The tope is found around the coast of the British Isles but in greatly varying numbers dependant on location and has the reputation as a dogged fighter. Very few are to be found around the South East but tope are to be found in large quantities in the west of the country. The tope is a small, slimline shark which are to be found living both in large packs and as individuals. Unlike the shark, the tope is a bottom feeder and spends its time searching out food over smooth, sandy, shell-grit bottoms. Sometimes confused with the smoothhound, it is easy to identify by the lack of white dots along its back. It also has serrated, razor-sharp teeth, which the smoothhound lacks. They vary in weight greatly, from smaller fish weighing around 15-20lb to the much larger individuals who can top 80lb. Tope eat a variety of small fish and like to hunt around sand banks, trying to disturb hidden flatfish, as well as taking whiting, codling, pout, bass and pollack. Highly regarded for their sporting quality, it has become good practice by sea anglers to return tope to the sea after capture.
Spread around the British coast with strongholds off the west coast and the Thames Estuary. Tope fishing from the shore tends to result in smaller fish, of around the 20 lbmark, that have come into shallower water to feed on small flatfish. The bigger specimens have a tendency to keep to sandy or patchy rough ground found in deeper waters. Hot Spots are The Thames Estuary, Poole in Dorset, Rhyl in Wales and off Hayling, Sussex.
May through to October, with June and July the most productive months.
Tope feed on various bottom-dwelling creatures including starfish and lobsters. The mainstays of their diet are small cod, whiting, flat-fish and pouting. Mackerel or a fresh eel section make very good tope baits.
Shore: 58lb 2oz
Boat: 82lb 8oz