Other, Sea Fish Species

There are two main species of smoothhound which can be caught around the shores of the British Isles, the smoothhound and the starry smoothhound, we discuss them both here as they are very closely related and can be caught using similar methods, rigs and baits:


Smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus)

Starry Smoothhound (Mustelus asterias)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught Smoothhounds and Starry Smoothhounds can both weigh 9.10 Kg (20 lbs) or more. The average Smoothhound and Starry Smoothhound weigh about 4.50 Kg (10 lbs).

Also known as

The smoothhound is also known as a common smoothhound or a gummy shark.

IUCN Status

The common smoothhound has a VU – vulnerable – status.

The starry smoothhound has a LC – Least Concern – status.


The smoothhound is actually a member of the shark family, as such it has two dorsal fins with the one closest to the head being large whilst the second is fairly small. It has two large pectoral fins and a small anal fin. As with many other sharks, the smoothhound has a pointed snout with prominent eyes. The smoothhound has a grey-brown back with light grey sides and a white belly. It also has noticeable gill slits on both sides and a notched tail. In addition, instead of the sharp, flesh-tearing teeth you think of when you think of sharks, the smoothhound has short, close-set, slab-like grinders due to its diet.

The starry smoothhound matches the same description as the common smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus) but it also has a scattering of small white spots on its back, this is the primary aspect which differentiates the two. To make things really complicated though, some common smoothhounds (Mustelus mustelus) can have faded spots which often lead to misidentification.

Both of these Smoothhounds can also be mistaken for topes, another shark species which the has a similar appearance. Unlike the tope, smoothhounds are less streamlines, the first dorsal fin is closer to the head and, as mentioned earlier, smoothhounds have short, close-set, slab-like grinders unlike the topes long, sharp teeth.


Smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus)

Starry Smoothhound (Mustelus asterias)

So how do we catch one?

The following information is consistent for both common and starry smoothhounds and therefore we will refer to them as simply smoothhounds.

Best Baits

Strips of fresh fish work well for smoothhound fishing, mackerel, herring and squid work well. In addition, peeler and soft-backed crabs, ragworms, shellfish and prawns are also all effective.


Smoothhounds can be caught inshore in summer, particularly in May, June, July and August. After August the smoothhounds migrate to deeper offshore waters.

Favourite Feeding Places

The smoothhound feeds in a wide range of areas, in offshore waters at around 60 fathoms (110 m) the smoothhound patrols the seabed. When found in in inshore waters they tend to cruise at depths of around 2 metres (6½ ft).

Best Locations

Smoothhounds can be caught across all of Britain’s shores, but the best catches are along southern shores and particularly south-eastern shores.

Best rigs for smoothhound fishing

Shore fishing

Either a basic leger rig or a running paternoster rig are recommended for smoothhound fishing.

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 because 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

Boat leger rigs work well for smoothhound fishing whilst boat fishing.

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. Smoothhounds often play with their food before gulping it down, this means you should factor in this time before you tighten your line.
  2. Once you’ve successfully hooked a smoothhound, land it quickly and cast for another. Smoothhound shoals only remain in one place for a short time only; sometimes as little as 20 minutes, before moving onwards in search of more food. However during their short visit, they will mop up all appetizing food in sight!
  3. Smoothhound shoals patrol in planned routes, try to get to know these routes or ask the locals as knowing these routes will increase the likelihood of you hooking a smoothhound.