Tope are one of my favourite fish to catch from the kayak but i haven't put much time into targeting them this year, other than a couple of evening sessions that resulted in tope blanks. Gary was still waiting for his first Tope so we planned a day session to try and catch these hard fighting sharks...
We paddled offshore and settled upon some clean ground to start a drift. I was geared up with a 12-20lb Ugly Stik and Abu 6500 loaded with 30lb braid. This gear provides plenty of fun with an angry Tope but has the power to put the brakes on a bigger fish. We feathered for some fresh mackerel which proved to be thin on the ground. Eventually a few showed up so down went a fresh mackerel flapper on a Tope trace.
Not much occurred on the first drift so we paddled back offshore to try again over some different ground. Half way through the drift something nailed my bait with the rod tip nodding sharply. As it powered off with the bait i set the hook and let all hell break loose! I haven't hooked a Tope in a while so after 80 yards or so of line disappeared off the reel i was beginning to wonder if it was a Tope. I put the brakes on and let the rod soak up the pressure eventually turning the fish. Gary came over to watch the fight so he would know what to expect if one found his bait. 10 minutes of rod bending later and it was swimming around beneath the kayak. One look at the surface and off it powered back to the bottom. It is quite exhilarating when a Tope runs off at speed forcing your rod tip underwater!!
Unhooked, photographed with length and girth measurements taken, the Tope was soon released back to the depths. I take the length and girth measurements so that i can calculate an approximate weight using a formula used by shark charter boats and angling clubs for catch and release fishing. Length (inches) x Girth (inches) x Girth (inches) / 800 will give a weight in pounds. This Tope measured 55in in length and 21inches in girth, so using the formula this gives a weight of 30lbs.
I managed to catch a string of mackerel so put a live bait down on the hook to see if i could tempt another Tope. It didn't take long before the mackerel was intercepted by a toothy predator. The rod tip hooped over and Tope number 2 was on and running away! It was shooting about all over the place and picked up Garys line before he could reel it in which made things interesting. It came up after a few good runs and then went bezerk on the surface tangling itself in both our rigs and causing havoc. I pulled it onboard at the first opportunity before it caused more trouble and began untangling the mess. This wasn't good for the stomach and looking down for so long had me feeling very rough! Anyhow, a Tope of around 20lb was a welcome sight.
I was playing this fish hard as i didn't really want to spend any longer in the washing machine of chop and swell. It gave me a good sleigh ride and by the time i had got it beside the kayak i had been taken a fair way down the coast with the wind. Tope number 3 was on board and around the 25lb-30lb mark. A few quick photos and it was powering off to the bottom again.
It was the sort of day when looking back, we really shouldn't have launched but despite it being really uncomfortable to fish in the effort did pay off, for me at least. Poor old Gary is just saving up his fish points for a big one next time!