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Big Tope From The Isle of Man


Manx Tope Fishing

An early start with ideal weather.

It’s amazing what can happen when summer suddenly decides to make an appearance! After several failed attempts at connecting with large Tope I finally got to spend a full day at sea on Friday thanks to the settled weather. Whilst the fishing wasn’t spectacular in terms of quantity the quality more than made up for it!

Thanks to the early tides it meant a 5am start on Friday, I could have put the boat on the breakwater until a more civilised hour but I really fancied my chances of a good Tope over the middle run of what were very small neap tides. Less than a minute at cruising speed put me onto the “supposed” Mackerel shoals and I was expecting to be blasting out to sea in only a matter of minutes. What is it they say about assumption? The Mackerel that had been so abundant for months had decided to do one of their great disappearing acts and even though they were showing in fits and starts on the sounder actually catching them was a whole different story. It was at this point that I was really glad I’d decided to stick with my early start plan and not gone back to bed! An hour of running around at tick over speed later I finally had enough Mackerel in the bait bucket for a decent crack at the Tope.

A quick shove on the throttle had the new E-Tec engine purring nicely and it was only 5 minutes later that it was time to drop anchor for the first (and as it turned out last) spot of the day. The plan was a simple one, a large bait fished on a Grey’s Tope Rig stuck firm on the bottom and from another rod a set of large cod feathers baited with chunks of Mackerel in the hope of a passing Cod. I’d heard a few had been caught over the past few weeks so it would be worth a try.

Once everything was in the water and the radio was on it was just a case of wait and see, you really couldn’t have asked for a better day at sea, it was one of those where catching a fish is just a bonus! A bonus that didn’t take too long in coming. About 30 minutes after the first baits had hit the sea bed the silence was broken by that unmistakable sound of a reel giving out line at a great rate of knots. Playing it cool I let it run, waited for it to stop….then hit it on the second go. I knew within about half a second that I was in to a very good fish!

Tope vs Wire - Tope wins

One of the Greys Tope Rigs gets bitten through

Keeping in mind I was using 30lb class tackle I literally couldn’t do anything with that first Tope. In the first 20 minutes it had taken me for a walk around the boat twice! A further 10 minutes later I eventually had it at the side of the boat where I saw one of the strangest things, about 10 feet down in the water it was sat there, holding station, with another Tope by its side. I’ve never seen that before? I just managed to work her up to within a couple of feet of the surface when the weight left the rod, winding in was enough to see that the Greys Tope trace had given way about half way through the 1 foot of wire, on quick inspection a clean cut.

It was time to deal with the other rod, oh I’d forgot to tell you about that one? Within 5 minutes of the first rod going my Cod rod had hooked up as well. This was a much lighter outfit and wasn’t really geared up for Tope at all. On seeing the rod holder pointing at the sea all I could do was loosen of the drag and let it run whilst I fought the first fish. By the time I’d got around to dealing with this one there were at least 300 yards of line out. I was already shattered and wasn’t really up for another round of being walking all over the boat but again this was not a small fish. When you are dealing with fish like this in only 40 feet of water they always seem to love the front of the boat and the anchor in particular but after a couple of close scares I eventually managed to get another big female up to the side of the boat, what a mess! Fortunately there was just enough line showing for me to be able to cut it free leaving just one of the size 6/0 non stainless hooks in the Tope’s mouth. A quick flash of the tail and the fish was gone. I’d just had the most frantic hours fishing of my life and 2 female Tope that had to be 50lb+ had swam away to fight another day. It was at this point that I’d decided to do away with the Cod fishing and put a scratching rig down as second rod instead.

Over the next couple of hours I managed one more nice female (40lbish) and had several dropped runs. Then at just after mid- day all hell broke loose once more. Something had picked up the whole Mackerel bait and wasn’t stopping! At the point where I had only half the line left on the reel I tightened up on it and it took all my strength just to hold on to the rod. What followed over the next 20 minutes could only be described as an epic tug of war. Thankfully this one decided to play nice and stuck to the back of the boat, eventually allowing me to pull her alongside for a closer look. She was almost half the length of my 19 foot boat and as fat a Tope as I’ve ever seen. Stunning. A quick twist with the pliers saw her break free and glide away with not a care in the world.

Small Tope

The smallest tope of the day (but the only one where I had extra hands to take a photo!)

With the tide now gone it was time for a quick dinner break and trip in to pick up the old man who would be joining me for the afternoon. The quality of the fishing is such around here that I only lost 20 minutes in total fishing time before the anchor was deployed again and 2 Tope traces were doing their job on the sea floor. To be honest the flood tide was a bit of a disappointment (which perhaps explains our lack of fish on the last few attempts where we’ve been stuck to fishing the flood because of marina flap gate reasons). We did manage to pick up one more Tope which happened to be the smallest of the day but once 3 hours after low water was hit the fish went off completely. The stunning peace was only broken once by the intrigue of a lone conger that had decided to snap up one of the baits.

Overall then it had been a fantastic days Tope fishing, yes I hadn’t caught dozens of fish, but the half dozen had all been at least 40lb, one at least double that, all without any sort of ground baiting. It had been a beautiful day to be out on the water and even better than all that…..not a single Doggie bite all day!!!

Second Tope Hits


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