Credit: Oban Jones

Tope Fishing | 6 Tips for UK Shark Fishing

Tope fishing is a very niche pursuit in the UK and is purely catch and release. Anglers use circle hooks to minimise the risk of deep hooking fish and avoid taking fish out of the water to minimise internal damage to these fantastic creatures. Disgorgers are essential for quickly unhooking and returning fish. Once you’re prepared with the right kit, tope fishing can be extraordinary when you’re fishing in shark feeding frenzy off the British coast… Your mates won’t believe you.

6. Tope fishing doesn’t necessarily require insanely heavy rods

You might expect to need extremely heavy gear to target this species, but in fact the ground you’re fishing over is going to determine how heavy your gear need be rather than the fish themselves. Over rough ground, you will need far stronger lines 30-50lb is recommended. If a fish takes you into an area of structure the likelihood of a break-off is high with anything lighter. However, if you’re fishing over mostly sandy ground, it’s possible to effectively target these fish with light beach casters or heavy pike fishing rods and 20lb line, so long as your leader is still 50-100lb and you have a wire trace of a reasonable length to keep those razor sharp teeth away from your leader. Monofilament is often considered superior for Tope fishing, because you won’t be dealing with light bites that make flouro advantageous and that extra bit of strength can help absorb some of the energy from the considerable fight these fish put up.

5. The best hooks for tope are size 7/0

The best hooks for Tope fishing are size 7/0 hooks, and the best baits are whole mackerel or whole squid. Like with all shark species, scent is hugely important. Guts, blood – all the stink you can muster – are going to add extra appeal to your bait. Removing the tails on whole mackerel baits can prevent line spin in currently and unnatural presentations. Tope are known for running with baits before actually eating them, meaning that if you immediately strike at the first knock you may lose the fish, but this may be worth it to avoid deep-hooking.

4. Finding where to catch tope is the hardest part

Tope fishing isn’t the most consistent, and resembles mackerel fishing in that the fish are either there or they aren’t! Good days are days when you find yourself caught in the action of a feeding session where there are plenty of fish for the Tope to hunt. On days when you don’t find yourself with access to an area with a lot of prey species Tope can be gruelling fish to target.

tope fishing

3. Bottom fishing rigs are best for tope

Tope rely heavily on sense of smell, but also use electro-receptors to detect fish they can’t smell or see. When water clarity is poor, your chances at catching Tope aren’t out the window. Tope feed actively on squid and medium sized fish species like Plaice. These fish spend most of their time close to the seabed, with a scavenger-hunter pattern of feeding. For this reason, they’re always caught near the bottom unless they are chasing fish higher up in the water column. If you are aware of the presence of a bait ball for instance then float fishing can be effective, otherwise stick to bottom fishing. You can fish static or on the drift and the main factor determining whether you can afford to drift is how rough the ground is.

2. Tope favour big tides

As with most fish species, bigger tides are usually better. Something about a lot of water movement turns these fish on.

It’s crucial that you don’t set your drag too tight to avoid snap offs – let the fish run unless you’re fishing close to structure and aren’t able to risk it. Expect to hear your reel sing!

1. For goodness sake don’t forget your disgorgers

Once landed, you’ll need a serious set of disgorgers that are long and strong enough for the job. Many anglers like to return the fish while they’re still in the water to prevent any unnecessary harm to the fish.

Tope vs Other UK Shark Species

Tope are some of the only sharks in the UK to have impressive teeth. This sleek shark is a serious hunter, though unlike stereotypical sharks it mostly lingers around the bottom where it feeds on small bottom dwelling fish. These fish grow to 6ft long and larger fish are over 60lb. Comparatively, they are a smaller shark species and despite their serrated teeth they are easy to confuse with the Smooth Hound.

Tope are a species that look something in-between a dogfish and a typical shark. They are found in shallower waters than larger sharks and are bottom feeding fish that sometimes hunt in the middle of the water column.

Only small fish are caught inshore, and this tends to be in estuaries. There are a lot of Tope in London’s estuary, so they are surprisingly urban! Larger fish however are caught offsore over sandy or only moderately rough ground, with the fish most comfortable away from the roughest areas.

Tope Fishing Season

Tope are a summer-time species, caught best in June and July.

Best Tope Bait

Mackerel or another oily fish. Whole squid are also an effective bait for Tope, due to the strong scent they give off in the water. Chumming is often used to attract these fish, with sharks detecting the scent of blood in the water from miles away and coming right to the boat to feed.

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