Zander is a species of fish similar to perch, predominantly found in Europe and fished for sport and food. They are also known by the name pike-perch and by their Latin name, Sander lucioperca. Native to the waters of central and Eastern Europe, zander were introduced to English rivers in the 20th century and have since become a popular sport fish in the United Kingdom.
Typically gray or brownish in color, zander fish have very light, virtually unnoticeable black stripes. They have an average length of 20-26 inches (50-66 cm) and a weight of 6.6 lbs. (3 kg), though some have been known to grow as large as 44 lbs. (20 kg). Zander have long bodies and heads like pike and two dorsal fins—one prickly and the other smooth—like perch, hence their common nickname of pike-perch. They are not, however, a hybrid of these two species.
Zander fish sport two pairs of razor-sharp, fang-like teeth. A pair is recessed into both the upper and lower jaws of the fish's mouth. Though zander rarely bite humans, there was one highly publicized case of a zander attacking Swiss tourists in 2009. The offending fish was eventually caught by authorities, cooked, and served to the recovering vacationers.
While zander fish do not normally eat human flesh, they are certainly one of the less discriminating types of fish when it comes to diet. They are known to feast on any fish that is readily available, including their own species. In general, they prefer fish and bottom feeders that are smaller in size and easy to grasp.
Though some fish species have specific spawning grounds they return to year after year, zander spawn in favorable conditions wherever they find them. The female typically lays between 180,000 and 1,850,000 eggs, which stick to the floor of the waterway and on the stems of underwater plants. The male protects and cares for the eggs as they incubate, cleaning them and ensuring their safety from predators. The eggs gestate for 5-10 days before hatching, though some may take as long as 15 days. These longer-gestating zander are usually much smaller than their counterparts and are often eaten by other zander.
Being a commonly found fish in the waterways of Europe, zander are popular food sources and end up on many restaurant menus. It is often prepared fried, sauteed, or poached. Zander is sometimes served with sauces that complement its distinct flavor, such as saffron, red wine sauce, or butter and garlic.