We met at sunrise at a beach launch on the North Cornwall coast and set up the kayaks. Like me, Kyle fishes from a Hobie Revolution 16 kayak. We often have to wait weeks for the right combination of low swell, low winds and preferably big tides - those who fish the North Cornwall coast will know that this is a rarity, especially on a day off! Luckily we only had to contend with 2ft of surf as we pushed off the beach. Whilst the surf was only small it was still surprisingly powerful and one wave completely filled my footwell with water and a load of sand and stones!
There was fog hanging along the coast and we soon lost sight of the land after only a few hundred yards. Kayak fishing in fog is not particularly safe, especially so in high traffic areas. Luckily the stretch of coast we were fishing only see's the occasional potting boat so the risk of collision is minimal. The fog is incredibly disorientating though and it is essential to carry some form of navigation device so that you can track your position on the water and relative to the coastline. A GPS chart plotter is ideal, and a magnetic compass as a back up is definitely recommended. Without being equipped with such safety devices, launching in fog on a kayak is a definite no! Kyle and myself are well equipped and between us had two GPS chart plotters, a compass and a VHF radio with in-built GPS. If one device failed we had a few back ups!
We started fishing and sent down big mackerel baits in the hope of attracting a Tope. It didn't take me long....
Tope on! Whilst playing the fish Kyle also had a bite and soon had a fish tearing off with his bait. Double hook up!!
Ideally i wanted to be alongside Kyle to assist him in bringing his first Tope onboard the kayak. It quickly became apparent that wasn't going to happen so i talked him through it instead. Job done and we both had Tope on our laps.... one of around 15-20lb for me and one of around 20-25lb for Kyle
A great start! We expected the fun to continue but after an hour with no positive bites we were feeling a little deflated. We moved around to different spots in the hope of finding some fish but nothing! We kept ourselves busy fishing small baits and picking up smaller species including a colourful Cuckoo Wrasse and some lovely Bull Huss into double figures.
At one point we were a couple of miles offshore but still couldn't find any Tope! It was now early afternoon and around 6 hours since we had the first Tope. We headed in closer and anchored beside a reef. It was as if a switch had been flicked! The next two hours consisted of some awesome action! Things kicked off with a small Tope.
Kyle was soon into a fish too and this one was a bit special... it had a tag in its dorsal fin!
It had been tagged by the Fisheries Board in Ireland. I sent them across the details of recapture and a few days later received the tagging/capture history of the fish.
The fish was first tagged off Cahore in SE Ireland on 2nd June 2014 with 1133 days and 260km between tagging and its first recapture by Kyle on 9th July 2017 off the North Cornwall coast. It measured 140cm total length with a 48cm girth on recapture and interestingly the fish has only grown approx. 12cm in length since it was tagged with no change in girth. The fish appeared to be in great health and the dorsal tag didn't appear to be causing it any damage. As with all Tope we catch, the fish was released... I wonder where and when it will be caught next!
I then had a steaming run and was soon hooked into the unmistakable power of a better Tope. These fish just run and you can't do a lot to stop them without risking a snap off! You can really apply the pressure and these fish will still power off. A good 5 minutes of playing with several powerful runs, a fine Tope was brought onto the kayak. Length and girth measurements gave a calculated weight of 32lb.... happy days! That'll do for the magazine article!
The baits weren't staying down long and in between Tope we were finding more Bull Huss. Kyle added another couple of Tope to his count and i soon followed with a nice 25lbr
I managed to get a few interesting shots of this Tope before i brought it onto the kayak. This year i have switched over to using circle hooks for Tope fishing. I wanted to avoid deep hooking these fish and i can say that the circle hooks work a treat. Circle hooks are designed to not hook within the mouth but catch the jaw line of a fish before the hook penetrates. Almost every hook up see's the hook in the corner of the topes mouth or on the jaw bone. This makes unhooking much easier and safer, and is also kinder on the shark. In fact i'm getting a much better hook-up rate with circle hooks too. I'll never go back to using traditional J-hooks for Tope and other large shark species.
Despite the fishing being on fire it was time for us to head back in. Kyle finished up with 5 Tope to around 25lb and i had 4 to 32lb. We had 10 species between us including some lovely Bull Huss into double figures. Great fishing and great fun with great company!
Kyle made our session into an excellent article within Saltwater Boat Angling magazines Issue 16 Shark Special and i even made the front cover! Check it out!
Catching a Tope for a magazine article.... i'd say that's mission accomplished! 🎣🎣🎣
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