Common rudd are a freshwater coarse fish found throughout Europe and parts of Asia. Common rudd are sought out by anglers as they can be a difficult and finicky species to catch.
They are also one of the most beautiful coarse fish in our waters and are considered (us included!) to be the most beautiful of all of the Cyprinidae family of species.
Common rudd (scientific name Scardinius erythrophthalmus) are a freshwater coarse fish of the Cyprinidae family. This is a large family of species which inhabit most of our freshwaters and includes roach, chub and carp.
Common nicknames given to common rudd include redeye and pearl roach, although they are commonly known simply as “rudd” in the UK.
Rudd are commonly confused with other members of the Cyprinidae such as their cousins roach and small chub. They form hybrids with these species so they can be incredibly difficult to identify.
Rudd are also known to crossbreed with bream and it is said that these hybrids combine the beauty of rudd with the weight of bream to create a truly stunning fish.
Rudd were consumed as food in the UK and records exist of consuming rudd in the Middle Ages.
In Eastern Europe rudd is still caught as an eating fish using seine nets and traps along habitats where they live. They are also cultivated as a fish for food on the table.
It is said that their flesh is far superior to roach but it is small and bony. In the areas where rudd are still consumed, however, it is still not highly regarded as a palatable eating fish.
Predators of rudd include waterfowl such as heron, and other fish such as pike, perch and chub. Rudd are caught by anglers as baitfish in order to catch pike or larger perch.
Distribution and Habitat
Common rudd are native to Europe and Middle Asia. They can be found from in the north from Finland and Russia, in the east from Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran, in the south from Italy and Greece and in the west in the southern area of the UK.
In contrast with other species of the Cyprinidae family they can be found in the warmer climate of Southern Europe and thrive in these environments, including Spain where they have been introduced.
Rudd are present in Norway and Sweden however there is inconclusive evidence whether they are native to these countries or whether they have been introduced.
As well as their native habitats, rudd have been introduced to many diverse countries. They were introduced by the French to Morocco, Tunisia and Madagascar in the mid-1900s. Rudd have successfully reproduced in Morocco and Tunisia but not in Madagascar.
Rudd have been introduced to Canada (predominantly Ontario), the USA and New Zealand by the British. They have become established in all of these areas.
The reason for introducing the species is likely to be by anglers as a coarse fish or bait fish to catch predators.
Rudd have the ability to cause damage to ecosystems where they have been introduced and have become established. There are preventative measures in place in some states in the USA where rudd are prohibited from being sold or transported.
Rudd are generally a shoaling fish and they can be found in the lower reaches of rivers and streams. Within rivers they can be found in slow pools and backwaters.
Rudd can also survive and thrive in stillwaters such as ponds, lakes, reservoirs and even thermal springs.
They prefer waters which contains a lot of overgrown weed beds as they use this as a source of food and as cover from predators. Rudd can also survive and inhabit brackish waters.
Rudd are very similar to their cousins the roach and are somewhat similar to dace and chub.
Rudd have deep bodies but are a relatively thin fish. they have small heads, large gold eyes and their bottom jaw protrudes as a result of their feeding on the surface or mid-water.
Rudd are a copper – gold colour on the back, golden on the flanks and a brilliant white on their bellies. The rudd are beautiful fish and the colours are stunningly vivid.
The dorsal and pectoral fins of rudd tend to be a dark red or reddish grey in colour. The other fins of rudd are all a brilliant red which contrasts nicely with the colour of their bodies. In murkier waters the fins may be more of a dark orange colour.
Rudd are a greener colour when young and will change to a more bronze colour before turning a beautiful copper-gold. The juvenile rudd have orange eyes which also matures into a golden colour as they age.
Rudd and roach are commonly confused. To distinguish between the two, roach tend to be more silver where rudd are more gold. The fins of rudd tend to be more pigmented and coloured than those of the roach.
The lower jaw of rudd will be set forward whereas the upper jaw of roach are set forward (to complemented the different styles of feeding). The final way to tell the difference is that the dorsal fin of roach is in line with their pelvic fins (when looked at vertically from the side) where the dorsal fin of the rudd is set further back.
Rudd are not large fish in comparison with many of their cousins in the Cyprinidae family. What they lack in size they can make up for in quantity as you can really get a lot of these fish if you get a shoal feeding.
Rudd can generally grow up to 4 – 8 inches in length (approximately 10cm to 20cm). You may find larger specimens growing up to 50cm in length. The lateral line scale count is between 40 to 55, where in comparison roach have a lateral line scale count of 42 to 45.
Rudd weigh on average between 2 to 8oz (approximately 0.05 to 0.2kg). You are likely to find larger specimens in prime habitats. The British record stands at 4lb 10oz which would have been a stunning fish.
The average lifespan of rudd is usually between the ages of 8 to 14 years. You may find larger fish in prime condition which could live up to 18 years.
How they Feed
Rudd are omnivorous. They will feed in the middle of the water and on the surface in comparison to roach which mainly feed on the bottom. Nonetheless, rudd can be edged out of fisheries by roach which feed more greedily as there is a crossover in the types of food they consume.
Rudd will feed in shoals and will feed on edible treats which have fallen from the surface and on the surface itself. They will feed on aquatic vegetation which is also uses as cover. In addition, they also consume insects, snails, small crustaceans and sometimes fish eggs.
Juvenile rudd eat zooplankton and phytoplankton but develop a broader diet as they age and will become more carnivorous and will also consume aquatic vegetation.
Male rudd reach sexual maturity between the ages of 1 to 4 years, and the females will reach sexual maturity between 2 to 5 depending on the environment. Rudd swim in shoals with other rudd of similar size and age.
Rudd begin to spawn when the water temperature reaches between 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. This is usually between the months of May and August in their habitats, but May or June in the UK.
The females lay adhesive eggs which attach themselves to aquatic vegetation. The males then fertilise the eggs. Female rudd can lay up to 200,000 eggs per kilogram of bodyweight.
In most female rudd this means that their total eggs are between 96,000 and 232,000. Rudd only spawn once or twice per season.
The eggs are pale yellow or an opaque green in colour and measure 1.4mm. The time it takes to hatch depends on the temperate, as in warmer climates it can take as little as 4 to 5 days, while it takes up to 20 days in colder climates.
The newly hatched fry will attach themselves to vegetation using specific organs and will remain attached for several days until their yolk sac is consumed. The newly hatched juveniles measure from 4.5mm to 6mm.
As the spawning time is similar for rudd, roach and chub, you may find some very interesting hybrids. The hybrids formed between roach and rudd are very difficult to identify from the true fish, as the bottom jaw may protrude like rudd but be a light silver colour like roach!
How to Catch Rudd
When to catch rudd depends on the time of year. In the summer months the shoals of rudd will move into the shallow areas while in the winter they will seek the refuge of deeper areas of the water.
During summer, the ideal time to catch rudd is probably the late evening where there is low light as the shoals are less cautious and feed more aggressively. We’ve heard that large specimens can be caught at night by fishing near the bottom.
You should have a good look at your surroundings before targeting rudd. They will inhabit areas where there is a substantial build up of weed and where the waters remain clean and clear for most of the year.
Look for overhanging vegetation as insects may fall into the water where the rudd may be looking for food on the surface. You could also find success by fishing where the wind is blowing as rudd will follow the insects which are blown on to the surface. Other good locations to look are near to water lillies or bulrushes which go beyond the marginal shelf.
In terms of bait, the good news is that rudd are not too particular so a range of baits would work well. We’ve found the best bait are casters, maggots in the form of pinkies and squats – but try to get fresh wriggling ones.
Other worthy contenders include bread, sweetcorn, pellets, boilies, chopped worm, brandlings and small red worm. Rudd are not particularly fished for by fly fishing, but as they feed on the surface this would be an excellent way of catching them.
Rudd are a relatively small species so light tackle is all that is required – similar to the setup which you would use to catch roach. You could try fishing with the float, ledgering or fly fishing with success. Our favourite is to use the float.
In order to fish with float, a float rod which is 10 – 15 feet should be perfect, with a fixed spool reel of 2 – 3lb line and a hook length of 1.5lb. It is said that rudd can see or sense larger hooks in bait so go for a fine wire hook. Fish high up in the water where the rudd are likely to be and feed little and often to get the shoal competing.
Rudd respond well to groundbait but use this sparingly. The idea is to get a cloud in the water to attract the shoal and so that they will take your hookbait more determinedly. You could add a little bit of condensed milk to your groundbait for a longer lasting cloud.
Rudd are not particularly delicate, but like all fish they should be carefully handled. Use a good landing net to bring the fish in and place directly onto a good fish unhooking mat to make sure that they are protected.
Although they are small and you could easily lift the fish out of the water, always use a landing net to make sure they do not wriggle from the hook and fall.
Rudd can be greedy (not as greedy as roach thankfully!) and may swallow your bait whole, so it is recommended to have a disgorger on hand in the event that they are deep hooked. If you cannot remove the hook cut the line as close to the hook as possible.
If you would like more information on how to fish for rudd, or would like some further information on angling techniques, check out our fishing tips page for more information!