Rudd – Coarse Fish Species – New Zealand Freshwater Fishes

Rudd - Scardinius erythophthalmus
Rudd - Scardinius erythophthalmus

Rudd – Scardinius erythophthalmus

One of the species of coarse fish that we target here in Canterbury is the much-maligned Rudd (Scardinius erythophthalmus). It was first attempted to introduce the fish in 1864 by Mr AM Johnson of Opawa, Christchurch. We believe this effort was unsuccessful.

It appears that there was an unofficial release of rudd in the mid-sixties from which a breeding stock was reared. The rudd is widespread throughout Canterbury, especially in the Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth systems. It needs lowland ponds or very slow-moving rivers to breed successfully and cannot tolerate swift-flowing rivers, streams or high country lakes. You can read about the illegal introduction of juvenile rudd into New Zealand in 1967 here on the Department of Conservation website.

Our counterparts in the North Island have extensive Rudd fishing available to them in many ponds and lakes. The rudd was sensibly acclimatized in 1986 in the Auckland-Waikato region and as such is now a fully protected sportfish in the same way as tench, perch, trout and salmon.

Rudd - Scardinius erythrophth, fresh from the water.
Rudd – Scardinius erythrophthalmus, fresh from the water.

In Canterbury, they are still defined as a noxious species. Common sense tells us that the Rudd should be acclimatised as soon as possible so that Fish and Game Councils can control stocking and distribution. We would support the stocking of Rudd into disused gravel pits and ponds. The current regulations on Rudd as a noxious fish are farcical.

RM McDowell explains it very well “Anglers catching rudd are in an awkward position as having hooked a rudd, it becomes illegal for the fish to be taken and kept, and illegal for it to be released; whatever is done with the fish an offence is committed.”

The Auckland Acclimatisation Society, as it was then, saw how ridiculous the situation was and made the rudd a protected species. Here in Canterbury, we are being deprived of a valuable and exciting alternative to our current sports fish species.

Initially, it was thought there would be a downside to having trout and Rudd in the same waters. It turns out that having rudd fry available becomes a tremendous valuable food source for trout. Trout are growing to large sizes as a result of having a regular food source. The Waikato River and Lake Rotumanu are prime examples of the benefits of rudd for trout.

RM McDowell says in his excellent book NZ Freshwater Fishes – A Natural History and Guide, that “much of the concern (about Rudd) is ill-informed and emotional.”

Identification of the rudd is quite simple. We have published a colour photograph to show you exactly what they look like. It is a handsome fish. Orange or scarlet fins, buttery rudd spawn when the water starts to warm up in Spring.

The fish distribute their sticky, pink-coloured eggs in soft weed beds or subsurface roots of willow trees. Eggs hatch within a few weeks, and the fry consumes microscopic vegetable matter before tackling plankton such as daphnia.

Rudd in New Zealand is a prized quarry and can grow to trophy size. The current New Zealand record is 3 lb 12 oz. lt can usually be caught using coarse fishing methods however fly fishing techniques can sometimes be successful.

Rudd - Scardinius erythrophthalmus photographed underwater.
Rudd – Scardinius erythrophthalmus photographed underwater.

The best baits for rudd are maggots, bread and small worms. Rudd loves to feed upwind of reed beds where natural food is abundant. They stay close to cover most times, although the juvenile rudd ventures further out in shoals into open water. It is quite an impressive sightseeing small shoals moving around just under the surface of a pond.

We, as a club, are promoting the development of alternative methods of fishing and targeting different species. This will benefit all anglers in New Zealand as the choices of angling styles and fish available become greater. We promote the catch and release of all species and as a result, we leave the water exactly as we found it. Nature’s balance is left as is.

The photo will help in identification. We would like to leave you with these comments from the late RM McDowell “lt’s (the rudd) occurrence in New Zealand waters, and moves made by fisheries management agencies to manage populations as coarse fisheries, have meant that it has a somewhat notorious reputation, which it probably does not deserve.”

Rudd
The rudd is a little-known coarse fish in New Zealand. It is a most striking colour.