Mid June to late July is the very best time for offshore smoothound. They are shark like in appearance, but have no teeth, just hard sandpapery gums designed to crush up crabs. Teeth or not, they fight exceptionally hard, especially on light tackle, and are one of my favourite summer fish.
Smoothound are found right around the southern half of the UK drawing a line from the Mull of Galloway in southwest Scotland, to the Holderness coast in Yorkshire. They stay with us until late August to early September, before heading back offshore.
To tackle up for boat smoothound, you need to think bite detection, as these fish can be subtle and shy feeders and bites can be easily missed. I choose to fish the Shakespeare Tipster rods, particularly the 11ft version. This has the length to allow me to flick a crab bait an easy 25-yards away from the boat, but more importantly, has a deliberate soft tip that shows up the slightest of bites. The rod also has the length to extend beyond the boat and stop big smoothound diving right under the hull and breaking the line, either on the hull itself, or on the rudder.
I use PENN Slammer 5500 fixed spool reels with the Tipster, and load with Spiderwire Stealth Code Red in 20lbs breaking strain, though in very clear and shallow water, I would change to Spiderwire Ultracast Invisi Braid, again in 20lbs, because its less visible. I always add a short shock leader of 20lb Fluorocarbon. This gives just a hint of elasticity when a big fish is up tight to the boat on a short line, but more importantly, the Fluorocarbon protects the braid from any seabed abrasion.
The best rig is a simple sliding ledger rig. Slide a short running ledger boom on to the Fluorocarbon, slide on an 8mm bead, and tie on a size 4 rolling swivel. To the free eye of the swivel add 30-inches of 40lb Fluorocarbon, and tie on a size 4/0 Viking pattern hook. I prefer a Fluorocarbon hook trace rather than mono, as again it’s much tougher and will guard against abrasion from the sandpapery jaws of the smoothound, and limit abrasion issues if it comes in contact with the seabed.
The best bait for smoothound is crab, crab and more crab. They are used to eating hardback crabs and these can be used with just as much success as peeler crabs. In both cases turn the crab upside down and pass the hook through the rear under shell and bring it out through the crabs back, making sure the hook point is well clear of the body for instant contact with the fish as it takes the bait.
Having cast the baited rig out away from the boat a few yards, as the lead weight hits the seabed, tighten the line so that the rod tip is just pulled over slightly. When a smoothound takes, the rod tip will pull down a few times. Lift the rod and strike only when the rod tip fully pulls over. If the rod top springs straight, again lift and strike, and at the same time, reel line in until you feel the fish’s weight, as this indicates the fish is coming towards you and has created slack line.
Smoothound are powerful fish and will go on short fast runs. Make sure your drag is set to about one third the breaking strain of the line you are using. This gives a safe margin to play the fish with without overtaxing the line.
A smoothound of 10lbs is a nice fish, and a 15lber a specimen. Make the most of what already looks like a bumper smoothound summer and enjoy some of the best fighting fish UK waters have.