I've thought recently about doing a lot more research on the common Dace ( Leuciscus Leuciscus ). Considering I have been targeting this rather punitive species by comparison of others like the Carp, I felt it was time to do some reading into them, fill in some of those blanks, like how long they live and what average weights are and so on.
|A perfect example of a plump Dace.|
Most of what I'm about to write is just through silver surfing and from previous knowledge of these immaculate creatures. So first of all, what is the record Dace caught in British waters? The answer is a whopping "1.05.02", which was caught in 2002 on the River Wear, the angler was Simon Ashton. What a cracking specimen too I may add!. The common Dace tend to thrive in most of our waterways, including those that aren't pristine, Dace can be quite hardly and can live in rivers as well as stillwaters. When growing up my first ever Dace of 4oz roughly was caught from a council run pond and I know it's not the only pond either. Acceptable PH levels can range from 6-8, so they can be found in a range of waters.
Although Dace are predominately a river species they can be found in most water-courses, recently all my Dace have come from pacy tributary's of the mighty River Thames, although the Avon and Test have provided me with good sport too. Life expectancy of Dace is relatively unknown from what I have worked out, the estimate though is anywhere between 6-10 years, a fish of 4-6oz is probably around two years old and a specimen of 12-14oz depending on the watercourse is probably around the six year mark, so working out an average I'd say a Dace puts on around 1-3oz a year. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't sound much but the British Record is 21oz 2dr, so with that calculation I'd say that specimen was anywhere between 8-10 years old and had fed very well.
|A pair of specimen Silver Darts.|
Another factor I have found through my Dace fishing is that the larger specimens tend to hang around in smaller mobile shoals, this takes more work to catch them but they seem to thrive by moving around a lot, my theory is that they're simply looking for new feeding areas and holding areas
|Immaculate chalk stream Dace.|
Spawning between March and May depending on water temperature and quality of spawning grounds these relatively small fish can reach their top weights towards mid-Feb as they start to swell in order to prepare their eggs for spawning, hence the term "plump chested", If targeting a record Dace then fishing between Christmas and the end of the season is probably your best chance of getting close, or if you're like me then catching Dace of any size is great fun. The best method for catching Dace is trotting at short range and long distance trotting, maggot and bread is by far the best baits to use and when using maggots a gentle trickle of maggots to get the swim ticking over and once the Dace have started to respond the slowly crank up the quantity that's being introduced to keep them moving through the swim, with that happening you'll have a better chance of having your hook-bait intercepted, but if bites don't come after a few trots play around with the depth and as the fish liven up then shorten up the distance between the float and hook as the bites continue to come.
|At 15oz 4dr, this fish is enormous but they do get bigger.|
Ledgering bread flake for Dace at dusk and beyond is also a good tactic although it's not one I use often, bites can be fairly outrageous bearing in mind the size of the fish but using a soft feeder tip (1-1.5oz) is best and fish straight through 4lb line, but always mindful of Chub or even Barbel as on the light tackle it could spell trouble. But trotting is definitely the best way of catching Dace, a centre-pin and a decent rod of 12-14ft is recommended, brand doesn't matter in my opinion. Any time of the year is good for Dace and even during the closed season months, on the fly sport can be very good too as Dace in the warmer months will actively feed in the upper 20% of the water column, dry fly fishing can provide consistent and thoroughly enjoying trips out so don't rule that out if you're ever bored during the closed season, grab a fly rod and give that a try.