The tench is one of Britain's most distinguishable and loveable fish, with its olive green flanks, tiny red eyes and powerful grey-brown fins. Anglers cannot fail but recognise this beautiful species, but by the same token, non-anglers recognise the tench too, due to its distinctive shape, colour and size, and due to the fact that many tench are sold in garden centres as pond fish.
If there's one word that best describes a tench it is power. Even tiny finger-long tench will wriggle and writh their way out of your hands in a flash. And their strength, coupled with the tiny scales and their mucus-covered bodies makes the tench a difficult fish to handle at the best of times!
The most common tench that we all know and love has an olive green body, but there are strains of tench that have golden flanks. They are available in all good aquarists, and some have made their way into stillwater fisheries.
It is possible to determine whether you have caught a male or a female tench by taking a glance at the fish's pelvic fins. The male's pelvic fins are spoon-shaped and have lumpy muscles immediately above the base of the fins.
Tench are pretty docile fish so the poor things tend to come a close second when competing for food in fisheries that hold carp. So for tench to grow large alongside carp the water needs to be extremely rich in nutrients.
In waters where carp far outnumber the tench - commercial fisheries are a prime example - the water will invariably be coloured and weed free. This poses a real problem for tench in that they simply don't have the stable and staple diet to sustain a great weight, therefore the tench will hardly ever break the 1lb mark.
The usual tench courtship begins with a few males chasing a few females, with egg laying occuring early in the morning during late spring and early summer.
Tench spawn within thick clumps of very soft weed and algae, with the female tench laying her eggs first, then the male tench passing directly overhead to fertilise the eggs.
Unlike the continual thrashing around caused by carp spawning, you would hardly know that tench are spawning - it's a very docile, quiet affair.
Female tench can carry an enormous amount of eggs; up to a quarter of its own body weight. A female tench that weighs around 8lb in late summer and autumn may weigh up to 10lb 8oz when it is fully laden with eggs.
The tench fry will remain within the weed feeding upon tiny plankton. It is unlikely that tench will come across an angler's hook until they are at least a couple of years old, when they have almost reach 1lb and feel secure enough to leave the sanctuary of the weed to search larger food items.
Tench are the perfect stillwater species, but they can be found in some lowland river systems where the water runs slow and deep.
Targeting and finding tench in lakes can be quite easy during certain months of the year. Firstly, tench are never too far away from vegetation or underwater gullies. They are a bottom-feeding species that use the sides of ledges and the stems of underwater weed as cover.
Tench can produce streams of tiny bubbles when they are feeding. These are created when the tench crushes its food, and the bubbles escape through the gills. So, if you find series of these pin-prick bubbles breaking the surface you know you are not too far away from a feeding tench.
Binoculars will help enormously when searching for these signs, as will a high vantage point.
But if the water's devoid of any bubbles, watch for signs of reed knocking around, lilies moving, coloured water close to weed and calm patches within rippled water all denote the prescence of a tench or two.
Look out for...
Watch reedbeds carefully - tench sometimes bump into stems.
Tench are synonymous with water lilies - they are never far away.
Look for marginal drop-offs as tench use them as patrol routes.