Should a large shoal of tench move into your swim, however, the small fish will most likely move out so you can safely use maggots.
In early summer, tench will feed in very shallow water but as the months pass they will gradually move into the deeper areas. Tench will feed at all hours of the day but there is no doubt that early mornings are the best. Much depends on the weather. In heatwave conditions the feeding activity may only last a few hours, but on overcast days the fish may well feed throughout the day. When tench are feeding over a small area which you have laced with maggots, do not expect runaway bites. The tench do not have to move to find more food so your tackle has to be finely adjusted. Wherever possible use an antenna float and set the tackle so that the bait is just touching the bottom of the lake. If the float then lifts slightly or dips under, strike immediately. In the past, a great deal has been written about tench playing with the bait before actually taking it. If you wait for the float to sail away, you will either deeply hook the fish or it will have swallowed your bait and bitten through the line with its pharangeal (throat) teeth. If you are legering at long range and experience these twitches on your dough bobbin or swing tip, strike at any movement.
When you fish for tench take a dry cloth with you to wipe your hands because tench are covered with a thick layer of slime. Don’t use the cloth to handle the tench because this slime protects the fish and should not be removed. Always handle fish with wet hands. This will help to prevent your hands becoming covered with slime. You will also find that, when you have landed a tench, small globules of slime will have stuck to your line near the hook. Remove all these before you rebait.
The tackle you use for tench depends on the type of water you are fishing. For float fishing in small lakes and close range fishing in gravel pits a 12 foot (3.65m) float rod is ideal. Use a line of 41b (1.8kg) breaking strain as this will deal with most tench in open water. When legcring at long range, or if the water you are fishing is full of water lilies and weed, use a carp rod and 6 lb (2-7 kg) breaking strain line. Sport with tench usually ends with the first hard frosts in late October or early November.