Published On: Fri, Jan 16th, 2015

Tope or School Shark is regarded by the IGFA as a game fish

Tope Shark caught by Allan Burgess at Dorie, Mid Canterbury.

Tope Shark caught by Allan Burgess at Dorie, Mid Canterbury.

Tope Shark or School Shark

Galeorhinus australis

Also called School Shark. Tope fillets are sold in shops as white fish or flake.

In my experience, the school shark is more commonly caught surfcasting around the South Island during the summer months. Specimens taken surfcasting along the Canterbury coast are usually the same size as the more common spiny dogfish.

Tope grow much bigger than spiny dogfish. Large specimens can reach two metres in length and weigh as much as 35 kg. The easiest way to distinguish this shark from the similar looking smoothhound is that the tope is able to close its eye with a membrane which moves over the eye from the bottom like an eyelid. Dogfish, like almost all bony fishes, cannot close their eyes!

A large tope can fight quite strongly when hooked on light line hence the reason it is regarded by the International Game Fish Association as a game fish. Here is a big tope weighing 16.7 kg caught from the vessel Topgun in the upper North Island and weighed at the Whangaroa Big Gamefish Club. However, it certainly does not fight in the same league as a mako or thresher shark.

Marlin Robertson, aged 8 years, caught this huge Tope or School Shark surfcasting from the beach at Birdlings Flat, south of Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, just a couple of days ago - late November 2011. Well done Marlin. That sure is a very big school shark. Marlin released his shark to fight another day!

Marlin Robertson, aged 8 years, caught this huge Tope or School Shark surfcasting from the beach at Birdlings Flat, south of Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, just a couple of days ago – late November 2011. Well done Marlin. That sure is a very big school shark. Marlin released his shark to fight another day!

This massive 21 kg tope shark was caught surfcasting near Wakanui, on the Canterbury coast east of Ashburton. It was taken on a small squid bait. Photo: Baitman.

This massive 21 kg tope shark was caught surfcasting near Wakanui, on the Canterbury coast east of Ashburton. It was taken on a small squid bait. Photo: Baitman.

My oldest son Andrew with a good size school shark he caught surfcasting at Birdlings Flat, Canterbury.

My oldest son Andrew with a good size school shark he caught surfcasting at Birdlings Flat, Canterbury.

I have caught some quite big tope over the years between Birdlings Flat and Dorie just south of Christchurch . Large females come in close to shore to give birth to 30cm long live young over summer. Most of the big ones caught are females. The smaller tope caught surfcasting are juveniles that remain inshore until they grow large enough to move out into deeper water where they school by size.

Here is another good tope shark. This one was caught boat fishing off Moeraki in North Otago.

Here is another good tope shark. This one was caught boat fishing off Moeraki in North Otago.

Fresh mackerel and yellow-eyed mullet are good baits for tope. Any oily fish is best but squid is also good tope bait. Use heavy monofilament or thin wire traces to avoid being bitten off. Tope have triangular teeth designed for holding small fish. They mostly feed on live schooling baitfish such as pilchards and mullet. I have read that they are known to jump when hooked but I have never seen this.

Tope fillets are sold in shops as white fish or flake. You have probably eaten quite a bit of tope over the years as it is one of the main species used in shops sold as fish and chips.

About the Author

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Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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