North Wales has long been established as a venue for smoothhound. The fish have been targeted by both boat and shore anglers with some good results.
Smoothies as they have become more affectionately known to many anglers can be found around many boat marks off Holyhead, Trearddur Bay, Llanddwyn and Whitebeach.
All these marks have given anglers some quality specimen fish over many years, the very same areas also offering shore anglers the opportunity to hook into this hard fighting species.
Smoothhound are found in mainly shallow waters around our coastline feeding on a host of crustaceans that include hermit, shore and edible crabs. In Holyhead, when crab has been hard to come by we have also had fairly good catches when fishing for smoothhound using large squid baits tipped with 3 or 4 good sized ragworm.
Smoothhound have a grey upper body and white underside. Distinguishing between the common and starry is relatively easy, the starry hound takes it name from the many white spots that are found on the upper part of its body, and the common smoothies has none. This species of fish is live bearing, and can carry between 4 and 15 pups at any one time.
Fishing for smoothies in waters relatively shallow at only 45’ can be a very exhilarating experience. It’s exciting to be able to see a fish this large, you’ve got to try it if you’ve not already. Wigan based Hindley Hare and Hound SAC Member Brian Taylor can testify to the excitement a double figure smoothound can bring.
During one trip aboard My Way in 2007, Brian’s rod lurched over and the ratchet screamed off with what was originally though to be a fairly ‘good’ fish. As I lowered the net, I first thought his he caught a small tope, but it was only when I lifted the net I realised it was a big starry smoothhound.
Topping the scales at 25lb 6oz, this was the biggest smoothhound that I had seen aboard My Way; breaking the current WFSA record by over 2lb it was a shark that Brian was certainly not going to forget in a hurry.
Hounds first move in for us during early May, and hang around until mid July. These fish often hit well into double figures with some specimens taken just shy of the 20lb mark. Off Holyhead over recent years, we have also noted a return of the fish for a month from late August into mid September, with these fish averaging around 8lb.
Owing to the shallow depths of water usually associated with smoothhound fishing around the North Wales coast, targeting this species benefits most of all from uptiding; launching the bait out of the scare area around the boat, and anchoring it hard to the sea bed. There is no real need to trot bait around the sea bed when fishing for smoothies, as they are pack fish and tend to swim in feeding shoals that will hunt down your bait with ease.
Rods and Reels
A good uptider is the main choice for smoothie fishing. Down tide rods can also be used in around the 12-20lb category. Uptiders of both 4oz to 8oz and 6oz to 10ox can be used when seeking out the very big smoothhound.
Reels can range in size and type. There are a host of different makes and models to choose from however with reels sized similar to Daiwa’s sl30sh, Abu 7000 or the Penn 535 sized reels you can’t go far wrong. Mainline in the 20 – 25lb range either mono or braid.
When choosing your main line, you should be looking for something in the region of 20 – 25lb breaking strains. The choice between braid and mono has to be down to the individual and their preferred reel line, however if choosing braid, a 40 or 50lb shock leader will help absorb any impact if the fish makes an impromptu bid for freedom.
There are not too many variations of rigs when fishing for smoothhound. A simple running ledger of either 1 or 2 hooks, or 2 hooks rigged pennel style will suffice.
Your trace line should be between 40 and 60lb breaking strain, with hook sizes between 2/0 and 4/0. If rigging up a 2 hook rig, each hook can be baited using a single crab, or a half each of one big crab, the combination of 2 hook baits, equalling that of using one large juicy offering. When looking at targeting the much larger smoothhound, then sometimes it is wise to upgrade your hooks to 5/0 or 6/0, thus allowing you to fish bigger baits, such as whole large velvet or swimmer crabs. Naturally you may find that hook ups will be reduced, but as with most forms of sea angling, with perseverance you could be rewarded with a fish in excess of 20lb.
In closing though, it is important to point out that the majority of double figure smoothhounds, and especially those caught in May and June are pup bearing females.
These fish should be released quickly at the side of the boat where ever possible. However if a weight and photograph is wanted by you or your mate, by all means do so, but take care to be as quick as possible, returning the fish to the water without too much stress.