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The ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus) has a very unusual reaction to being caught. Read on to discover what to expect.

Ruffe, courtesy of Jack Perks
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The best bait by far is small pieces of chopped up worm.
Carl Nicholls, fisheries & angling manager

Appearance: usually a sandy brown to dark brown colour with blotchy black markings and speckles across the upper body and dorsal fin. They have two dorsal fins joined together. The front of this conjoined fin is generally hard while the rear is soft. They have a short triangular head and large mouth, feeding mainly upon small insects, snails, eggs and fry of other fish. They have a number of spines.

British record: 5oz 4dms (British record committee 2015)

Lateral line scale count: 35-40 (this is the dark row of scales along the central length of the fish's body)

Lifespan: 3 to 6 years

We like ruffe because: of their distinctive response once caught.The fish becomes extremely rigid, extends its very spiky dorsal fin and flares its gill covers. Please take care when handling this fish.

How to catch a ruffe

Ruffe are quite difficult to target as an individual species and don't compete very well with other coarse fish species. When you catch a few ruffe it's usually a sign that they are the only fish present in your swim. They are purely a bottom-feeding fish and scavenge around picking up the leftovers from other fish. Small hooks around size 18-24 are required. The best bait by far is small pieces of chopped up worm.

Where to catch a ruffe

Ruffe are common and can be caught in small numbers on most canals, especially in the north of England.

Read more about the ruffe in the fisheries & angling team blog.


Find a place to fish

Enter a town or postcode into our fishery search tool to find good local fishing spots

Last Edited: 24 December 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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