Date updated: September 2013
Season: all year
Socio-economic Importance: Targeted by recreational sea anglers on both private and charter vessels, both types (Smooth and Starry) visit the fishery and are seen as a good sport fish which attract annual boat competitions in the Thames estuary by some RSA clubs.
Ecological Importance: Smooth Hounds primarily feed on crustaceans and may be important predators upon Brown Crab in some areas. The effect of environmental changes on the species is unknown but as a southerly distributed species, they have increased in northern Europe in relation to sea temperature increases.
Legal Minimum Size: N/A
Average Breeding Size: 85cm
Where and when to catch them:
Smoothound can be targeted from the shore in a number of places in the district, marks on Sheppey and at Deal often produce. On the Essex coast Bradwell can return some very large fish and smaller fish occasionally show up on Walton and Clacton Piers. They move inshore looking for peeler crabs as the weather warms and the crabs start to moult. Boat fishing on sand banks throughout the district produces good numbers of Smoothound in late April to late June, especially before the weed builds up. Most of these fish are large visiting pregnant females.
What tackle to use:
Regarded as a sports fish, light tackle will enable smoothound to give a good account of themselves. Use a pulley rig system with a rubbing trace of at least 60lb.
What bait is best to use:
Peeler crab is best, but hermit crab (frozen or fresh), or even hardbacks will be taken. In desperation raw prawns will also produce. Bait needs to be renewed to ensure that a good scent trail is always being spread out.
Boat anglers should add a few Squid to the above. Unwashed Falklands Squid hooked on whole and trotted out behind the boat in shallow water could tempt some big fish. A steady stream of 20Lb fish are reported each season and some memorable fights.
Best conditions for catching them:
Fish around high tide from the beach, best when there is a strong tide run.
Boat fisherman aim to catch fish in the shallow water coming off of the sand banks about three hours after HT. Then another run as the tide floods and the fish make their way back inshore to the shallows to feed.
Smoothounds are tough, and will return well. As with all shark species, try keeping them horizontal, so that internal organs are not crushed when they are lifted.
Many anglers return the pregnant females in order to ensure the future of this important fish for the angling sector.