Smoothound Fishing

Man with a smooth hound fish

Smoothound fishing off the Essex coast was always pretty tough back in the 90s.  It was a dream catch if you managed one while out fishing. Nowadays, if you’re on a good boat with a good skipper, there’s days when you can’t get away from them. Especially when packs of them swim through your fishing mark. I have had days when six of us have had fish all at the same time.

These native members of the shark family reach more than 28lb and are a bundle of fun to catch on sporting tackle. These hard-fighting fish are common around the south and west of England, but their range seems to be increasing.  They’re a shallow water shark species, and favour sandy, shingle, and light broken ground. They spend their day eating crabs other crustaceans and shellfish. They don’t possess the trademark mouth full of razor-sharp teeth like most of its family members so fish are not a large part of its diet.


My “go-to” fishing charter boat for a Smoothound trip is without question Mark Peter’s Dawn Tide II which operates out of Essex Marina on the River Crouch. A fast, spacious catamaran that gets you out to the grounds in under an hour. Mark never fails to put us on the fish and has the most up-to-date knowledge of the area.

Fishing Boat

We go around 45 minutes to an hour out to the sandy marks around Foulness Point.  Foulness is a military testing ground for bombs and artillery shells. Its military links means there are very strict rules in place on when and where you can visit, and indeed which bits of the island you are even allowed go to. On most days you will see the explosions then ten seconds later heard the bang.  It’s quite frightening but well away from the fishing grounds.

So what gear will I need?

Before we start, if you haven’t got any gear Mark has everything you need for a day’s hound fishing, including rods, reels, tackle, and bait. 

Rods & ReelS

For smoothound fishing, I like a 15 or 25-lb class Dawia Seahunter 8015 or 8025 up-tide rod with a size 5-6000 reel loaded with 60 – 80lb braid and a 20 ft 50lb mono leader. I’ve got some friends that use big “Pit” carp reels and they operate just fine. If it is a big tide I would tend to lean towards the bigger rod.

Dawia Boat Rod


For boat fishing, my “Go To Rig” is a simple sliding rig with a pennel hook set up.  As the bait we are using is quite big, the upper pennel hook helps present the bait better and more naturally. 

Sliding setup

To make the rig you’ll need the following: 1 x Zip Slider, 1 large bead, and a size 2/0 swivel. Simply slide on your slider boom, then the bead and tie a tucked half blood knot to attach the swivel.  The hook link can then be attached and detached to the swivel very quickly.Fishing tackle set up for sea fishing

MAKING A Pennel Hook Link

Hook links tackle

What you will need

  • 5-7ft of 30lb (13.6kg) Amnesia Memory Free Mono line
  • 1 x 4/0 Aberdeen hook and 1 x 6/0 Aberdeen hook
  • 1 x Quick link

If you want a bit of added attraction you can add some beads. 

  • 1 x Large rubber stops
  • Beads of your choice

How to make your hook link

Cut 5-7ft of 30lb Amnesia or standard mono. Tied on the 6/0 hook then thread on the 4/0 hook.  If you like some attraction around your bait then add some beads or sequins and thread on a rubber stop.  Tie your quick link to the other end and you’re ready to go.

Pennel fishing rig


One piece of advice I can’t stress enough is to have two hook links set up.  One in the water baited up and fishing.  The other baited up next to you and ready to go. Once you have wound in simply remove the hook link via the quick link put the freshly baited hook link on and cast it out. You will be surprised how much time is wasted baiting up just one hook link at a time.

For example: if you spend three minutes messing around clearing weed and the old bait off your hook, then baiting up again and you have six casts every hour, then on a six-hour trip you have wasted 106 minutes of fishing time.  That’s the best part of an hour and a half you haven’t had a bait in the water.  Even when I get a fish I unclip it place it in a bucket of water cast it out again and deal with the unhooking after I have cast out fresh bait.  Your catch rate can only improve and it’s simple to do.


A Smoothounds diet is made up primarily of crustaceans, shellfish, and molluscs. Smooth hound sharks exhibit a distinct preference for crabs and hermit crabs as a primary food source due to a combination of their dietary needs and hunting strategy. The specialised dentition of smoothhounds, characterised by flattened teeth designed for crushing rather than tearing, makes them well-suited for consuming hard-shelled prey like crabs. Their hunting behaviour complements their preference for crabs, as they are bottom-dwellers that rely on stealth and ambush tactics to catch their prey.

Hermit crab on a hook

This is why crabs and hermit crabs are always part of my day out. Mark regularly catches his crabs in pots so the bait is as fresh as you can get. Peeler crabs are fantastic but hardbacked shore crabs will be just as effective.  As you can see above, hermit crabs make an irresistible snack for any hound that’s around.

smoothound fishing TIP

Change your bait regularly so you have as much attraction and scent releasing from the bait as possible. Remember some of the best Smoothound fishing venues have limited visibility so the only way they can find your bait is by smell.


My preferred casting technique is up-tiding but have seen lots of fish caught just by throwing it over the side of the boat.  I like to have my bait presented away from the boat as I believe I create my own scent trail that leads up to my bait. As with all up-tide fishing, it is a self-hooking trap so can avoid any deep-hooked fish.

There’s not much to it other than regularly changing your bait.  You’ll know when you have one on the hook.  They are all muscle and even when they are in the boat beware.  The safest way for you and the fish it to hold them by the tail.  The best way to unhook them is by a T-Bar or strong pair of piers.

Lots of anglers will have their own methods and preferences on how to catch smoothound but I hope this article gives you a good base to start from. If you follow the advice above and get out on a good boat I’m certain you’ll have a great day. Let me know how you get on via my Instagram or Facebook pages.

If you fancy giving it a go then contact Mark on the Dawn Tide II at one of the links below.

If you enjoyed this blog, why not check this one out on How to add attraction to your sea fishing hooks?