The Ultimate Guide to Fishing for Smooth Hounds in the UK: Techniques, Tips, and Tactics
Introduction: Fishing for smoothhounds in the UK is a popular pursuit among anglers seeking exciting and challenging experiences. These powerful and hard-fighting fish are known for their distinctive appearance and their ability to provide an adrenaline-pumping battle. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best techniques, tips, and tactics to enhance your success when targeting smoothhounds in the UK. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to this pursuit, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to maximize your chances of landing these formidable fish.
I. Understanding Smooth Hounds: A. Species Profile: 1. Smooth hounds (Mustelus spp.) are a group of sharks commonly found in UK waters, including the common smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus) and starry smooth hound (Mustelus asterias). 2. They have a slender body, a blunt snout, and prominent dorsal fins with a characteristic spine at the front. 3. Smooth hounds are typically found in sandy or mixed ground areas, especially around estuaries and beaches.
B. Size and Habitat: 1. Smooth hounds can reach lengths of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) and weigh over 20 pounds (9 kilograms). 2. They inhabit a variety of coastal environments, including sandy beaches, estuaries, and shallow rocky areas. 3. Smooth hounds are known to move inshore during the warmer months in search of food.
II. Essential Equipment: A. Fishing Rod and Reel: 1. Choose a sturdy fishing rod with a medium to heavy power rating to handle the fighting power of smoothhounds. 2. Pair it with a robust spinning or baitcasting reel with a smooth drag system.
B. Fishing Line: 1. Use a strong and abrasion-resistant monofilament or braided fishing line with a breaking strength of at least 20-30 pounds (9-14 kilograms). 2. Consider a shock leader of 50-60 pounds (23-27 kilograms) to prevent line breakages when casting or battling a powerful smooth hound.
C. Hooks: 1. Select circle hooks in sizes 2/0 to 4/0, depending on the size of the bait you’re using. 2. Circle hooks are effective as they tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, reducing the risk of deep hooking and facilitating catch-and-release.
D. Rigs and Terminal Tackle: 1. The pulley rig is a popular choice for smoothhound fishing in the UK. It allows the fish to pick up the bait and move off without feeling resistance. 2. Use a two- or three-hook pulley rig with 4-6-inch (10-15 centimeters) hook snoods. 3. Attach breakaway leads or grip leads ranging from 4-6 ounces (113-170 grams) to hold your bait in place in varying tidal flows.
III. Bait Selection: A. Crab Baits: 1. Peeler crab is a highly effective bait for smoothhounds. Look for fresh peeler crabs that have recently molted their hard shells. 2. Softback or hardback crabs can also work well as bait, particularly when fresh peeler crabs are not available. 3. Prepare the crab bait by removing the claws and breaking the shell
to expose the flesh.
B. Squid and Fish Baits: 1. Squid strips, squid heads, and mackerel fillets are popular bait options for smoothhounds. 2. Fresh or frozen fish baits, such as mackerel, herring, or sandeels, can also be effective. 3. Experiment with different combinations and sizes to entice smoothhounds.
IV. Fishing Techniques: A. Location and Timing: 1. Smooth hounds can be found in various areas along the UK coastline, particularly around sandy or mixed ground. 2. Fish during the warmer months, from late spring to autumn when smoothhounds are more active and migrate inshore.
B. Casting and Retrieval: 1. Cast your baited rig beyond the surf line or into the desired fishing area using an overhead or pendulum cast. 2. Once the bait settles on the seabed, engage the reel and maintain a slight tension on the line. 3. Use a slow and steady retrieve to keep the bait moving and attract the attention of cruising smoothhounds.
C. Bite Detection and Hook Set: 1. Smooth hounds are known for their cautious and delicate bites. Pay close attention to subtle indications of a bite, such as line movement or a slight tap. 2. Avoid striking immediately. Allow the fish to take the bait fully before engaging the reel and setting the hook. 3. With circle hooks, a firm, steady pressure is usually enough to ensure a secure hook-up.
D. Fighting and Landing: 1. Smooth hounds are strong fighters, so maintain a balanced stance and use your body to absorb their powerful runs. 2. Keep the rod tip up to prevent the fish from diving into potential snag hazards.
V. Tips and Best Practices: A. Research Local Hotspots: 1. Consult local anglers, online forums, and fishing reports to identify the most productive smoothhound fishing locations in your area. 2. Explore beaches, estuaries, and rocky areas known for smoothhound activity.
B. Tide and Time: 1. Fish around the change of tide, particularly during the early morning or evening when smooth hounds tend to be more active. 2. Check tide charts and plan your fishing sessions accordingly to maximize your chances of success.
C. Stay Mobile: 1. If you’re not getting bites or action at a particular spot, don’t be afraid to move and explore different locations. 2. Smooth hounds can be found in various areas, so adapting to changing conditions can lead to better results.
D. Practice Catch-and-Release: 1. Smooth hounds are an important species in UK waters, so handle them carefully and practice catch-and-release whenever possible. 2. Use a suitable landing net, wet your hands before handling the fish, and release them quickly and safely to ensure their survival.
Conclusion: Fishing for smoothhounds in the UK offers anglers an exciting and rewarding experience. By understanding the habits and habitat of these powerful fish, selecting the right equipment and bait, and employing effective fishing techniques, you can increase your chances of landing smooth hounds successfully. Remember to research local hotspots, consider tide and time factors, stay mobile, and practice catch-and-release to ensure the sustainability of this captivating fishery. Enjoy the thrill of smoothhound fishing in the UK and savor the unforgettable battles these remarkable fish provide!