Roach (Rutilus rutilus)

SizeBody length: 10 – 25 cm

The roach is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The roach (Rutilus rutilus) is a common fish of fresh and brackish water, and one that is likely to be the most familiar to anglers. The eyes are red; the body silvery with a blue iridescence and prominent scales; the rays of the fins and tail are blue, with the webbing between fin spines an orange-red. They are not large fish and the body size varies considerably depending on the food available and other local conditions. The largest roach recorded weighed less than two kilograms.

The roach has a range that extends from the UK, through central Europe and eastern Scandinavia, south and east through Asia Minor, Russia and into Siberia. It has also been introduced into Australia, Cypress, Morocco, Ireland, Italy and Spain.

The roach is found in freshwater lakes, canals and slow-moving rivers, and brackish waters and lakes.

Roach feed on both animal matter and vegetation, principal foods being insect larvae, small molluscs and waterweed. They are tolerant of poor water conditions, even polluted water low in oxygen. The fish spawn from April to June in shallow water and attach their eggs – as many as 100,000 – to stones and plants. These hatch within four to ten days, the fish larvae remaining attached to the vegetation until they have exhausted their yolk sacs. The young roach remain in shallow water and grow slowly, the males reaching maturity at two years, the females at three.

Although used as a source of cheap food in some eastern parts of its range, the roach is known primarily as a sport-fish. Its sheer abundance and ability to tolerate poor quality water means that it one of the most common fish caught by anglers. The fish’s natural predators include pike, eels and other large carnivorous fish, herons, osprey and aquatic mammals such as mink and otter.

There appears to be no major threat to this species, and its ability to live in conditions that other fish find intolerable has meant that the roach is a common species across most of its range. In some areas where it has been introduced, it has become to be regarded as a nuisance species.

Apart from the close season for coarse angling in the UK (15 March to 15 June), roach can be fished from any river provided the angler holds a standard rod license and has the permission of the owner of that stretch of river. Commercially, the fish is of little value apart from around parts of the Black Sea coast where it is caught as a source of cheap food. However, the roach is an important part of the aquatic food chain in its native rivers and, by being a prey species in its own right, supports populations of other animals.

Information supplied by English Nature.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)