Coarse Fishing for Tench: Tinca tinca
The tench (Tinca tinca) is one of the most easily identified of the. The depth of its colouring may vary a little according to environment, but it is usually a dark green on the back, blending into a greenish-bronze on the sides with a lighter belly or underside. All the fins, including the tail, are neatly rounded, the eyes are noticeably small and tiny scales well embedded in the skin give it what can best be described as a `leathery’ appearance.
The skin has a copious coating of protective mucous or slime, a feature which gave rise to an old fallacy which endowed the tench with the title of ‘doctor fish’. In bygone days this slime was held to possess curative properties for certain human ailments and there was also an old belief that other fishes cured themselves of disease or injury by rubbing themselves against the slimy flanks of the tench. At one time it was believed that the hungriest pike would never devour a tench because of its usefulness as a ‘doctor’. This quaint notion has long since been disproved, however, for tench have been found, though not very often, in the stomachs of opened pike. The tench’s colouration, an excellent camouflage in its normal environment, is the probable reason for its comparative immunity from the predatory pike.
Rate of growth is governed by various factors, such as size of waters, locality, and availability of natural food. Another factor, nowadays, is the strain or ancestry of the parent fish, for many of the tench now used for stocking are descended from imported artificially reared fish which are of a faster-growing strain than our native tench.
Generally speaking, large well-weeded waters produce the biggest tench. Small ponds do not usually yield large ones, but even in these smaller waters tench will usually grow large enough to offer the angler worthwhile sport. Scale readings and checks on tagged fish suggest that naturally bred pond tench are not fast growers. They appear to take about five years to attain a weight of 1 kg (2 lb), seven or eight years to grow to 1.5 kg (3 lb), and about ten years to reach the 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lb) class. In large well-weeded waters, rich in natural food, growth will be appreciably faster, and even in lesser waters growth may be faster in the case of introduced fish of good stock.
Tench are primarily still-water dwellers, their natural habitat being static waters such as lakes and all kinds of pools and ponds. They thrive well enough in canals and they get along quite well in sluggish rivers and broads, but in the faster-flowing rivers you can only expect to find them, if at all, in quiet backwaters away from the main current.
Even in their natural habitat tench have their favourite haunts. Only in very small ponds and weed-free waters can they be found generally distributed. They have a pronounced liking for the cover afforded by weed-growth and rarely roam very far from such cover if it is available. In and around lilypads, among banks of weed, and among rushy fringes; these are the favourite haunts of tench. They are not, as a rule, frequenters of the deeper water, preferring the shallower areas where the weed-growth is more abundant.
Though not as widely distributed as some species, tench are to be found over a fairly wide area of the British Isles. They inhabit suitable waters throughout England and Wales, in parts of Ireland, and in the southern counties of Scotland. They are most prolific in southern England, but are fairly common in waters as far north as Lancashire and Yorkshire. Farther north than this they become far scarcer. In recent years tench have become an increasingly popular quarry with coarse-fish anglers, and more and more angling organizations are stocking suitable waters with these hardy and easily transported fish which will settle down and grow to a worthwhile size even in waters containing only stunted populations of other species.
With tench, spawning seems to take place over a rather longer period than is usual with most other species of; they have been found ripe with spawn as early as May and as late, even, as September. The spawning time is probably governed by water temperature, varying according to locality, but May to early June seems to be the usual breeding period.
The female tench shed their eggs on to the weed-growth in the warmer shallows to be fertilized by the more numerous males of the shoal. Much of this haphazardly deposited spawn is consumed by other fish, but the fertilized eggs which survive hatch out in about seven days.
Although the tench will sometimes seek food at mid-water and, occasionally, even at the surface, it is for the most part a bottom-feeder. The bulk of its food is picked or rooted up from the mud of the bottom and it is there that a bait intended for tench will normally prove most effective.
The natural food of the tench consists largely of vegetable matter, aquatic worms and molluscs, and the larval form of all kinds of aquatic insects. Chironomid larvae, more familiarly known as `bloodworms’, are a favourite food. Very often, streams of tiny bubbles rising to the surface will betray the presence of tench rooting in the mud in search of these small worm-like larvae. At such times, however, they are often uninterested in any bait the angler may offer. Water-snails, too, are another favourite item of the tench’s diet. It is often possible to observe violent movement of marginal weed-growth as tench forage among the submerged stems, probably in search of these molluscs.
Tench are notoriously unpredictable in the matter of feeding. At times they will fast for quite long periods, yet on occasion they feed ravenously and can be caught fairly easily. They seem to be particularly susceptible to changes in water temperature and feed only within fairly narrow limits, showing little interest in baits when the water is below about 13° C (55° F) or above 21° C (70° F).
This reluctance to feed at low temperatures makes the season for successful tench fishing a short one, lasting only from the opening of the coarse-fishing season in June until about the end of September. With the onset of the winter months the tench go into semi-hibernation, settling themselves in the mud of the bottom in a torpid condition. Hibernation does not seem to be so complete in rivers, where tench are occasionally caught during the winter months, but even in these waters tench fishing is likely to be an unrewarding occupation after the end of September.
Although they are, from the angler’s point of view, summer fish, tench have a strong dislike of bright sunlight, and in very sunny conditions they seek shade and show little interest in the angler’s offerings. The first few hours after dawn and the last few hours before dark are usually the most promising for tench fishing at any season, but especially during a spell of bright sunny weather. There are times when tench will feed at intervals throughout the day and, if it is not too cold, throughout the night, but more often than not the hours from dawn to sun-up and from sunset until dark offer the best prospects for the angler seeking tench.