Tope fishing around the inshore coasts of Ireland.
Tope are one of the best sport fish to target around the inshore coasts of Ireland. They can be caught from a boat or from the shoreline and are found in most places that get a good fast tide run. The tide runs are caused when vast shallow areas of bays and estuaries fill up with an incoming and outgoing tide. The best times to target tope are on the biggest (Spring) tides during the Summer months from May to October, weather permitting.
How to prepare for Tope fishing.
A small inshore boat is all that's needed as long as the weather is suitable.
The most important thing is safety on the water, always wear a life jacket. Check the weather in advance and have a spare outboard on the boat if the main engine fails. If the engines fail, the most important piece of equipment on the boat is the anchor and plenty of rope. This will prevent you from being swept out with the tide or onto a rocky shoreline.
The anchor is also an important part of your tope tackle. When using a chum bag attach the bag near the anchor so it sits in the kill zone near the seabed. This is where the tope are usually found feeding on pretty much anything they can fit into their mouths. Fill the chum bag with chopped fish and entrails to release a scent trail that will carry with the rushing tide run, once the tope picks up the scent trail they can home in on it.
Tope fishing, bait and rigs
A freshly caught Mackerel flapper is probably the best bait for tope presented on an 8/0 or 10/0 Koike circle hook with the barb crushed for easy removal. The flapper is basically a mackerel (or other similar sized fish) sliced up either side of the backbone. The head section is left with the fillets attached. Fresh or frozen mackerel can be used but the fresh Mackerel release fresh blood particles into the chum line and are more preferable to frozen ones. Buoyant foam balls or wine corks are used to pop up the baits if crabs are present.
The large circle hooks are designed to avoid deep hooking and work well. Crimped onto a 1.5-meter length of 200lb B/S Monofilament leader and a heavy snap swivel at the other end. Clip a 4oz lead weight onto the snap swivel already tied to the mainline. 20-30lb rated rods are ideal for tope fishing. Heavier setups tend to kill the sport of landing the tope. 40lb is the accepted specimen weight.
My own preference of tackle is 7000 size baitrunner style reels spooled with 100lb B/S braid, paired with 150-200 gram x 6ft boat rods. It's a nice balance of tackle for these extremely strong fighting fish.
When the fun begins.
When a tope takes the bait, it will feel the resistance from the 4oz lead weight and bolt away at speed, stripping line from the reel at a furious rate. It is simply a matter of tightening up to the tope and a short jab with the rod to set the hook properly. This is when the fun begins and the first couple of runs will be electrifying, sometimes stripping 50-100 meters off the reel, and coming clear out of the water in a spectacular fashion which adds to the excitement of shark fishing.
Tope are a truly beautiful member of the shark family. I call them the grey ghosts of the sea as they are definitely from another world and a true monster from the deep.
Inland fisheries Ireland have been running a shark tagging program since the 1970's and it provides a valuable insight into the widespread movement of tagged and released sharks. Some reported recaptures of tope that were tagged in Irish waters have been recaptured as far away as the Canary Islands with the longest time between a reported recapture being 25 years. Catch and release works.