Spurdogs have seen something of a revival in recent years. Sadly the spurdog was long lined to near extinction not so long ago, with pleasure anglers suffering the loss of a good fighting fish. I was talking recently to acclaimed angling journalist Mike Thrussell, from World Sea Fishing
, he was telling me of a drift way back in the late eighties whilst out sharking some 30 miles off the west Wales coast. The drift, over 13 miles long saw them catching and returning spurdogs throughout the drifts length, since then though Mike has failed to catch a spur off the Welsh coast. It took a trip to Ireland back in autumn 2005 for Mike to see his first spurdog for over 15 years.
It is fairly easy to identify a spurdog; the upper body is dark grey with white spots usually present. The under-side is white, the most noticeable feature being a protruding spine at the front of each of the 2 dorsal fins. A shark that can be found in large packs, usually of the same age sex and size, the spurdog is a highly migratory shark moving from one area to another when looking for food.
This specie is mainly a fish eater, gorging itself on mackerel, herring, whiting and pouting etc. I have also found a good squid bait also to be extremely tempting. They are known to be a mid water to bottom feeders, hence why decades gone by one of the most fruitful methods of catching spurdogs was simply jigging with white feathers. More normally acquainted to cod fishing, white feathers were often the rig of choice for many anglers wanting to target the spurdogs in great numbers.
With spurs not so plentiful, and possibly a lack of smaller fry in the food chain these days, recent catches have all been whilst bottom fishing with baits, having said that, we have taken a few fish whilst drifting grounds around Holyhead Deeps and some of the nearby wrecks. Many north Wales charter boats have been reporting excellent catches of these ferocious feeders of late. Found primarily around our deep waters and wrecks, these fish are now being located within quick and easy reach of most North West Wales ports.
During one trip aboard My Way, I had a party of anglers from Yorkshire. Setting out for some tope and spurdog action, we decided to use single hooks and not 2 or 3 hook rigs. This was because the spurs can be ferocious feeders and I didn’t want up to 24 spurdogs thrashing around the deck of My Way, randomly spiking anglers (and me!). In the 2 hours we could fish in Holyhead Deep because of the tide, we landed 50 spurs, 12 tope and also plenty of dogs and huss. Spur fishing like this was repeated on the vast majority of trips we made in search of them.
Spur numbers off the Welsh coast are still perilously low in comparison to the late 70’s and early 80’s. In an ideal world the spurs would be left alone to return to the once fertile packs abundant in the area years ago. This however I fear may not be the case.
Being large pack fish who roam the sea beds continually feeding, it easy to see how commercial long liners can eradicate this particular species from a given area in a very short space of time.
What is particularly alarming and sad is that this will happen around our coast very soon, as with the return of the spurs, we are also witnessing the return of a very large number of vessels turning their attentions to the long lines, some for the first time, and others going back to old ways. This quick ‘grab a few quid’ while we can scenario will sadly all but wipe this fishery from the welsh coast.
Catch a spurdog now while you still can!!