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Code of best practice for the capture and release of common skate by recreational anglers


The purpose of this 'code of conduct' is to act as a guide for the capture and safe return of common skate caught by anglers.

The common skate is one of the few species of fish where local populations can suffer as badly from poor angling practices as from commercial fishing pressure. The once prolific grounds off the Northern & Western coast of Scotland were wiped out in the 1970's due to the now frowned upon practice of anglers bringing skate ashore to be weighed and photographed, before their carcases were ignominiously dumped off the end of the local pier!


§ When angling for skate use appropriate tackle.

§ IGFA 30lb Class gear should be regarded as the absolute minimum to use. Ideally 50-80lb Class should be used. This is as much to combat the 'inhospitable' conditions in the areas where skate ate targeted. i.e. Deep water, strong tides.

§ The use of heavier gear allows the skate to be landed more quickly, i.e. not exhausted, allowing it to be released in better condition.

§ Terminal tackle needs to be strong and is best kept simple.

§ A single 12/0 bronzed hook (e.g. Mustad 3406), preferably with the barb crushed down is best. Never use stainless or plated hooks, as these will not biodegrade if they have to be left in a skate.

§ Keep hook links short (maximum of 24"/60cm). Short hook links are absolutely necessary to minimise the chances of deep hooking your skate. These should be made up of 150lb (minimum) b.s. monofilament, crimped to a quality 200lb rated swivel.

§ Rubbing leaders. This hook link should then be attached to an 8' (2.4m) rubbing leader or 'wind on leader' made of 150lb b.s. monofilament. (See diagrams 1 & 2). This is to protect the mainline from the sharp thorns on the skate's tail. This leader also helps when bringing the skate to the side of the boat.

Striking a take

§ Always 'hit' a take as quickly as possible - never wait for a run to develop as this will almost always result in a deep-hooked fish. Don't worry about missing a bite; skate can and do, swallow very big baits in seconds.


§ When a skate is brought to the side of the boat, it can be held quite easily by holding the trace and then getting a firm handhold at the cheek area of the skate.

§ Large specimens may require to be gaffed to aid holding the fish. This needs to be done with great care. The gaff should be used only in the area outside the halfway point of the leading edge of the wing and no more than 4" from the leading edge. (See diagram 3). This gives a secure hold and poses no danger to internal organs.

§ If the fish is deep hooked, DO NOT attempt to remove the bronzed hook. Simply cut the hook link as near to the hook as possible and release the fish. You can do more damage by trying to retrieve the hook and a living skate returned is worth more than the cost of a hook!

§ Deep hooking can and does cause fatal injuries to skate. TRY TO AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS!

§ Return all deep hooked skate to the water quickly. Give it a chance of survival.

§ Measure the wingspan and the length, check the sex and then obtain the weight from charts available from Glasgow Museums.

§ If the fish is tagged, note the tag number BUT DO NOT REMOVE IT BEFORE RELEASING THE SKATE.

§ Try to avoid bringing the skate into the boat if possible, they can be measured and the tag (if any) checked at the side of the boat.

§ If the skate has to be brought onboard, for whatever reason, have everything to hand before doing so in order to release the fish back into the water as quickly as possible.

§ FINALLY, if you catch a tagged common skate, please fill in the details on the attached sheet and send to RICHARD SUTCLIFFE, ART GALLERY & MUSEUM, KELVINGROVE, GLASGOW, G3 8AG.


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Copyright: Davy Holt 1996 - 2005