Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to catch dogfish

There are several species of dogfish that can be caught around the coast at different times of the year. These include the lesser spotted dogfish, the greater spotted dogfish (bull huss), the spurdog and, to a lesser extent, the smooth hound and the starry smooth hound. Dogfish are members of the shark family and their skeleton consists of cartilage rather than bone.
The lesser spotted dogfish is known by several different names, included the small spotted cat shark, the rough hound and the doggie.

The dogfish has an orange-brown back and a pale cream underside and has a vast array of small spots peppered over its back and sides. Its skin has a sandpaper-like texture (and was once used for scrubbing the decks of ships). When lifted into the boat the dogfish will twist itself around anything it can, including an unwary hand as you try to unhook it, and its sandpaper-like skin will leave nasty abrasions on your skin which will take several weeks to clear up. If you catch one, hold it by the head and bring the tail up to meet it; this is the correct way to immobilize the fish so you can unhook it, and will in no way harm it.

Once you catch a dogfish you can be sure that there will be more to follow as they are a shoal fish. The dogfish is an opportunistic feeder and will take fish, worms and all types of shellfish baits that are usually meant for other species. They are most active at night and will occasionally take a bait that is being fished well of the bottom. Dogfish have poor eyesight and rely on their keen sense of smell to hunt for food.
Dogfish are true scavengers, so when fishing for them, use stale bait; several-days-old mackerel is an excellent bait, as are frozen sand eels (for some unknown reason frozen eels are preferred to fresh ones). Dogfish are normally found over sandy or muddy bottoms but are occasionally taken over rocky ground and reefs.

The gear required for fishing dogfish can be kept light unless you are fishing over or near a reef where there is a chance of catching something like a conger, ling or bull huss that will surely test your gear.
If you are fishing on sand or mud then a 15 pound class rod or reel will more than suffice. I like to use this class of gear in case I hook a thornback ray that feeds in the  same type of areas as the dogfish.
Traces for catching dogfish need to be tied from strong mono as these fish have small teeth which will prove to be very abrasive of the trace after a few are caught; always check above the hook for signs of wear on the mono.
I like to have a three-hook trace flowing  back behind the boom. A long trace up to 15 feet is recommended when the tide is running strong, I also like to incorporate at least one good quality swivel in the trace as well as the one at bottom.
The hooks on the trace need to be of good quality; my personal preference is a 3/0 black O'Shaughnessy Duratin, which is chemically sharpened and will penetrate through the fish's tough mouth with ease.
These fish are not known for their fighting capabilities and will often break the surface curled up in a ball.

The dogfish is probably the most resilient of any fish species that the sea angler will encounter, capable of living out of the water for long periods.  Even when this fish is taken to the quayside for weighing purposes it can still be released afterwards.
Good luck.


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  2. I just got a sandpapered wrist after just catching one of those bastards!

    1. I would rather catch no fish as Dogfish...they are the most hateful fish to deal with...i caught 4 a few nights back fishing of the pier at Ballycastle harbour

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