Common Bleak

Alburnus alburnus  

Bleak, courtesy of Jack Perks


Bleak are very small, silver fish that closely resemble a small herring. They are a schooling fish that are widespread in rivers and some canals across England and are among the smallest fish found in this country – the British record weighed about 4oz (113g). They are long and slender with a faint yellow lateral line and translucent fins. They primarily feed in the surface area. An up-turned mouth mean they’re suited to taking food from the surface of the water.  


Similar to rudd, Bleak mainly feed in the surface area of rivers. Small flying insects that are trapped on the surface can be easy prey, but also many insect larvae live in this area. They are omnivorous so will also feed on algae and plant matter. Fishermen can sometimes get lucky where they’re able to catch many hundreds of individuals in one session when a large school of bleak is swimming by. 



Bleak are unable to migrate large distances on rivers because of man-made weirs and strong flows, so bleak tend to use the cover of marginal weed to congregate and spawn and lay their eggs. Bleak are widespread on the River Severn although they seek out weedy, shallower flowing parts of the river to reproduce. 

Did you know?

Bleak were once thought to be juvenile shad before the life history of shad was better understood. The scales of bleak have a beautiful iridescent shine so they have been used to make jewellery in the past.  

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