Common name: Plaice
Latin name: Pleuronectes platessa
Record weight: The plaice is one of the smaller flatfish found around the British coast. The boat record is a whopper of 10lb 3oz 8 drams, whilst the shore caught best is a fish of 8lb 6oz 14 drams.
Distribution: Plaice were once very common right from the north of their range in northern Norway to the Mediterranean. Their preference for shallow sandy water does make them an easy target for nets-men and in recent times their numbers have dwindled. Whilst small fish are still very common around our shores, larger specimens are becoming increasingly rare. The best plaice marks are now found on shallow wide sandy beaches, larger fish tend to be found in deeper water further off-shore.
Features: A typical flatfish in many ways, the plaice shares the lop-sided appearance that distinguishes flatfish from rays. The body is a dark brown to grey colour with a large number of pink or orange spots covering the body and extending into the margins of the fins.
Diet: Plaice will feed on all of the common invertebrates found on sandy sea beds. Their main prey tends to be polycheate worms, such as lugworm, which are incredibly numerous in shallow water. Other prey, such as bristle worms, razor shells and tellins are also taken when available.
Spawning: Plaice spawn in shallow water between December and April, depending upon latitude. The adult fish move into very shallow coastal water to spawn. Plaice are very fecund and may lay up to half a million eggs each year. The eggs take around three weeks to hatch. Like most marine fish the eggs float in the plankton. The newly hatched larvae grow for approximately two months before they begin to metamorphose into the adult form. Although only 13mm in length the tiny fish begin to swim on their sides and the eye starts it's slow movement around the head. After a few weeks both eyes will be on the same (normally the right) side of the fish and it will begin to colour up, so that only the upper surface is camouflaged. By the time the fish reach a length of 25mm they resemble the adults.
Growth: Plaice are a relatively slow growing fish, although they may live for up to 20 years when not subjected to intense fishing pressure. The males require between 2-6 years to reach sexual maturity, whilst the females require 3-7 years to reach maturity. The adults tend to move off-shore into deeper water as they grow, making them more susceptible to trawlers. Over-fishing has had a dramatic impact on both the age and size distribution of many plaice populations.