Today we look at the Tope in the fifth of our Species Fishing and ID guides.
Other Names: Galeorhinus galeus
Description: Tope are a slender shark with a sandy brown to grey dorsal surface and pale white ventral surface. Unlike Smoothhound, Tope have a prominent lobed tail and sharp, triangular teeth. Juvenile tope often have dark tips on their fins though this generally fades as the fish grows.
Maximum Size: 210cm
Habitat: Tope are found inshore on the south west and west coast of Scotland over a range of soft and rough sea beds during the spring and summer; in the winter the fish migrate offshore to deeper waters. SSTP tagging returns have shown the Tope winter off the Bay of Biscay and the Azores. Tope are often found far offshore on the continental shelf but never oceanic.
Depth: Surface to 550m.
Distribution: Most common around the south west and north west coasts of Scotland. Tope are relatively rare along the east coast of Scotland although they are often found offshore in the North Sea.
Feeding: Tope are an extremely active predator and feed on a wide range of prey including mackerel, whiting, dabs, coalfish, flounder, eels and squid. Smaller pack Tope will also feed on shrimp, prawns and crabs.
Biology: Males mature at 8-9 years old at around 120-170cm (14.5-36.8lb); females mature at 11-12 years old at around 130-185cm (21.3-69.4lb). Tope length (cm) can be easily converted to weight (lb) using the SSTP weight calculator. Tope are ovoviviparous, this means that the eggs hatch and develop inside the female fish. Females give birth to 6-52 fully developed 30-35cm long pups every 2-3 years (on average around 20 pups every 2-3 years in European Tope). The number of pups increases with the size of the female fish. Pups spend 1 or 2 years close to shore before moving further offshore in packs determined by sex and size. Tope may live for up to 55 years.
Caution: Tope have strong jaws, extremely sharp teeth and abrasive skin. More information on safely handling sharks is available here. For information on handling Tope check out our Codes of Best Practice.
Current Fishery: Cannot be landed in Scotland. Recreational fishing for Tope in Scotland must be on a catch and release basis.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable/endangered. Tope have an extremely low intrinsic rebound potential compared to many other sharks, this means that Tope populations are particularly susceptible to depletion by overfishing.
GFAC Size: Release of Tope is required by law in Scotland.
Targeting Tope in Scotland
Tagging: The minimum SSTP tagging size for Tope is 100cm (10.0lb). For advice on tagging sharks please refer to the SSTP tagging guide here.
Tackle: From the boat a 6-12lb or 12-20lb class rod (dependant on water depth and tide) paired with a strong lever drag multiplier loaded with 30lb braided line. Lever drags are used as drag adjustments take much longer using a star drag multiplier and this delay can result in deep hooked fish.
End Tackle: A single strong size 6/0 bronze barbless hook crimped to a 12 inch 150lb wire biting trace is recommended. A 6 foot rubbing leader of 150lb monofilament line protects against abrasion and allows fish to be handled more easily at the surface.
Bait: Live or dead fish baits are most effective. Small mackerel or whiting make excellent live-baits and can encourage a take when Tope are proving fussy. Proven dead-baits include mackerel, whiting, dabs and coalfish. Dead-baits should be cut in half to release blood and oils to attract Tope. Other effective baits include squid, launce, herring and sections of eel. In most cases it helps to match baits to what packs of Tope will be feeding on naturally in the area.
Tactics: Further information on fishing for Tope can be found on our dedicated Tope Fishing Page. Lowering a rubby-dubby bag of chopped fish to the sea bed will attract predators including Tope. Bites range from subtle knocks to aggressive runs that will tear yards of line from the reel; runs should be struck early to avoid deep hooking fish. In difficult conditions Tope can be coaxed by using a light weight and allowing baits to drift away from the boat with the tide. Dropped runs are a common occurrence when Tope fishing though fish can often be provoked to attack the bait again by slowly retrieving and twitching the bait towards the boat. When Tope are particularly finicky – and Lesser Spotted Dogfish are not a problem – small fillets of fish bait can prove successful.
Category: ID Guide