Thursday, 26 November 2009

Zander - Coming to a canal, or dinner plate, near you

The other day a customer told me about a fish. He was very pleased that he new about a species we didn’t sell and even spelt it’s name to me. He explained where it was caught, its life history and what it tasted like; the subject had arose as he had eaten it recently in a pub in Kent. Off he went smug in the fact that he had spread his knowledge. The fish in question was a zander (z  a  n  d  e  r) and contrary to popular belief is NOT a cross between a pike and a perch. Just so happened I knew an awful lot about this fish as in the early part of this decade I was involved in an extensive zander culling exercises undertaken on the canal networks of central England. Not since pre ice age was the zander indigenous to the UK. It was re introduced illegally in the 1950s into the Great Ouse and then spread across the linked waterways of the midlands and can now be found as far south as the River Thames. They are a pretty destructive predatorial species that not only seem to hunt in packs but also, due to impressive eye sight, succeed exceptionally well in coloured water; canals are an ideal environment. Over a 20 year period they have successfully depleted many indigenous species across the midlands and the south.

A couple of big Zander from the Trent & Mersey Canal (i'm looking young)

I have eaten this fish many times and it is not that bad. As it is a carnivore and not a benthic forager (like a carp) there is no real problem with muddy tastes. People will say it’s bony, but it only has a similar bone structure to a sea bass. The scales are particularly abrasive so I would suggest skinning the fillet.

Zander In Bacon Wrap With Caramelized Chicory On Carrot Puree Recipe 

Zander fillets in cream and herbs 

Fillets of Gloucestershire zander with duck egg, asparagus and crayfish 



  1. OstreaEdulis @chelseafish I don't like zander, I LOVE it & am glad that it needs culling.Why have I never seen it 4 sale here? Eat it regularly in France

    Zandar, due to its non-indigenous status, is covered by very strong laws by the environment agency (quite rightly). They would never be allowed to be farmed or ranched. Ranching is a common method of putting fish out into a large water body then re-captured when making marketable size. It is very expensive to remove wild stocks as the only real successful method is by electrofishing. The product doesn't hold a value to justify this cost as a) stock levels are not high enough to yield large quantity returns b) the consideration to other species directly affected by the electrofishing process.

  2. Ah, I understand. Do you know how they catch them in France then? They are regularly on slabs in central France and many restaurants serve them too. I like skin on, preferably crispy, but will still eat wobbly. Never had a problem with scales but haven't cooked it myself (yet). If on a menu (in France) I will always order it.

  3. Well, I came across the name in an old article on fenland food. In my youth I ate Pike and enjoyed it but the best fish experience I think I have ever had was when I was given a couple of Pickerel (Walleye)net caught from the Salt River by a member of the Dene tribe and cooked them that evening. Apparently Zander are rerlated to Walleye so if they taste as good as that species I may well be in for a treat.