This article was written by Simon Everett (Edited by Glenn Kilpatrick). The article focusses on tope fishing from a kayak, however the methods discussed can also be utilised by boat anglers. Pictures appear courtesy of Ken Oliver.

Tackle For Tope Fishing

Rigs – A running ledger style rig will work just fine. A 6/0 or 8/0 mustad ray and tope BARBLESS hook is what you need . Barbless hooks are best because you don’t want to be fighting with the hook to get a fish off. If you cant get barbless hooks then consider flattening the barb with a pair of scissors. Your snood should be  a 12″ 80 pound wire to the hook. Next you should attach a rubbing leader to the wire trace, an 80lb length on monofilament line will suffice. The rubbing leader should be the length of your rod. Easy to uni knot to uni knot to your reel line – small knot goes through the rings easily.

Main line – 15lb mono is OK – 20lb – 40lb braid is also useful, you don’t really need more than 30lb provided you have the rubbing length of mono as mentioned above.

Rod – An 8lb class boat rod is ideal – 20lb rods are overgunned.

Reel – Abu 7000 size is fine – use a multiplier with penty of line capacity though.  A 40 lber can sometimes take off 150 yards.

Weights – Use as light a weight as you can get away with in the place you are fishing. A running leger is all you need. I like the gemini slider booms for carrying the weight – because you can put them on or off without having to thread them up the line – you can put a loop of the main line through at each end and then they run up and down – just a tag in a groove instead of a full tube.

A leather gardening glove – Is useful for handling the trace and the fish. Topes skin can cause VERY nasty abrasions, a graze like sliding down the road from a bike fall.

Pliers – long nosed ones in case you have to cut the wire or work the hook out from within the topes mouth.

Tope Fishing Bait

Bait – whole mackerel, mackerel flapper, half mackerel with guts – both head end and tail end. THAT depends on the local situation – small whiting, pouting, dabs, pollock – any fish up to about 12″ will make a good tope bait – whole fish bait better against the ravages of doggies too. Cut the tail fin off a whole or tail end bait – it stops it spinning and twisting your trace.
Hook a whole fish, or the head end of a cut in half bait, up through the nose through BOTH jaws – out through the skull just behind the eyes if you can, make sure the hook point is not masked and that it sits good and proud – hooking like this again stops it spinning ( bait mouth open = spinning and twisetd trace) it also gives it a better hook hold through the strong skull. A small piece of bicycle inner tube rubber is good – put it on like you would a small piece of squid after the main bait – it holds the bait on the hook! You arejust using the rubber as a stopper on the wire of the hook. Make sure the point is not masked. This is easier than using bait elastic.

I felt confident, really confident, knew I was over the right ground, thanks on that one Chris, tide was steaming through now though which was the only negative point.

Tope Fishing Tips

  • Keep reel out of gear, ratchet on once bait is hard on bottom.
  • The best anglers HOLD THEIR ROD, do not get lazy and stick it in a holder!
  • Keep thumb on spool too – when tope picks up bait and runs off, let it go and after 20 yards or so just tighten with thumb until hook goes home – if you miss the fish, DONT WIND IN. let the bait back to the bottom where it is and give it at least 3 or 4 minutes – most times the tope will come back for it and have another go.
  • Just tighten down on the fish and as you get the reel spool stopping put the reel in gear in again before the tope tears off at 100 miles an hour! You can turn the clicker off once you are in gear and hooked up. You will have plenty of time while the fish sears off on its first run!
  • Have your drag set BEFORE YOU START FISHING – set it to give when the rod is at half arc. You can then always increase the drag tension without touching the drag setting, simply by making the fish bend the rod more – in a full arc that same drag setting will be at a higher strength pull. If you need more, just add a bit with your thumb – carefully so you don’t get a rope burn from the spinning spool.
  • If you get a fish running that is hard to stop put side strain on it, rather than upward strain – side strain is much more effective – this goes for any fish. Lay the rod down horizontal to the water and make the fish bend the rod just the same. This will turn even very big fish because it puts them off balance being pulled from one side, rather than over the top. You can alternate sides too, to keep getting the fish off balance each time. You can gain a lot of line like that against a hard running fish.
  • Once at the side of the kayak – put rod safe and reel out of gear with ratchet on – this is important! Get hold of fish by pectoral fin – the upper one, they often come in on their side. You can safely lift the fish towards you by the pectoral – then get the tail in your other hand. Lay the fish on its back across the kayak and it will go quiet. other way up and it will thrash like hell!
  • Unhook, – unhook first, it is safer. Then if you drop the fish it doesn’t pull against your rod and possibly get you tabgled in the trace as well………unhooked you just drop the fish and its gone. Oh well, you didn’t get the picture, but everything is still safe and sound.
  • On its back, unhooked, you can measure, get set fro pictures etc. Tag and release when ready. If the fish is very exhausted when you get it to the kayak it is better to not measure and mess with it too much – lift out, unhook, get a few pics and then GENTLY lower back into the water and support under the pectorals. Keep it there – you can rest the tail across your feet for extra support. Let it regain its strength – it won’t attack. When it is ready it will swim off gently.
  • Tope and all sharks can be fatally wounded internally by careless handling. Their organs are very susceptible to damage – don’t drag the belly over the side of the kayak for instance – that will surely kill a tope, not immediately, but in a week or so. Support the fish evenly. Don’t just drop them back into the water and let them sink – they will drown. You need to help a tired fish recover.
  • Thats about it – good luck.

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