When I look at the literature about traces for dogfish I see only very basic rigs mentioned. A simple, plain ledger, either fixed or running is all that I ever read about but here in the West of Ireland we take our doggie traces much more seriously. In this post I will discuss the different traces we use and the reasons why we think we need so many.
So what are we talking about here? Very simply I am going to go over the traces I use when fishing for Lesser Spotted Dogfish, both from the boat and the shore. You can and do pick up doggies on all sorts of bottom gear but there are occasions when you may want to specifically target them and it is the end gear for those times I am writing about. Let’s dive right in with boat traces first.
- The basics. Some anglers like to use paternoster type traces but I prefer ledgers when targeting doggies. That leads us to the question of running or fixed ledgers? My personal preference is for a fixed ledger. This is because of the way a dogfish bites. When they pick up your bait you will feel that ‘rattle’ which is so easy to identify. I am guessing that this rattle on the rod tip is due to headshaking by the fish rather than a pick up/run which you get from some other species. I want the hook to find purchase as quickly as possible with dogfish and don’t feel the need to wait for them to run off with the bait – they will either have swallowed it or dropped it. A fixed ledger allows the line to tighten very quickly and hopefully help to set the hook. So for me it is going to be a fixed ledger set up. You can increase your chances by adding a second hook to the ledger on a short snood.
- Line. My personal preference is to make the trace out of 30 pound Amnesia. This resists abrasion well and has good knot strength. I’ve used this for years and can’t say it has ever let me down. I do change traces pretty often, checking them frequently for wear and tear and replacing them when I see any damage.
3. Length. OK, this is where it begins to get messy because I vary the length of the ledger depending on how the fish are reacting on any given day. Between 3 and 5 feet is the range I would personally recommend for a single hook ledger. I make two hook ledgers another 18 inches longer to accommodate the second hook and snood. Snood length on the two hook version should be about 6 or 8 inches.
With longer traces it tends to become more difficult to register bites. Remember that you are trying to tempt and then hook fish which make a grab at the bait and swallow it quickly. An overly long trace is not going to be any advantage to you.
- Hooks. Personal choice comes into it here. I like smallish hooks around size 1 or 2 but anything up to about a 3/0 will work. If you are missing bites or fish are dropping off on the way up then go to a smaller hook.
- Visual attractors. Other angling writers don’t seem to mention visual attractors but in this part of the world they are a key element on any doggie trace. There are a number of different types of attractors in common use:
Beads are the most common and are almost universally used here in the west of Ireland. 8mm or 6mm are the common sizes and if you can think of a colour it has been tried!
Spinning blades such as those used on flying C lures are often used, placed somewhere in the middle of the string of beads. Colours vary through the whole range of silver, gold or copper but fluorescent yellows and oranges are especially favoured. The best way to mount these blades is to add small beads below them so they can spin properly.
Smaller, shiny plastic blades are very popular too. These are available in a wide range of colours and are often used in 3’s or 4’s mixed in with the beads.
Muppets! Yes, I kid you not, we sometimes use a plastic muppet in the middle of the beads too and this can work a treat. Once again, colours are in legion so you can go as crazy as you like. Position the muppet above the hook, not on it otherwise it will cover the bait.
When it comes to traces for shore fishing for dogfish the same applies as for the boat except everything is scaled down a bit. Don’t add so many beads as the drag will seriously affect your casting distance. Also scale down the size of the beads you use with 6mm and smaller being a better choice.
Use a clip down system to make the rig more aerodynamic and thus aid casting otherwise it will flap about horribly in the air.
In use, I pick a trace to start fishing and if bites are slow I tend to try others as required. By using the set up shown it is on the work of seconds to un-clip one trace and put on another.
Storing traces is important as you will probably end up carrying around a number of different ones. There are lots of commercially available trace carrier systems but if you want to go down a different route you can make some up with discarded ends of pipe lagging. This works fine and is the most commonly used carriers in this area.
Hope that help you sea anglers a bit when out chasing doggies. To me they are a much under-valued fish who give sport on many days when nothing else is around.