Love them or loath them, bread-and-butter dogfish play a big part in UK shore angling. Pedigree shore angler, Iain Graham, confesses to being a complete doggie dependant and offers barking advice to fellow sufferers…
‘Addiction’ is a noun that first found its way into the dictionary in 1906 referencing the ‘in’ narcotic of the day, Opium. An evolved term used to describe a devotion, attachment, or dedication, addiction now loosely describes a recurring compulsion to engage in all manner of dubious activities regardless of potentially harmful consequences. Often reserved for serial drug indulgence, the word is equally applied to weaknesses in the vein of gambling, over-eating, insatiable pleasures of the flesh, or in my criminally unique case perhaps, fishing for lesser spotted dogfish.
Many things fishing are addictive. For some, addiction lurks in the very anticipation of tethering and subduing hard fighting fish on light tackle. For me however, nothing hatches that familiar warm fuzzy feeling more than an all-out assault on spotted dogfish. Shocking as this may sound, it’s an inculpably near-physical dependence; an uncontrollable compulsion to fish for a paradoxically pussycat species despised by many. With the collapse of other once prevalent fish stocks, the lowly doggie has become the saviour of shore fishing along much of Scotland’s west coast. Removing dogfish from my list of target species is unthinkable. What else provides reliable sport through the winter when fixes of east coast codding no longer hit the spot? I feel no shame in admitting the distinctive bite from a hungry dogfish seldom fails to set my pulse racing… I can’t help myself.
Simple tactics and baits work most effectively for an uncomplicated and unfussy species. Core fish-baits such as mackerel, bluey and sandeel come top of the menu. Ragworm and lugworm can be extremely effective too, especially when cocktailed with fish bait. Ragworm tipped off with an inch strip of mackerel is the most effective dogfish bait of all in my opinion.
Simple 2 or 3 hook flapping paternoster rigs with a size 2 – 1/0 Kamasan B940 hooks are best. I recommend 20 to 24 inch snoods of no less than 20lb breaking strain to overcome abrasion from doggie teeth and rough skin. Rods need to be pokey to overcome the often testing environments where dogfish reside. Pulling a double or treble-shot of dogs through banks of weed with a soft rod is asking for trouble. A good quality reel line of around 18lb is used in conjunction with a suitably strong leader knot such as the Bimini or Spider hitch. Grip-leads overcome the strong tides the dogfish like to frequent. A bonanza of dogfish is on the cards if you pick the right spot. Summer in the south west of Scotland is rightly famous for its spotted dogfish reliability; marks literally teem with dogs at times, with fish accosting baits within seconds of casting out.
But did you know equally frenetic sport exists in winter in the sheltered and quietly picturesque sea lochs of the north west? Some of the most prolific areas lie around Corran, near Fort William, or across the ferry run at Ardgour on the Morven peninsular, where bags in excess of 30 fish in a four or five-hour session can be endured and enjoyed. Such marks are not for inexperienced anglers. Continually hauling three dogfish at-a-time from deep water over weed-tangled ledges will test you and your tackle to the very limit. If you have never experienced a back-breaking session of this ilk, believe me, you will not forget it... the pleasure is in the pain! Medicines, therapies and various forms of loony counselling offer hope and salvation to druggies, gamblers, gluttons and even sex addicts. There is no known healthy substitute or indeed cure for my particular affliction; no similar satisfaction exists. As such, I have come to accept the inevitability of my condition. I will always be hopelessly addicted to LSDs, but maybe there is hope yet for you.