Fishy Tales from the Emerald Isle –

Irish Tope Fishing



It’s great to get back out on the sea again, this time in search of my favourite salt-water species, Galeorhinus galeus. Thank god someone decided to call them tope! Although I have a limited amount of tope fishing on my home water of Strangford Lough, they are in very small numbers and running into a pack can be extremely hit or miss.


For an almost guaranteed result, I tow my Red Bay Fast Fisher over one hundred miles north to County Donegal, to a small harbour that rarely fails to produce good numbers of fish. My attitude has always been one of “it’s better to drive an extra hour or two for a great days angling than to drive ten minutes up the road and sit all day waiting for a bite”! The trouble is, I find myself driving the length and breadth of Ireland almost every weekend. Maybe it’s time I thought about moving to the mid-lands of Ireland, where it’s central to it all!


Drifting is the preferred method on this mark rather than fishing at anchor, and un-usually, the tope are found in 200-300 feet of water. They feed heavily on the usual subjects including mackerel of course, but the favourite diet is the abundance of whiting, resident on this mark for much of the year.



Whiting are a sure bet in most conditions…..



Mackeral Flapper was the order of the day……


We soon found plenty of mackerel and a few bonus whiting; these were kept to one side as a secret weapon, should the mackerel baits fail. The tope hot-spot here is so precise, that you can almost time exactly when the first run will happen, just as the boat drifts over the pre-logged co-ordinates. Bang on cue, the BG 10,000’s ratchet screamed out a tope’s presence and I was straight into my first tope of the year.



First fish of the day – only a small one but a start…..


Only a small fish of twenty pounds or so, but it is lovely to get in amongst them again. This is followed by a quick measurement of length, a photograph, and a yellow tag in the dorsal before weighing and release. This information goes to the Inland Fisheries Ireland based in Dublin as part of their on-going tagging scheme. They now have the second largest collection of data from fish tagging in the world, after America. An enviable and also, extremely valuable amount of information.


My boat buddy for the day, Andrew Wolsey soon took his first run, landing a larger fish at thirty pounds. As is often the case on this mark, once you find the pack, the tope come thick and fast, but can also disappear just as quickly. Our three hour session over the ebbing tide produced seventeen landed, three lost, including several thirties and one over the magical forty pound Irish specimen barrier. With the tope’s feeding spell over for now, there is always the opportunity of heading in-shore for some Pollack action around the head-lands to round off the day.



Double hook up…..(above) Forty plus tagged and ready for release below…..




Tope Tackle

Perfect tackle set-up for Irish Tope fishing would be the Penn Evo Waveblaster 12-20lbs class and Penn Fathom 15 Level-wind reel or similar. Load this with 50lbs Berkley Whiplash Crystal for an extremely sensitive but powerful combination. Fish a mackerel flapper or whole whiting on pennell rigged 8/0 bronze hooks, twenty inches of 150lb B/S wire biting trace and eight feet of 200lb rubbing trace.



Pennell rig above and below always take plenty of spares…….





Use a tubi-style boom to keep the running ledger free from tangling and also as an attachment for your lead sinker, and you are good to go. I realise that this kit may seem a little excessive for tope fishing, but in deep Irish waters, I have learnt through experience that you can never be sure exactly what monsters of the deep will show up next!



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