Bull Huss

  • Scientific name: Scyliorhinus stellaris
  • Also known as: Greater-spotted Dogfish, Large-spotted Catshark, Nursehound, Rough Hound.
  • Size: up to 5ft and 25lbs. Shore caught typically 3ft and 3 – 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.
Bull huss is a member of the shark family which is found predominantly around the southern and western coasts of the Britain. This fish is much less common than its close relative the dogfish and – as it grows to larger sizes – it is therefore a much more highly regarded fish by anglers. Bull huss tend to feed more at night, spending the days hidden away in cracks and crevices in rocks, or seemingly ‘asleep’ on the seabed. They generally prefer deeper water and rockier ground but it will move into quite shallow water to feed if food is available there. Like the lesser-spotted dogfish they also reproduce by giving birth to young in protective egg cases known as mermaid’s purses.

Distribution

Bull Huss Distribution

Worldwide distribution of the bull huss.

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 coastline 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 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, 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 on seabed

Bull huss often rest on the seabed during daylight hours, and feed at night.

Bull huss are usually found in rocky and broken ground with anglers targeting this species in areas near to rocky outcrops which offer a good depth of water to cast into. Fishing for bull huss requires the use of hooks of at least 2/0 – 4/0 in a strong pattern, although some anglers prefer to use larger hook sizes up to a 6/0. Baits need to be fairly big and a single hook rig is usually used. 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, herring, 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 as many anglers find as they try to unhook this species. The shore caught record for this species is a bull huss of 19lb 14oz caught by G. Ebbs from Pwllheli Beach in Wales in 1992. The boat caught record was set in 1986 with a bull huss of 22lb 4oz caught by M. Hall off the coast of Somerset.

Differences 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.

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