Islay Tope Festival

The Scottish Shark Tagging Programme joined the annual Stormcats Islay Tope Fishing Competition took place on Lochindaal on the weekend of the 21st and 22nd August. The event is centred around Bowmore harbour which gives great access to some good tope marks at the head of the Loch. Most of the tope fishing is done in less than 8m of water which makes for some excellent angling with the tope putting in some amazing runs!

Conditions on both days were variable, with heavy swells to start each day which improved as the day went on; overhead conditions included most Scottish West coast weather including rain, mist, wind and sunshine.

This did not deter Seventy anglers taking part on 22 boats over the two days, a mixture of adult male, juniors and females. The £20 entrance fee (for both days) is donated to charity, along with a large contribution from St James’ Place Wealth Management of £1000; the total raised was £2200 which is split between the RNLI and local charity Islay & Jura Sick Kids’ Fund. The majority of anglers are local to the island but there are regular competitors who travel form different parts of the UK to fish. Anyone interested in fishing this competition next year will be made very welcome.

Stormcats are a local boat building company owned by Gus Newman who was the founder of this competition 5 years ago; he donates a prize of £400 for the heaviest tope caught over the two days and he enjoys seeing many of his boats out on the loch with keen anglers aboard. Other prizes are donated by local distilleries and businesses and are awarded for the second and third heaviest tope, as well as heaviest fish and heaviest bag, alongside prizes for winners in the female and junior section.

Altogether eleven tope were tagged and released over the two days and this is a new record for this competition, numbers of tope in the Loch seem to be constantly growing, and this is the first year that females were caught in the area too. Historically, we have had only a few males. Of course there were many more lost beside the boat, lots of runs that got away and extended tales of close encounters! We’re looking forward to receiving information about any of these tope if they’re re-caught somewhere else.

The smallest tope caught was 25lbs and unbelievably the heaviest tope prize was shared between two that weighed in at 44lbs each. The next size down was 43 lbs, all very close in weight. In previous years, we have had tope to over 60 lbs. All tope were in excellent condition and returned unharmed.There were also some great Pollack caught around the mouth of Lochindaal which were entered (and won) the heaviest fish and heaviest bag prizes.

Having made contact with the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network and the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme, some of the Islay anglers are planning on taking part in the Sharkatag weekend next summer.

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