- Scientific name: Scyliorhinus stellaris
- Also known as: Greater-spotted Dogfish, Large-spotted Catshark, Nursehound, Rough Hound. When sold as food they may be know as Rock Salmon, Rock Eel or Flake.
- Size: up to 5ft and 20lbs. Shore caught typically 3ft and 4 – 8lbs.
- UK minimum size: 23inches/58cm in length
- UK shore caught record: 19lb 14oz
- IUCN Status: NT (Near Threatened)
- Distribution: Found primarily along the southern and western coasts of the British Isles, although can turn up elsewhere. Also present from Scandinavia, throughout the Mediterranean and along the northern coast of the African continent.
- Feeds on: Small fish, sandeels and cuttlefish, but will also eat crabs, prawns and marine worms and shellfish.
- Description: Long body with two dorsal fins set very far back on body and prominent pectoral fins. As a shark species fins are not segmented with rays or spines and multiple gill slits are present on both sides of the body. Colour is generally brownish to yellow with large spots across the body. Mouth set quite far back on underside and nasal grooves do not reach the mouth. Underside pale/white.
As stated the bull huss is mostly found to the south and west of the British Isles, although it can be found in smaller numbers all around the coast of the UK. Their range extends throughout the most of Europe’s seas, as they are found in Scandinavian waters along the coast of Western Norway (although not in the Baltic Sea). They are also found along the Atlantic coast of Europe and throughout the Mediterranean Sea, although their range does not extend into the Black Sea. Bull Huss can be found along the coast of Africa as far south as Nigeria and Cameroon.
Commercial Value and Conservation Status
Like the lesser-spotted dogfish the bull huss has very rough skin which was once in demand for smoothing wood and as an alternative to sandpaper. The liver was – and in some cases still is – used for oil. The flesh is also sold as food and is more in demand than that of the lesser-spotted dogfish. Bull huss is sold on fish counters throughout the Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries, and in the UK it is sometimes sold in fish and chip shops as ‘rock salmon’, ‘rock eel’, ‘flake’ or a range of other names. Unfortunately, bull huss is much less resistant to overfishing than the abundant lesser-spotted dogfish and commercial fishing has seen its numbers reduced greatly over recent years, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. Bull huss are caught in trawls, on long lines and in static and drift nets. There is evidence that bull huss are much less abundant than they once were and they are classified as Near Threatended by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). For this reason most anglers return any bull huss that they catch.
Methods and Techniques to Catch Bull Huss
Bull huss are often found on rough ground, although the water doesn’t need to be particularly deep. After the breeding season huss may move onto different types of ground and fishing at beaches that have shingle or are near to rocky outcrops may produce results. Fishing for bull huss requires the use of hooks sized 2/0 – 4/0, although some anglers prefer to use larger hook sizes. Baits need to be fairly big so a single hook rig is usually used, and it is a good idea to clip the bait down to aid presentation. Some anglers upgrade to 80lb or 100lb mono for snoods as huss have sharp teeth that could potentially bite through weaker mono. Bull huss are not fussy eaters and mackerel strip or a small fillet is a good choice of bait. Squid, cuttlefish, bluey, sandeel, peeler and hermit crabs are all other baits that can also get results. While bull huss generally feed at night, coloured water, very overcast skies or fishing in deep water can see them caught during the daytime. If anything the skin of the bull huss is even more abrasive than that of the dogfish and this can prove problematic to anglers trying to unhook the fish.
Difference between Lesser-spotted Dogfish and Bull Huss
Small bull huss can often be confused with the lesser-spotted dogfish, with the main differences being that the bull huss is larger, has bigger and more widely spaces spots on the body and has nasal grooves which do not meet the mouth, whereas the nasal grooves of the lesser spotted dogfish do meet the mouth.