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small pack tope (male) shark picture

Tope, Galeorhinus galeus

Irish Record Fish: 66.5 lbs 30.16 kgs
Caught: Carlingford 1979
Boat Specimen: 40 lbs 18.14 kgs
Shore Specimen: 20 lbs  9.07 kgs
Photo Credit:

Introduction:The Tope, incredibly fast and sleek, is prized by anglers for its fighting qualities.  Commercial boats have taken female fish > 45 kilos (100 lbs) in weight, although anything > 15  kilos (32 lbs) is a fine fish... with the males usually around the 12 - 18 kilos range.  All the larger fish are female.  Usually caught over sand, the male pack fish tend to make for the more exciting fishing given there can be lots of them down there at any one time and they fight better than even far larger females.  Male pack tope arrive in the broad Shannon estuary and on western marks as early as March each year. Tope migrate massive distances and it is officially listed as an engandered species globally so catch and release is essential to its continued survival.

Boat tactics: Whilst a 30 lbs rod and reel is a must for standard shark fishing, Tope are smaller fish and you could drop down to 12 or 20 lbs especially off a boat.  That said you hook a large one and you could be in trouble.  Excessively tiring any shark by using too light a set of tackle is not recommended.  A wire or heavy mono trace ( 80 kilo breaking strain) is essential as shark skin (never mind the teeth) is abrasive and can cut through mono or braid.  Normal bait is half or a full mackerel, however small half Flounder baits are also reknowned as a Tope bait. In parts of the Thames estaury in the UK, sections of River Eel are the most effective bait and have accounted for fish over 38 kilos in weight. They have the added advantage of being unpalatable to the local crabs.  It is down to what the local diet is likely to be... certainly in the Shannon you would expect the tope would take advantage of the large whiting stocks that over-winter there.  Clearly local knowledge is important in the selection of suitable bait.  Around Greystones and the developing shore fishery for Tope on the Wicklow and Wexford beaches, the larger fish taken in November are always huting the codling, whiting and in particular the coalfish shoals that collect there.  Ask around.  In terms of tackle, the lead has to be heavy enough to keep you on the bottom as Tope forage from mid-water down.  It should be attached via a rotten bottom or weak link - if you hook a fish you do not want the lead bouncing along behind trying to find a snag in which to lodge...  A bronzed 5/0 hook is the standard although you can go up to 8/0 or 10/0 if you suspect a big fish or want to use a really big bait.  This is not vital since Tope are opportunists and will feed on anything that they can catch.

Shore tactics: Tope are the beach fisherman's fantasy and possibly their nightmare too!  You will encounter one when fishing for bass and flatfish, when all of a sudden the rod heels over and line screams off the reel.  The problem is always the terminal tackle - the light mono trace required for standard beach fishing will never stand up to the abrasive skin and teeth of a Tope!  I have had a Tope take a small flounder outside Scattery Island on the Shannon (off a boat fishing for rays) and leave a perfect semi-circular bite mark.  Another up in the Moy estuary popped the top two rings off my old beachcaster. If you want to target Tope from the shore you need to be able to cast into deep waters gullies or channels and with the right wire or heavy mono trace and hook.  It is possible to land them, indeed in some locations they will come very close to shore, no more than 40 metres out on some beaches.  A big landing net and/or a capable assistant with a tailer will prove a distinct advantage.  You can lift Tope from teh water by holding them around the dorsal fin and wrist of the tail.  There are plenty of shore marks in Ireland that regularly give up Tope, ranging from Galway and Sligo right around to the steeper beaches in Wexford and Wicklow, and even further north to Carlingford.  Strangford Lough in Co. Down is without doubt the Tope fishery in all of Ireland from a boat and it routinely produces the biggest fish, always > 25 kilos, every single year.  Recently Brian Cooke on our forum landed one from the shore in Wicklow and several other anglers are having a right go for them this year.  Bear in mind that there are distinct 'seasons' on these marks, and that in some cases, especially on the western coasts, you have perhaps only four weeks when the fish run in to pup.  On the other coasts, notably the east and south east, tope are available all year long, but especialy from May until November, depending on the location of prey fish.  A rubbing leader of 30 kilos line is essential and the biting trace should be either seven strand game fish wire or at least 80 kilos breaking strain mono.  Use quality kit in a tope trace as they will test it fully!  If tackling one from the shore, you must keep in contact with it so forget the barbless hooks (although they can be used from a boat) and make sure to have enough line on that big reel, 200 metres is the minimum, and the rod whichever type you use, must have sufficient backbone to be able to muscle in this fast shark.  Good luck!