How To Target Tope

How To Target Tope
The Tope is one of the hardest fighting fish found in our waters. With specimen sized fish caught regularly your sea angling skills are put to the ultimate test.

Tope are typically found in coastal waters, and further offshore in depths up to 550m. They are a highly migratory species and some Tope have been tagged in the UK and have been recaptured in The Azores, Canary Islands and off the coast of Iceland. The species is found all around the world, with other key areas in the Southern Atlantic including Namibia, South Africa and Brazil.

Further afield, Tope are found in the North Pacific between British Columbia in Canada, and the Baja peninsula in Mexico, and in the southern Pacific off Chile, Peru, New Zealand and Australia.

They are slow-growing and long-lived; they can live to over 50 years and have a low reproductive capacity. As a result, it is illegal to target tope commercially in UK waters.

Tope are a very slender shark that has a sharply pointed snout. Its first dorsal fin is very large compared to the second, which is positioned very close to the tail. It also has an anal fin which is positioned directly underneath the secondary dorsal fin.

The colouration of the tope is as follows: grey/brown on the back and sides with a white/creamy coloured underbelly. The tope has sharp triangular teeth within its underslung mouth. These triangular teeth are common in most predatory sharks.

The average adult Tope measures 1.3m long, but Tope up to 2m have been captured and recorded.
They are one of the hardest-fighting fish caught off the coast of the UK and Ireland. As a result, Tope are a very popular species of sportfish with many sea anglers.

Depending on where you fish, the average size of tope caught is probably between 10-30lb, but in many areas much bigger specimens are regularly caught.

If you are after real specimen Tope, then fishing from a boat is your best option. The boat record in British water stands at 82lb 8oz (37.422kg), although fishing from the shore is not without its prizes. The current shore-caught Tope stands at 66lb 10oz was caught in 2013.
Luce Bay Tope

So, where and when can you catch Tope?  They can be found all around the coastline of the British Isles and Ireland. They live close to the bottom, preferring sand or gravel, but they will move into mid-water to feed. The younger the fish the more chance of it coming into the shallower water near the shore. Hotspots for the species include the Thames Estuary, Solent, north coast of Cornwall, Bristol Channel, Cardigan Bay, Isle of Man and Luce Bay in Scotland.

The majority of tope caught are taken from inshore reefs or from within large tidal estuaries, though fish are occasionally found in deeper water over relatively featureless ground.

From the boat a simple running leger is ideal. Most anglers use heavy monofilament in the region of 200lb breaking strain. A 3-4ft hook length is perfect to prevent bite-offs, but a 12-20ft rubbing leader of around 50lb monofilament is also necessary to guard against the fish’s rough skin damaging the line should it roll up the trace.

You’ll need a size 8/0 O’Shaughnessy hook; bronze hooks, ideally barbless, are essential. The hook length and rubbing leader are joined by a size 4/0 swivel. Some fish invariably swallow a bait, and the safest way to release these with minimum harm is to cut the trace as close to the fish’s mouth as possible.

Unlike stainless steel or zinc-coated hooks, bronze hooks will eventually corrode and fall out. An increasing number of anglers are using circle hooks for tope, as these invariably locate neatly into the corner of the fish’s jaw.

When fishing from the boat the gear to use will be dictated by the area you are fishing. In shallow water, such as estuaries, uptiding is almost always the most effective technique because it ensures baits are fished well away from the scare area created by an anchor in shallow water.

When shore fishing, a pulley rig is advised and here is how to construct it. Take 4-feet (122cms) of 60lb mono line and tie a size 4 rolling swivel to one end. Slide on a 5mm bead then pass the line through one eye only of a second size 4 swivel followed by another bead. At the other end, add a 3/0 Mustad oval split ring. The hook trace is formed in two parts. To the original tied on swivel add 18-inches (46cms) of 50lb mono then a size 6 swivel. Add to this by crimping 18-inches (46cms) of 50lb wire, and at the other end crimp on a size 6/0 Mustad Barbless Tope & Ray hook. The barbless hook is much easier to set in the jaw of a tope, won't fall free if you maintain a tight line

The free running swivel is attached to the leader line. When a Tope takes the bait, the rig body line slides through the eye of the connector swivel pulling the lead free of the seabed and sliding it upwards out of harm’s way. The main advantage is that the pulley effect gives you 7-feet (213cms) of heavy rig line and hook trace to avoid the rough body of the tope cutting the line if it should meet it.

The lead is important. Use release wired leads with long tail wires. Fix in place on the tail wire a bait clip made from stainless steel wire of 18-gauge diameter. By placing the baited hook in this bait clip on the tail wire the bait becomes part of the lead enabling it to cast further, gains protection by flying in the calm pocket of air broken by the nose of the lead in flight which maintains perfect presentation. As the rig falls slack as the lead hits the sea after the cast, the bait simply falls free ready to fish.

Breakaway Impact Lead
Breakaway Impact Leads feature a bait clip that naturally retains the baited hook during its flight and releases it when the lead’s nose cone hits the sea bed – like a freshwater bait-dropper. These leads will massively increase your distance casting and provide perfect bait presentation.
The way they work is that a baited hook is clipped into the Impact Shield and when the Impact Shield hits the water it tilts to the side and the hook is automatically released. An extremely simple and yet clever design which many anglers swear by, especially those looking to cast bigger distances or those using delicate baits.

When shore fishing your tackle needs to be strong, as even a smaller Tope will put up a great fight, especially if it can use the strength of the tide to its advantage. Large multipliers and stiff, sturdy beachcasters are the only choice.
Have the rod placed in a rod rest, the reel in free spool but with the ratchet on. A Tope's initial run will be fast and can be between 50-metres and 75-metres long. When it slows down almost to a stop then the fish is beginning to swallow the bait and must be struck. Expect a series of fast runs, kiting in the surf tables and dogged stubbornness during the fight. A Tope is beaten only when it starts to roll slowly rather than free swimming.

Shore Caught Tope
The best way to land a Tope from the beach is to tail it. Wade in to the surf and get behind the Tope, grab the wrist of the tail and then walk it slowly up on to dry sand. Be aware that the Tope can twist around and bite, so keep it at arm’s length and well away from your legs.

When it comes to releasing, the hook can be easily freed if at the front of the Tope’s mouth. Next step is to gently slide the Tope back in to the water by sliding it in to the surf holding the wrist of the tail. The fish will swim away of its own free will when ready.

Like all species of shark, Tope have a highly developed sense of smell, and can locate baits from a great distance. Occasionally when Tope fishing, you start catching fish immediately, but often it takes a while for fish to locate baits from the scent trail they emit.

Using bags of chum or chunking with small pieces of bait when shark fishing can be highly effective at attracting fish. Patience, and ensuring your baits are as fresh as possible, is often the key to successful Tope fishing.

If Tope are in the area, then there is little doubt that, given time, they will eventually locate your baits, and from then onwards sport can be fast and furious, with each angler experiencing
multiple runs.

Tope feed on fish. They attack schools of Mackerel, Cod and Whiting mainly, but when pickings are a little thin they will also feed on bottom-dwelling creatures such as Flatfish, Crustaceans and Molluscs. These species should be high on the agenda when it comes to bait.

Mackerel take a lot of beating, especially when prepared as a flapper with the backbone removed. If Mackerel are not available, then use the other species such as Whiting, Pouting, Herring, Garfish, Pollack, Coalfish and even various species of Flatfish. They can all be used with great effect and have great results.

Placing your bait into a deep fast-running gully where small fish are likely to congregate offer the best chance of shore-based anglers catching a Tope.

Our advice regarding hooking the fish is to set the hook as soon as possible after the run begins, which, often, will result in the fish being hooked in the jaw. If you miss the fish, immediately put the reel back into freespool and wait. If there is any bait left on the hook, almost always the fish will pick up the bait again.

Remember respect must be given to these magnificent sharks at all times. Tope are a large, powerful, active fish and their teeth are as sharp as razor blades and you can live to regret not taking proper care around them. But if you take the proper measures and are suitably prepared Tope fishing can be as enjoyable as any fishing on the planet.

Whether it be from the boat or on the shore if you would like more information about the tackle and tactics needed for catching Tope, you can contact us on 0141 212 8880 or visit us in store at the Glasgow & Edinburgh Angling Centres where our expert staff will be happy to help you.