There was a time when many anglers dreaded meeting a shoal of spurdog, as this meant that most other fish would leave the area. There are few fish in the sea that can strip an area of fishlife like a pack of spurdog. Voracious in appetite, they move inshore during the summer months to release their young and eat everything they find.
The spurdog is a small member of the extensive shark group, unique in having two extremely sharp, curved spines on the back, one in front of each dorsal fin. These spines can wound deeply if a fish turns on the angler when handled, wrapping its body around the wrist or arm.
The spurdog is not an exceptional fighter, but it can, nevertheless, cause havoc to the terminal tackle of sea anglers. Given a chance to show its ability on light gear, it can acquit itself well but, unfortunately, the spurdog is usually taken on tackle better suited to much larger fish. As a result it is hauled in, unable to put up much of a fight.
Challenge of light tackle
When the spurdog is sought deliberately on light tackle, it can really battle. Taken from the shore, as often happens when fishing a bass beach after dark, the fish will pull as hard as any bass.
The fierce attack methods of this predator and the continuous writhing of the hooked fish tend to tangle tackle. Unlike bottomdwelling species, which suffer a decompression problem when being drawn to the surface, the spurdog has no swimbladder and will continue to thrash in its efforts to shed the hook —even after it has been brought abroad a boat. To avoid tangles, the tackle should be kept as simple as possible, with hook snoods only long enough to present the bait effectively. Long traces can only lead to massive tangles.
Importance of supple wire
The sharp teeth and rough skin of the species force the angler to use wire hook links or nylon of overthick diameter. Wire traces need not be of overstrong breaking strain as the fish does not grow to the proportions of tope. But the wire must be as supple as possible. Stiff, singlestrand wire kinks readily. If you catch even one fish it can reduce the breaking strain markedly by a twisting motion that quickly places a kink in the wire.
For boat fishing use rods in the 1520 lb class. From the shore, an lift light beachcaster suits most situations. This gives the fish a chance to move, and the angler obtains the best possible transmission of the vibrations from the hooked fish’s movements.
Many baits can be used. Almost anything will be taken. Fish baits are best, however, as the predatory instinct is finely tuned to smell when a spurdog comes upon a lask of mackerel, herring or whole sprat. When a massive pack of spurdog arrives there are times when they can be caught with hardly any bait at all! They grab at anything—a flashing spoon attached to a cod paternoster rig has been known to take them continually for a whole afternoon.
Extracting the hook
Handling the boated fish can present a novice angler with a few difficulties. The best method of removing the hook involves first immobilizing the fish by standing on its tail. With the trace held out tight, the fish should be grasped just at the back of its head. The hook can then be extracted with a pair of longnosed pliers.