North Wales has long been associated with some very good catches of smoothound. The fish have been targeted by both boat and shore anglers with some good results. Smuts 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 year, the very same areas also offering shore anglers the opportunity to hook into this hard fighting species.
Fishing for smoothies in waters relatively shallow at only 45’ can be a very exhilarating experience. 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.
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.
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.
Shore crabs are most effective when peeling or as a soft back. A peeler crab is simply a crab that is shedding its current outer protection, the shell, to grow larger. Underneath the current hard shell you will find a new softer and bigger shell. Such crabs are found sheltering in soft sand, or mud flats etc under rocks or other pieces of debris that offer them protection from predators. With its shell soft, the crab is prone to attack from smoothies and other fish wanting to feast on this delicacy. Peeling crabs ooze a very pungent orangey/yellow liquid, which the smell of drives many a fish such as smoothhound, cod and bass into a feeding frenzy.
Peeler Crab When using a peeler, many anglers choose to peel the outer shell and remove the crab’s gills, in preparation to wrap this particular bait into a neat little parcel for the hook. If choosing this method, don’t wrap the bait too much. Often you see crab baits aboard My Way that would look better in an Egyptian Mummy’s museum and not trotting along a sea bed. Care when hooking the bait, and a few gentle twists of cotton, will allow the juices to seep from the bait unhindered. However, is the trouble of peeling and wrapping in cotton actually required, after all the smoothhound is not used to this level of food preparation before it munches down on its prey. Smoothhound is a member of the shark family, who, as most of us are aware have a very sensitive level of smell, and are reputed to detect scent from a food source from a fair few miles away. My preferred method is to simply hook 1 or two crab once through the back, and hey presto job done. In doing this you are presenting to the smoothound a more realistic looking food, yet still releasing the scent from the crab, however this time a little more controlled, this safeguards against the smell being washed out of the crab too quickly.
Furthermore there are always other predators in an area where smoothies are being targeted. These fish also after a feed, such as dogs, small codling, whiting etc, are all drawn to abundant smell of the peeler. Therefore another saving grace by using the simple method is that it can reduce the number of hook ups from unwanted pests at the time of your smoothhound fishing.
Let’s catch a smut
Hounds first move in during early May, and hang around until early July. These fish often hit well into double figures with some specimens taken just shy of the 20lb mark. Off Holyhead in the past 2 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 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, Reels and Rigs
A good uptider will happily cope with the rigours of playing a fast and hard fighting smoothhound. In the 9 – 10ft length and with 4-8oz casting weight, most uptiders will cope, rods such as the Team Daiwa X, Abu Suveran and Fladen Maximus, offering most budgets something to choose from. Coupled together with a SL30SH or, ABU 7000 sized reels, you could be on the road to a big smut.
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 serving.
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.