Smooth-hounds are a fish found in European and North African waters. They are a shark species but do not primarily feed by hunting fish. Instead, they hunt for crustaceans such as hermit crabs, lobsters and all other species of crabs. However, they will take fish on occasions when the opportunity arises. The smooth-hound has crushing pads instead of teeth, which are designed for crushing instead of ripping flesh. This is why some anglers around Europe call them the Gummy shark. Smooth-hounds feed over sandy, shingle and light broken ground, and tend to stay clear of rocky areas. Hounds are seldom found in water more than 300 feet and in hot, calm and settled weather they come close enough to land for the shore angler to target them. Their numbers seem to be healthy, probably because they are not commonly eaten in the Ireland or the UK and are not (yet) targeted commercially. Another major reason for good smooth-hound numbers, and one that should be applauded, is that they are caught on a strict catch-and-release basis by almost all anglers – killing one is simply not the done thing. Instead, anglers are happy to catch them and take a few quick photos before returning the fish to the water. The reward that anglers are reaping from taking this approach is bigger average sizes and more regular catches. Unfortunately, smooth-hounds are not treated like this in the Mediterranean or African waters, where the commercial fishing pressure has resulted in the species being classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN]. The Irish record at the moment is 16.58lb caught by Keith Gray, but there is a 19lb fish waiting to be ratified this year. The specimen weight is 6.62 lbs (3.0 kg) and length-based specimens is 100cm
Methods to catch smooth hound
Shore fishing for smooth-hounds begins in the spring as the first wave of smaller fish being to move into the shallow water to feed on crabs and all other types of crustaceans. The numbers and size of smooth-hounds will continue to increase as the temperature starts to peaks in summer. However, the weather needs to be good and the sea needs to be calm to bring the fish within casting range of the shore. Choppy or rough seas will see the hounds staying offshore in deeper water. Many anglers also find that the smooth-hound catches pick up as the sun begins to set and right through the night.
The best rigs I think for off the shore is a Pennell pulley rig. The main hook on my trace is a size that should be at least than a 3/0 in a strong pattern and the top hook no smaller than a 1/0. The small smooth-hound and tiny flounder will still have no problem trying to taking a big bait so make sure it is well wrapped with bait elastic.
This tiny flounder and baby hound got hooked on a full peeler and half a soft crab wrapped around a size 5/0 so don’t be worried about big baits – the bigger, the better
I use Mustad 3/0 and 5/0 ultra-point, as they are a slim, strong hook and are able to handle a larger specimen hound from a boat or shore which could come along in between the pups. It is not necessary to cast a great distances for smooth-hound when the weather is calm because they will move into shallow water. As I use two rods I would usually cast one around sixty yards and the other one about a hundred yards. This helps me to find the line were the fish are feeding. When it comes to bait peeler crab is the best choice, and accounts for the vast majority of smooth-hound catches around Ireland and the UK. The debate about fresh and frozen crab appear to be the same and if the hounds are there in numbers small hard back crabs will work as this is what smooth-hound feed on naturally. Hermit crabs can also be used. Remember; do not overload the hook with bait because when you get a violent take you need the point of the hook exposed so the fish can hook itself. If you like using big baits like myself step up the hook size and, as I said, make sure the hook points are exposed on both hooks.
Have your reel drag set at all times because even a hound of 6lb will pull your rod off the stand – so, imagine what a fish over 19lb would be able to do.
Smooth-hounds can hit your baits hard and run even harder, a modest sized fish can pull a rod off the tripod – this is where rods get broken. So to avoid breaking a rod or snapping off on a fish you should set the reel’s drag so that the fish will hook itself and still be able to take line. A good idea as well is to set the ratchet on the reel, as this will provide an audible warning when a smooth-hound runs off. If you are thinking about fishing for smooth-hound along the east coast, remember they are hard fighting fish so if you have a good fish on take your time and enjoy the fight. Remember, if the fish wants to take line let it, there is nothing worse than dropping or snapping off on the biggest fish of the night.
Tips on handling smooth-hounds
When taking smooth-hounds from the water they should not be pulled hard by the tail or scooped out of the water on to the sand. This is because the internal organs of the fish are used to being permanently supported by water and pulling shark species out of the water that way can cause the internal organs to shift around in the body – harming and potentially killing the fish. Instead, the smooth-hound should be kept as level as possible. One hand should be used to hold the fish by the tail and the other to support the belly. Smooth-hounds have an excellent survival rate when they are handled this way. Always try to keep the fish wet in between pictures and return it to the water as quickly as possible. If you are looking for measuring mats, they can be purchased from Inland Fisheries Ireland at the following link http://shop.fishinginireland.info/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=45
Length measurement of specimens: put the nose of the fish at the pvc upright and then stretch it out to get a photo of the full length, then take a photo of its mouth and nostrils, then a photo of yourself with the fish, return it safely and finally fill in the specimen claim form
In the past few months, I have changed from my normal sea fishing 15lb mono to 50lb braid, which I still add a shock leader to. Braid is superior for bite detection and has far less drag as the tide is pulling (as its thinner) and if you hit a large fish, you have the upper hand over the lighter mono. When using 4oz to 6oz leads with braided main line make sure you put on a mono shock leader of 60lb for two reasons – one, it stops you braid from chafing and the other is it will stop the skin from being removed from your casting finger
Braid took the skin off my friends casting finger. He has two spools of shock leader in his bag at all times now!
I had a few sessions with my pal Damo on a well know beach below Wicklow called Brittas Bay. It is a bit of a walk to the hot spot but when I arrived on his mark there was no anglers for a few hundred yards. It was nice to be able to cast and not worry about any one casting over me. And to top it off, the action was non-stop throughout the night. We landed a blast of small hounds with a good few fish between 5lb and 6lb, with one of mine making that magic specimen weight and Damo just missing out by a single ounce.
Damo with a hound that was one ounce shy of a specimen weight and me with a hound that just made it. Both fish hooked themselves as they took line off the reel. Both were both hooked on the top hook of the pulley rig
A soft back and peeler crab cocktail make a large bait that keeps a good sent trail going as smaller fish pick at it
I am looking forward to some boat fishing this month, that is if the weather holds. It would be nice to catch some of the larger smooth-hounds like Dan and I did a few years ago out of Wicklow on a mark that Kit Dun gave us.
Dan with a 14lb+ and me with a 12lb+ hound. Both traces were free running rigs with a sliding boom on the main line
A pulley rig baited with a combination of peeler, “softie” and legs Ennereilly Beach near Arklow is a good smoothie mark on the east coast Passage East is a good South-east mark (and is closer to Cork!)
 Pulley rigs are necessary.
 Beach caster, a good reliable reel loaded with 15lb mono or 50lb braid with both of them having a 60lb mono shock leader.
 Tripod stand, head torch, tip lights or reflective tape.
 Long shank wide gaped, size 3/0 and 4/0 hooks.
 Bait elastic, 30 to 50 lb line for snoods, pulley rig beads.
 Grip leads, buffer beads, size 8 swivels.
 Fresh or frozen peeler crab, some soft backs and some hard back crabs