Coarse Fishing for Chub: Leuciscus cephalus
The chub (Leuciscus cephalus) is also known as loggerhead, chavender, chevin, alderman, skelly.
The back is grey-green, grey-brown, or grey-blue and the flanks are silvery when young, becoming yellower and finally bronzed in maturity. The belly is cream or buff and occasionally pink-tinted or streaked. The dorsal and tail fins are grey or almost black, and the fins on the underside are yellow, orange, or pinkish with grey tints. Both dorsal and anal fins are convex-edged. The body is spindle-shaped and almost circular in section at the shoulder, where it is very thick-set.
The head is large with a terminal big, thick-lipped mouth. The body scales are large, with a metallic appearance.
In suitable waters a year-old fish may be 10-15 cm (4-6 ins) in length, attaining 20 or 25 cm (8 or 10 ins) within the next year.
At the age of about seven the fish may weigh 1.5 kg (3 lb) or so and under exceptional conditions more.
The chub is quite easily confused with the ROACH, and a ray and scale count is sometimes necessary. The chub’s anal and dorsal fins both bear from seven to nine branched rays and the lateral line consists of from forty-two to forty-nine scales. There are seven or eight rows of scales above this, and three or four rows beneath to the roots of the pelvic fin. The pharyngeal teeth are large and hooked and are arranged in two rows on each side, with five teeth in one and two in the other.
The chub is common in most of England and Wales, unusual in Devonshire, and absent in Cornwall. In Scotland it occurs south of the river Forth. Until fairly recently it was not found in any part of Ireland. It is now reported in scattered colonies in the river Blackwater and undoubtedly exists elsewhere as a result of recent introductions.
Chub are essentially river fish and do not occur naturally in still waters except where they have somehow become isolated there by earthworks and river improvement schemes which cut off areas of backwater to form unconnected lakes.
When introduced into lakes and ponds the fish thrive and reach good proportions, in many cases making a very worth while contribution to the coarse fishery.
Under natural conditions chub love the stream and are almost always to be found close to moving water. When young they congregate in large shoals and inhabit the surface layers, but as they grow older they tend to become more solitary and predatory. They are fond of gravelly reaches and hard bottoms, but in muddy rivers they make the best of conditions and achieve good living standards over the mud and harder clays. The older fish tend to take up residence in particular places where they make foraging expeditions along the reach, returning regularly to their holes under the bank or beneath tree roots. Throughout their seasonal wanderings they return repeatedly to such a stronghold, whether it is behind cut camp-sheathing, alongside isolated piles, or in the lee of bridge buttresses beneath the undercut below the masonry. They love to hang about near bridges but always lie on the edge of the faster water which brings food down to them. They also like the streamy shallows and can often be seen moving upstream and downstream in an apparently aimless manner, returning over the same beat again and again. Even quite small rivers and streams support surprisingly good chub, which seem most adept at making the best of whatever conditions they find there.
Their diet consists of practically anything edible, especially as the fish get older and become semi-predatory. They will eat slugs, silkweed, worms, insects, shrimps, snails, flies, minnows, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, and elvers as well as the fry of their own and other species. They are by no means above rooting about in the bottom when on short commons.
Chub are less conservative than most species and feed in temperatures which would put other fish down. In very hot weather they feed close to the surface, and during colder spells drop into middle-water habits, searching the stream for young fry or anything else which is brought down by the current. They are very much less inclined to be fussy about baits than other fishes and do not seem to become preoccupied with particular foods to the exclusion of all others. Anything floating down which might be edible is enough to evoke interest provided the fish are in a feeding mood, as they almost invariably are.
Spawning occurs on sandy or gravelly shallows among the weed, during April or May, or even as late as June when the early season has been cold. Once spawning is over, the fish soon leave the weed, working into swifter waters to recover. During this time they are often to be seen near the surface, in mill-tails and weir pools and on the fast gravelly stickler or scours. By August they tend to move into deeper water but always on the fringe of the stream, taking up residence in selected holes. In the winter they patrol the reach, searching for food, but continually returning to their holes at intervals. When floods arrive they take to the eddies and more sheltered places, but remain in the stream rather than in the slacks. Towards spawning time they become gregarious again and can be seen in pairs or small groups. The smaller fish spawn communally, but older ones work in small groups comprising one or two females and several males.
Growth rates vary considerably according to the water, although chub in poor waters probably make better progress than most other fish because of their non-selective appetites, which enable them to make the best of things. Winter growth is also better than in many fishes to judge by the condition of the scales when examined with a microscope. The winter marks are less easily distinguishable from the summer ones than might be expected.
In view of the omnivorous habits of the species there is hardly a creature which lives in water which, provided it is of a suitable size, would not make a good chub bait. The angler has thus a very wide choice.
Several baits stand apart, however, and among these are cheese, crayfish, elvers, worms, frogs, and minnows. Chub baits should generally be large ones, presented on hooks of suitable size, which may range from Nos. 8 to 4. For good-sized chub, a golf ball-sized bait is not too large, but a great deal depends on conditions; in certain circumstances, chub will willingly take very small baits. Presentation is probably far more important than choice of bait, and in view of this fish’s reputation for wariness the silence, caution, and stillness of the angler are paramount.
During the early season, live-baits such as a lip-hooked minnow or GUDGEON can be very effective, and smallbaits often have a fatal attraction for the fish at this time. Fly spoons, large flies, and small spinners will sometimes tempt the apparently uninterested fish. The angler must use all his ingenuity to experiment with various baits and presentations.
The rod must be sturdy enough to hold and handle a fish of 3 or 4 kilogrammes. For this a tip-and-middle or all-through action is essential, perhaps particularly because chub are often taken byor methods. For a good Avon-type rod is useful, or one specifically designed for legering in fairly fast water.
The reel may be a centre-pin or fixed spool according to choice and the methods chiefly used. Line should be of 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lb), but where conditions are especially snaggy or big fish are confidently expected this may be increased to 2.5-3 kg (5-6 lb) or even more.
Many anglers still tend to fish for chub with ROACH hooks, which are far too small for the fish. A glance at the mouth of even a 700 g (1-1/2 lb) chub is surely sufficient to convince the doubtful that something realistically large is required. Look at the mouth of a 2.5-3 kg (5-6 lb) fish and there can be no disputing that a 4-6 hook is, comparatively speaking, a small one. For general purposes a No. 8 or No. 6 will be suitable, but circumstances do arise when a No. 4 or 2 would be better.
Hooks should preferably be eyed, since chub give a very powerful resistance during the early stages of the battle, which can often be protracted for some time. Spade-ended hooks are liable to come adrift in these conditions, but a four-turn half-blood knot on a No. 4 eyed hook is a very suitable combination and can be relied upon to cope in waters where snags make it necessary to hold the fish very hard.