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Spiny Dogfish

Squalus acanthias

Spiny dogfish

Often regarded as a nuisance by saltwater salmon fishermen, spiny dogfish is a small shark species found in British Columbia and many other parts of the world. Their high abundance in British Columbia makes them an easy target for young anglers who wish to catch plenty of fish in a short period of time. While consumption of spiny dogfish is uncommon in North America, they make up a large export to Europe and Asia where the flesh is used as battered fish and fins are used as lower grade shark fin soup.

Spiny dogfish can grow up to 5 feet in length, but most of the fish anglers encounter are between 2 and 3 feet long. It is a slow growing species. Sexual maturity is only reached after 20 years and they can be as old as 80 years. Because of this, heavy metals such as mercury are known to accumulate in their body so consumers are recommended to avoid eating large spiny dogfish.

Beside British Columbia, spiny dogfish are found in most inshore waters of North and South Americas, Europe, Australia, Africa and South Asia. In North Atlantic, heavy demand has lead to overfishing, which has given this species the vulnerable status. In British Columbia, spiny dogfish's population remains healthy while commercial hook and line fishing practice is done with relatively low impact.

Spiny dogfish can be caught in most inshore saltwater locations throughout the year. You can fish for them from a pier in water as shallow as 10 feet. From a boat, salmon anglers often encounter them when trolling with bait such as herring and anchovy. To specifically target spiny dogfish, simply use a variety of bait such as herring, squid, prawn which are strongly scented. Bring your bait to the bottom by using enough weight, depending on the tidal current in the area. Like all shark species, spiny dogfish have rows of sharp teeth which can easily cut your fishing lines. Thicker monofilament line or wire trace may be needed to avoid this.

Spiny dogfish are surprisingly tasty. Their white flesh is ideal for frying. In UK and Australia, they are known as rock salmon and are served as "huss" or "flake" at fish and chips stores. For preparation, fillet your fish and skin each fillet as soon as possible after it is caught. Be sure to only consume small, younger fish which are less likely to have high concentration of heavy metals in their body.