A special report is in our latest magazine.

Dr Mark Everard, the man nicknamed Dr Redfin, has come out in this week’s Angler’s Mail backing Warren Gaunt’s 4 lb 9 oz catch a roach.

His views on what would break the British record, and comments from other people who are far from sure about its identity, are reported in full in our magazine.

It’s a fascinating read, so check out page 4 of the mag!

Mark has compiled a more detailed dossier on Warren “Wol” Gaunt’s fish, which is published below, in full, online…

Warren Gaunt and the fish which has been the talking point in angling. Read our special report, and comments, in the latest Angler's Mail magazine.

Dr Mark Everard’s scientific ID report in full

Dr Mark Everard

Fin and feature counts

The photos are better than most, though with some room for doubt due to poor definition of fins (mainly anal fin rays) due in part to resolution and in part due to harsh flash.  But here are my preliminary counts.

Photo 3535

Dorsal II+ and 8or9

Photo 3534

Anal III and 9or10

Photo 3533

Lateral line 44

Anal III and 9or10

Dorsal II+ and 9

Ventral-dorsal alignment: directly aligned up scale column

Mouth: clear overbite

Photo 3532

Lateral line 44

Anal fin: collapsed so can’t count spines and rays

Dorsal fin: collapsed so can’t count spines and rays

Ventral-dorsal alignment: direcftly aligned up scale column

Mouth: clear overbite

I think that the balance of probability is strongly in favour of ‘roach’ (with just some doubt re: exact anal fin ray counts); strongly enough across other key features for me to be confident that this is a roach.  I know that the cater has a history of big hybrids, but this does not sway my analysis of key features.)  I can’t comment on weight of course, though it does look vast!

Likely contradictory opinions

I am sure that some ‘experts’ without a scientific approach to identification could mistake this for a rudd or a hybrid.

Common misconceptions made by non-scientist when it comes to identifying big roach commonly include:

  • an over-reliance of hugely variable features such as colour;
  • misinterpretation of the mouth angle; and
  • the alignment of dorsal and ventral fins.

On all three counts, I see some rather ‘schoolboy’ and just plain WRONG assessments made all the time, generally by people with the most vocal opinions but who seem to know the least.  Whilst they betray their ignorance to those that know what they’re talking, regrettably they also gain support from those that take their word for it.  So I am setting the scientific record straight on these three features.

Reasons why colour is a useless diagnostic feature

Colour varies naturally in fish to a huge extent due to:

  • Diet, particularly when feeding on crustaceans and invertebrates, which can make the flanks golden and the fins vivid… purely down to carotenoids ingested in an invertebrate-rich diet
  • Water clarity, most fish lightening in coloured water and darkening in clear water
  • Stress/health
  • Time of day, including adaptation to changing light conditions
  • Local genetic variants

The pictures we take often wash out or display false colours due to:

  • The background having an influence on apparent colour
  • Reflections from sky/trees/clothes colouring incident light
  • The general quality of local natural or artificial lighting
  • The white balance setting of the camera (if known) which will generally be automatically adjusted under all these other factors

Compound this with flash photography and, even if you know the spectrum of the flash unit, there is no chance of ‘true’ colours showing through!

So I am completely unpersuaded when I hear of people dismissing this fish because:

  • it lacks a ’blue tinge’ or a ‘green tinge’…  maybe the fish did without flash photography, but in any event this opinion about a defining roach feature is utter nonsense!
  • The fins are too deeply coloured…  see all of the above factors (particularly the way that fish absorb red/orange carotenoid pigments from their summer invertebrate-biased diet).

Mouth angle

It is true that the lower jaw of Wol’s fish is upward-inclined.  However, this is entirely due to the depth of the fish – fairly typical for one this big if quite at odds with a scrawny canal specimen!– with the mouth nevertheless showing a clear overbite on all photos.  The mouth of Wol’s fish clearly suggests ‘roach’!

Assessing dorsal to ventral fin alignment

I have heard it said that these same ‘experts’ agree that the dorsal if set too far back.  This demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding / ‘schoolboy error’, just looking uncritically at a photo.

The photo below CLEARLY shows that, when alignment is checked on a scientific basis, the dorsal and ventral fin roots are perfectly aligned.  This is done by counting along scale columns (as indicated by my orange dots).

Just be looking to see if the fins are above each other in a photo is a nonsense!  The fin alignment in the photo below checks out perfectly for roach.