Name

Tope (Galeorhinus galeus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught tope can weigh 20 Kg (46 lbs) or more. The average tope weighs around 11.33 Kg (25 lbs).

Also known as

Tope Shark, School Shark and Miller’s Dog

IUCN Status

VU – Vulnerable

Appearance

The tope is a member of the shark family, and you can tell! It has a streamlined body with an elongated snout, a large mouth with two rows of small, sharp teeth. It has two dorsal fins, with the first being triangular in shape and located towards the end of the pectoral fins; the second dorsal fin is much smaller, with a similar shape to the first and is found above the anal fin. The tope has a grey/brown back with a white underbelly and rough skin. It has a distinctive notched tail and large, powerful pectoral fins.

Warning: Beware of the tope’s sharp teeth; it is a shark after all!

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

The best bait to catch tope are whole live or freshly killed fish, with mackerel, dab, herring, pouting, whiting, sprat and squid being the best options. Fish strips and sandeels can also be used.

Seasons

Tope feed close inshore during summer and autumn. The best months to catch tope are usually, June, July, August and September. Despite this, big tope can be caught year round in deep offshore waters.

Favourite Feeding Places

The tope likes to feed on or very close to the bottom of sandy seabeds, especially near rocky ground.

Best Locations

The tope can be caught across all British waters.

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Best rig for catching tope

Shore Fishing

A basic leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line or a running paternoster rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line are the two best options for catching tope from the shore.

Basic Leger Rig

This rig is used to lay hookbait on the seabed. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). This rig works so well beause your line is able to pass through the weight’s “eye”, meaning that shy or suspicious fish can tug the bait without instantly sensing the resistance.

Running Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).

Boat Fishing

 A boat leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line is advised when boat fishing for tope.

Boat Leger Rig

This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.

Top tips

  1. Hold your rod firmly, hooked tope are known to pull unattended rods into the sea without a moment’s notice.
  2. Nothing attracts a hungry tope more than a rising tide, day or night, this is when tope love to feed.
  3. The tope hunts both alone and in packs. Swiftly unhooking, re-baiting and casting can reward with substantial catches!