- Scientific name: Raja undulata
- Size: Up to 3ft and 25lbs. UK shore caught typically 2-6lbs.
- UK minimum size: 16inches/41cm from wingtip to wingtip
- UK shore caught record: 21lbs 4oz
- Feeds on: Fish, especially flatfish and crustaceans.
- IUCN Status: EN (Endangered)
- Distribution: Predominantly in the warmer waters to the south and west of the British Isles
- Description: Fairly rounded shaped ray with a thick tail. There are various different colours on the back ranging from dark brown to grey and yellowish, and in addition to this there are multiple thick dark lines (the undulating pattern gives this species its name) and white spots are also present. There can also be spines and spikes running down the central part of the body and tail.
Undulate ray can reach 20lbs, although one of half this size is an excellent catch from the shore. Undulate ray prefer slightly warmer water and are found around the south of England and off the Welsh coast and can also be caught with some regularity from the south and west coasts of Ireland. Their range extends into the Mediterranean Sea and the north coast of Africa.
An undulate ray filmed in its natural environment by a scuba diver. [Video © Calcineur].
This species of ray prefers to live and feed over sandy or light shingle seabeds and are generally found in water at least ten metres depth, but may come into shallower water if sources of food are available there. At their maximum depth they will be found down to around two hundred metres. The undulate ray feeds on fish and squid. They will eat small flatfish such as dab and topknot, but will also hunt small roundfish such as whiting, pouting, rockling etc, and take crustaceans, invertebrates and any other small marine creatures if they are present.
Undulate ray are classed as endangered by the IUCN (international Union for the Conservation of Nature), meaning they have the same conservation status as the Bengal tiger, Eastern gorilla and the giant panda. Numbers of undulate ray have been badly reduced by commercial trawling. While they are targeted in some commercial fisheries they are often caught (and retained) as bycatch elsewhere. The IUCN states that the undulate ray has a declining population trend and this species faces extinction in the near future, with the slow growing and late maturing nature of this species meaning that it will be very difficult for undulate ray numbers to recover. For these reasons all shore caught undulate ray should be returned to the sea (after taking a photo or two) in order to help stocks recover.
Methods and Techniques to Catch Undulate Ray
Unlike the starry and spotted rays the undulate ray will come into fairly shallow water, certainly within range of shore anglers. Clipped-down single hook rigs are the best choice to use as undulate ray are often feeding at distance and it can take casts of over one hundred yards in order to put a bait where they are feeding. Hook size should be 1/0 – 3/0 as this will allow a smaller ray to be hooked, while still being able to handle a bigger specimen which may come along. Despite the fact that undulate ray feed a lot on fish it is peeler crab that is seen as the best bait, with mackerel herring and, squid all also good choices. A small but notable number of anglers inadvertently catch this species on ragworm and lugworm baits when targeting flatfish. The British shore caught record for this species is an undulate ray of 21lb 4oz and has stood since 1987. The boat caught record has was broken in 2016 when an undulate ray of 22lb 13oz was caught by Steve Juggins fishing out of Weymouth, Dorset. To be classed as a British record the ray needed to be weighed on land on verified scales. Usually this means killing the fish, but the angling press reported that the ray was kept alive and taken to shore where it was weighed on dry land. Once this had been done it was taken back to the place of capture several miles out to sea where it was released and swam away strongly.