A zander is a stunning species that puts up a good fight when you catch one. So why do people say you have to kill Zander in the UK when you catch one and is this true? Zander are now found in several of our waterways in the UK. Canals in particular are a bit of a haven for them and some stretches can provide some really good sport. So do we have to kill them? After all, a lot of predator anglers love to catch them.

Why Kill Zander?

Here in the UK, it is illegal to return any zander back to the water if the fishery owners don’t have a special license. You are supposed to kill any zander that you catch. This is regardless of whatever size the fish is. The reason behind this is that the zander is an invasive species. This means that the fish doesn’t originate from the UK and can cause an upset in the ecosystem. Invasive species in general often mess up the food chain, which in turn can endanger any of our native species.

Gudgeon and roach are high on the Zanders menu and they say these are usually the first to suffer.

A shoal of gudgeon
They say zander kill of Gudgeon populations, I’m not so sure

If you are caught returning one you could land yourself a hefty fine. Even though this is the law, a lot of anglers don’t believe in killing zander and will put them back anyway. I must admit that I don’t believe in killing them either.

The zander has been in the UK for many years now and are here to stay in my eyes. They are well established in our waterways and have found their place in our ecosystem. well, that’s what I think anyway.

Why Do Zander Fish Get Electrocuted?

If you spend time on canals you may have seen boats traveling along electrocuting the water. This isn’t done to kill fish as such, it is done to stun the fish. All stunned fish will rise to the surface, where the bigger zander can be taken out and killed. This is done to keep the number of fish down to a manageable level.

The thing is, the small zander are left alone, and in turn, these fish seem to thrive. Not only that, but if you are an angler you may find once the canal gets zapped the fishing goes downhill.

I go predator fishing on the Grand Union Canal quite a lot. When it last got zapped it didn’t fish properly for just over 3 months.

Zapping the water does seem to mess all the fish up for a fair while. And let’s face it, it doesn’t seem to affect the numbers of zander in our waters. So is it worth doing? I’m not so sure.

What Happens To The Zander Fish When They Are Killed?

As sad as it seems, organisations such as the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) permit independent companies such as MEM to cull the zander on their waters. Culling means killing a certain amount of a species to keep the numbers down.

But what do they do with all the zander that have been killed? Well apparently a lot of them get sold onto places such as Billingsgate fish market. These get snapped up by restaurant owners (apparently). I don’t know about you, but I would not want to eat anything that comes from a canal. A river maybe, but certainly not a canal.

2 zander fillets on a chopping board
Prepared zander fillets ready to eat

Now I was thinking. If I was in charge of keeping the number of zander down I would not just take all the bigger fish, I would remove the smaller ones as well. To me, this just kind of goes without saying. But obviously, the smaller zander are not worth any money. So are these fish really being culled to keep the number of fish down, or just to make a few quid?

Who knows, but it seems a waste of time and effort to me.

The zander are still about in big numbers and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

How Did Zander Get In The UK?

If zander are an invasive species, then how did they make their way to the UK? Well according to ‘Wikipedia‘ this is down to the 9th Duke of Bedford. Way back in 1878, he introduced them to his private lakes at Woburn Abbey. Shortly afterward they were then introduced to the Fens in Cambridgeshire. The rest is history as they say.

There is a handful of fisheries that have a special license to keep zander such as Buryhill Lakes. But on the whole, people have illegally moved them to waterways across the UK where the zander is now thriving.

Bury Hill is stocked with Zander

Be sure to check any rules and regulations that may be in place from the fishery owner.

To Conclude Killing Zander Fish In The UK

So to sum it up, if you are fishing a waterway where zander were not introduced legally it is against the law to return them alive. You are supposed to kill them I’m afraid. It is the same rule that applies to the American signal crayfish. I think this is crazy and they should be left to find their place in our ecosystem.

Fishing for zander can provide a great sport for predator anglers, and most anglers do not like killing what they catch.

Tight lines and enjoy your fishing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can anglers ensure they are following the correct guidelines when fishing for Zander?

Anglers should always check the rules and regulations of the specific fishery or waterway they are fishing in. It’s essential to be aware of any special licenses or permissions required and to understand the regulations regarding the catch and release of Zander.


Are there any efforts to control the spread of Zander in the UK?

Yes, there are regulations in place that mandate the killing of Zander in certain waterways. Electrocution methods are used in some canals to manage their population. However, the effectiveness and ethics of these methods are subjects of debate.


Is it mandatory to kill Zander Fish caught from all UK waterways?

If you’re fishing in a waterway where Zander were not introduced legally, it’s against the law to return them alive. They must be killed, similar to the regulations for the American signal crayfish. However, many anglers disagree with this rule and believe Zander should be allowed to integrate into the ecosystem.

How did Zander first arrive in the UK

Zander fish were introduced to the UK by the 9th Duke of Bedford in 1878. He brought them to his private lakes at Woburn Abbey, and later they were introduced to the Fens in Cambridgeshire. Since then, they have been moved to various waterways, both legally and illegally.

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