What to Catch


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Date updated: Oct 2013

Season: October – March

Socio-economic Importance: The importance to the recreational sea angling is however far greater, as Tope is a highly prized sport fish with a significant catch and release fishery being undertaken, primarily from charter vessels, in the summer months. Around 5 charter vessels from Essex and 2 charter vessels from Kent regularly fish the primary locations just outside of the 6nm limit in the summer months with a one day tope fishing trip costing around £600

Ecological Importance:  Tope is seasonally migratory and eats a range of small schooling fish such as Mackerel, Whiting, Pouting and Cod as well as bottom fish, crustaceans and echinoderms. As an apex predator it does have the ability to impact upon other species including some of those found on the KEIFCA Species Priority list.

Minimum sizes:

Legal Minimum Size: All fish must be returned

Average Breeding Size: Varies between areas

There is no legal minimum size as all Tope must be returned alive to the water by anglers.  While the average length of sexual maturity varies around the world the range is generally between 120 and 135 cm for males and 134 to 140 cm for females in the eastern Atlantic.

Where and when to catch them:

Exclusively a summer species, Tope visit our fishery to breed and give birth to live young. For this reason, anglers have practiced a catch and release policy for many years. This policy has now been enhanced with byelaws enforcing the return of all Tope, which are now endangered.

Famous for being one of the hardest fighting fish in our waters, female Tope can weigh in at over 70lb and the British record has been held here in the past.

Occasional reports of shore caught Tope are received from our deeper water beach fishing marks along the Kent coast but the vast majority of catches are taken off shore from boats fishing the deep water edges of sand banks in the Thames Estuary. Indeed, some of our Charter vessels specialise in catching the species from June to August when the numbers are at their highest and local skippers can give good advice on when to plan a fishing trip for these fish.

What tackle to use:

A simple running bottom fished trace with a min 7/0 hook can be either casted up tide or trotted out the back of the boat.

The fish give very powerful runs and 50lb trace line finished with wire is necessary with at least a 25lb main line and a properly set drag on the reel.

What bait is best to use:

Fresh caught Mackerel head or fillet is the best all round bait. The fish are known to take a small Bass or Whiting that may have hooked itself on conventional bottom fished gear giving the unsuspecting angler a shock when the Tope takes off with its prey.

Best conditions for catching them:

Sustained warm weather and calm conditions give boat anglers the best chance of reaching the marks and catching fresh Mackerel bait on the way out.

Spring tides can make it more difficult to overcome the hard running tides in deeper water so anglers often look for the neap tides to fish these marks.