Dogfish: Information for the Fisherman
There are three types; the lesser spotted (Scyliorhinus caniculas); the greater spotted (Scyliorhinus stellaris); and the spur (Squalus acanthias).
None of the dogfish is of great interest from a sporting point of view. Nevertheless they are caught with such frequency when one is fishing for something else that they must, at least, be mentioned.
The lesser spotted dogfish, sometimes called ‘rough hound’, has a skin of sandpaper texture. As a small relation of the shark, it has the characteristic underslung mouth which in this species is crescent shaped. The skin is generally sandy coloured but marked with numerous dark spots.
The greater spotted, or bull huss, is a slightly better angling proposition. It is usually darker and bigger, and the spots are larger. It can be told from the lesser spotted dog by its nasal flaps. In the latter the flaps have a simple curved edge; those of the greater spotted are lobed.
The spur dog is dark grey or brown above and white below. It puts up a better fight than the other two varieties of dogfish. The spurs, one in front of each dorsal fin, are capable of giving a nasty wound which often turns septic. The best thing is to pin the fish down, knock it on the head, and nip off the spurs with heavy pliers.
Dogfish is good to eat and when skinned and beheaded appears on the menu as ‘rock salmon’.
The lesser spotted is usually found over sandy or muddy ground feeding close to the bottom. Crabs, small fish, and starfish feature largely on its menu. It is found round the coast most of the year.
The greater spotted is more likely to be found over rough or rocky bottoms, otherwise its habits are much the same. The spur dog is more inclined to wander but is usually met in numbers in the summer months when one is boat fishing.
Since few people fish deliberately for dogfish, they are usually caught on whatever tackle the angler is using at the time. Strips of fish, lugworm, mussel, or almost any smallish bait will lure them.