July 10 2024

My Experience Eating Dogfish

by Ryan Collins

This article was originally published during the summer of 2021.

Dogfish is one of those fish species that many fishermen curse. They often take baits intended for more sought-after species such as bluefin tuna or striped bass. Dogfish tangle lines and are difficult to get off the hook.

While growing up I would sometimes hear how eating dogfish is common in Europe. I learned how dogfish is served overseas as "fish and chips". Nevertheless, despite catching many dogfish in my life, I never tried eating dogfish until recently.

During the summer of 2021 I finally had the opportunity to eat dogfish and today I want to share the dogfish eating experience with you! But before I do that, I think it’s a good idea to learn a little more about this undervalued fish.


Specifically, the rest of this blog post we'll cover:

Feel free to skip to a particular section by clicking on the table of contents above. Or simply scroll down to continue reading.

What Types Of Dogfish Are There?

Dogfish are a slender, small shark, with triangular fins. They have oval shaped eyes which are elongated. An average adult dogfish is about 48 inches long, with some specimens a bit larger and others a bit smaller.

Dogfish have a blunt, tapering snout. It’s also common for them to change colors thanks to melanophores (pigment cells which permit color change), which helps them to stay camouflaged against the color of the bottom.

There are two types of dogfish, mainly the spiked dogfish (also known as the spiny dogfish or Cape Shark) and the smooth dogfish (also known as the dusky smooth hound).

The spiked dogfish is popularly known as Cape Shark. One characteristic that makes it unique is the fact that it has no anal fin. Instead, the Cape Shark has two spines which can give an angler quite the prick.

If you look close in the photo above, you can see two sharp spines located immediately in front of each of the spiny dogfish's dorsal fins. Photo attribution: Doug Costa, NOAA/SBNMS, Public domain

I was once hit by a Cape Shark's spine and the puncture immediately swelled to the size of a golf ball. Eventually the swelling subsided and I ended up just fine, but it was still quite the shock!

Spiny dogfish live mostly in shallow temperate waters, however you can occasionally find some further away from shore.

The smooth dogfish is a houndshark species, and it’s either brown or olive grey in color. It can also have shades of grayish white and yellow.

The smooth dogfish above was photographed at the Nantucket Shoals during August of 2021. Notice how this type of dogfish does not have spines in front of each dorsal fin.

Smooth dogfish have 10 rows of blunt, flat teeth, which is quite different when compared to other sharks. These teeth work quite well for things like grinding and crushing food.

Smooth dogfish have quickly become a seafood worth trying for a lot of people. Once you get into dogfish cooking you'll notice that a lot of dogfish recipes call for smooth dogfish, although you can find spiked dogfish (Cape Shark) recipes as well.

Where Do Dogfish Live?

According to Wikipedia, smooth dogfish can be found in both brackish and salt waters. You will mostly find them in the North Atlantic from Belize to Canada, but there is another population in the far south Atlantic off the coast of Argentina.

Distribution map of the smooth dogfish (Dusky smooth-hound) Chris_huh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Smooth dogfish can be found swimming in waters up to 200 meters deep, but more often than not they will stay in much shallow waters of up to 18 meters deep. 

Cape Shark (spiny dogfish) on the other hand live in various oceans throughout Planet Earth. Cape Shark can be found off Cape Cod, Australia, in the Mediterranean, off the southern tip of Africa and elsewhere.

Distribution map of the spiny dogfish (Cape Shark) Chris_huh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Both smooth and spiny dogfish are known to migrate due to changing water temperature, which is why it’s common to find them in the mid-Atlantic region towards New England during the summer, and near Chesapeake Bay and the Carolinas during the winter. 

Dogfish are an active shark which you'll commonly find swimming along or near the bottom of the sea floor. The reason is simple, this is where its prey resides, hence why dogfish are so commonly caught while fishing for other bottom dwelling species such as fluke.

What Do Dogfish Eat?

This past summer while eating dogfish for the first time, I began to think how the dogfish's diet might affect the taste of their meat. For example, I personally think dogfish taste very similar to fluke, and the reason could be because fluke and dogfish feed on many of the same prey items.

Dogfish are known to eat during the day and during the night, and their diet varies based on location. More often than not however, you will find dogfish eating mollusks, small fish, shrimp, lobsters and crabs.

In a sense, dogfish are eating some of the best tasting seafood in the ocean! Perhaps this helps to explain why the smooth dogfish in particular has such good eating flesh.

Pictured above is a smooth dogfish fillet, harvested from the Nantucket Shoals during the summer of 2021. Notice how closely the color of the fillet resembles that of a striped bass.

Also on dogfish's menu are a variety of larger fish like mackerel, sea herring, pogies, and sand lance. Dogfish will also eat live American eels, and I have caught countless dogfish while live eel fishing for striped bass. Honestly, I think most dogfish are opportunistic feeders, willing to bite a variety of prey items.

Dogfish are also preyed upon by other shark species, which might be one reason why dogfish often school in very large groups, in order to maintain a high level of protection. I have also heard stories about giant bluefin tuna having dogfish in their bellies.

Dogfish Fishing

As I mentioned earlier, for recreational anglers fishing off Cape Cod, dogfish are typically caught as by-catch while targeting other species. If you go fishing for stripers, tuna, or fluke, then it's just a matter of time until you wind up with a dogfish on the end of your line.

When you do catch a dogfish, just be sure to identify the species before trying to remove the hook. If you catch a smooth dogfish, then you have little to worry about. However, if you catch a Cape Shark or spiked dogfish, then definitely watch out for their spikes. 

Around the world there are many commercial fisheries focused on dogfish. As a result, according to Wikipedia the spiny dogfish (Cape Shark) is listed as a vulnerable species globally and has been overfished in various parts of the world. 

Male spiked dogfish reach sexual maturity at around age 11, and females not until 18-21 years of age. Since spiny dogfish are such a late-maturing fish, it can take many years to rebuild a depleted population of this type of dogfish.

However, in 2010 NOAA announced that the stock of spiny dogfish off the Eastern US coast to have been rebuilt. Recreational fishing accounts of an insignificant percentage of landings, compared to commercial fishing.

The Dusky smooth-hound on the other hand (smooth dogfish) are, according to Wikipedia, listed as a "Near Threatened" species. In other words, their populations are not as vulnerable to overfishing as the spike dogfish.

To catch dogfish commercial fishermen usually rely on bottom longlines, bottom trawlers, and sink gill nets.

What Does Dogfish Taste Like?

You can eat dogfish without a problem. Dogfish are edible and are regarded by some as one of the tastiest sea foods out there. If someone was to ask me what dogfish tastes like, I would tell them that smooth dogfish in particular have a flaky, firm texture, with a mild sweet flavor.

Eating dogfish is an experience, and something that every recreational angler needs to try out! For me, eating dogfish was exciting and unique, and I definitely recommend you give it a shot. It's pretty easy to find many enticing dogfish recipes online.

Dogfish tend to have a different texture based on the species. The spiny dogfish is supposedly quite delicious, but when I filleted a spiny dogfish this past summer I did not find the meat to be all that appealing.

The texture was "different" and it just didn't smell or look all that appetizing. My wife Lauren was not interested in cooking the spiny dogfish fillets, so unfortunately I cannot comment on the quality.

In hindsight, perhaps I did not handle the spiny dogfish properly. Maybe I should have gutted and filleted the Cape shark immediately while at sea, instead of waiting until I got home. I will try again during 2022.

On the other hand, my wife and I thought the meat of the smooth dogfish looked very similar to that of a striped bass. It was amazing! I was honestly shocked by the high quality fo the smooth dogfish fillet.

When I caught this smooth dogfish I immediately gutted and filleted it while at sea, just minutes after catching it. Perhaps this helped to make a difference. I then kept the fillets on ice, but not directly on the ice, as freshwater could damage the quality of the meat.

How To Fillet Dogfish

Filleting dogfish is a little different than filleting your normal fish. The first thing you might notice is how dogfish do not have bones. Instead, dogfish have cartilage, which you'll want to cut around and remove.

Before making the following video I consulted some online resources to see if I could discover the best way to fillet dogfish. When you watch my dogfish filleting video, please keep in mind that filleting dogfish is something I had never done before.

Nevertheless the results were pretty good! The type of dogfish used in this video is a spiny dogfish (Cape Shark/spiked dogfish). I have also used this same filleting technique with smooth dogfish and it worked out just fine. 

However, if you plan on filleting smooth dogfish, then I would also recommend viewing the "Smooth dogfish fillet and release" video which I have included a link to below. I will probably try the smooth dogfish filleting technique shown in the "Smooth dogfish fillet and release" video at some point during the upcoming fishing season.

Dogfish Cooking Ideas

I have read that dogfish is a versatile fish which can be grilled, fried, sauted, pan-seared or broiled. I have also read about people cooking dogfish by baking or roasting the dogfish in the oven. Dogfish recipes all over the map!

Last summer we decided to keep our first dogfish cooking experience as simple as possible. My wife Lauren chose to pan fry the smooth dogfish fillets and it came out terrific.

Pan frying dogfish is extremely simple and is just like pan frying any other whitefish. Here are the steps we followed for pan frying the smooth dogfish fillets:

  • For pan frying, we typically use vegetable or grape seed oil, because these oils have a high heat tolerance.
  • We first dredged the dogfish in flour, then dipped the dogfish in egg, before rolling the dogfish in panko bread crumbs.
  • The oil in the pan was heated to medium or medium-high heat, and then we pan fried the dogfish until it was golden brown on each side.

The Fluke vs. Dogfish Challenge!

During August of 2021 I went fluke fishing several times with My Fishing Cape Cod member Bruno Demir onboard his boat the Gaviota.

Aside from being a knowledgeable fluke angler, Bruno is also the owner of Cape & Islands Mitsubishi, if you ever need a new or pre-owned vehicle (especially trucks) then Bruno is your man!

During one of the fluke fishing trips with Bruno we caught a large smooth dogfish and of course I decided to keep it. I filleted the dogfish onboard and gave Bruno some of the dogfish meat to try with his family. 

Later that night Bruno pan fried the smooth dogfish, along with some fresh fluke. He then challenged his son to see if he could tell the difference between the two. You can watch the video below to see the result of the fluke vs. dogfish challenge!

As you can clearly see from watching the video above, it is very difficult to tell the difference between fresh pan fried smooth dogfish and fresh pan fried fluke. I suggest you give it a try and see for yourself!

In Conclusion

Dogfish will probably continue to be resented by most recreational anglers. Nevertheless, some people find them to be one of the most incredible, interesting, and delicious sharks in the ocean.

I personally think it's a great idea to try cooking smooth dogfish, because I had an incredible smooth dogfish dining experience, and I would gladly recommend them to everyone. 

This coming season I will be sure to try eating spiked dogfish (Cape Shark) again and hopefully my results will be better.

Do you plan on eating dogfish after reading this article? Please let me know by commenting below!

Tight lines ?

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  • It truly is a delicious tasting fish that can be prepared many different ways. I was going to make a comment about the satisfaction one feels in eating their enemy but I was uncertain as to how that would be perceived so I won’t.

  • We LOVE dogfish! Also love that many don’t have any idea how good it is so hubby comes home with plenty from half day fishing trips! Makes amazing fish tacos, great for baking and deep frying. For me, the no bones is a bonus!

    • That is wonderful to hear Elissa how you love dogfish! Sorry for the late reply to your comment, as I’m just noticing it now. Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts on fish tacos and deep frying. I really appreciate it!

  • I am a professional chef and worked with commercial fish processing companies looking to get the general public to try dog fish or now know as cape shark. I experimented with many recipes also knowing that supposedly that is what English fish and chips were made of. At the time the boats in New Bedford were bringing in 60,000 lbs per trip. I found the flavor acceptable but my one turn off is the texture very soft and shelf life short also . We also worked with skate and the ammonia smell would show up in a couple of days. Most went to Europe for cafeteria use

  • Will definitely try it if we hook one this summer….caught one and released it last summer while fishing for black sea bass on one of the rocky ledges off the mouth of the Westport River.

  • Sounds like good eats to me!

    I’ve caught a few off the beach in NC, but at the time was of the old school. Next time, “it’s what’s for dinner!”

    • Awesome Bill! As I mentioned above just be sure to bleed, gut and bury the dogfish in ice immediately after catching it. Let me know how it turns out for you. Good luck this summer on the water!

  • Caught a spiny dogfish for the first time today and used your video on how to fillet it and it was very easy and came out great, thank you! Great read about them and very informative.

  • I first fished Dog Fish about 50 years ago out of Seattle, WA. Dog Fish Tours as I recall. Went out in the sound and that’s all we caught. They filleted them. We ate them and loved them. Have no idea if they were smooth or spiny. Never caught another until I was on a head boat out of Hyannis. Deckhand unhooked it and immediately tossed it back. Told me I didn’t want that fish. Not good eating. He was surprised when I told him they specifically fished them in the Northwest, and they were good eating. Any fish markets selling the fillets on the outer cape? Thanks.

  • Nice to see the dogfish get its due as a delicious eating fish! It holds up well to all kinds of preparations. If I was fishing for tuna, I am sure I would be cursing them, but they’re a fun, hard fighting catch when bottom fishing on light gear. Thanks for the insight!

    • I never thought I’d say this, but I will definitely be targeting smooth dogfish during 2022, LOL. I also need to give spiked dogfish another try. Lots of fun eating less targeted species like dogfish, sea robins etc.!

  • I’ve always heard about people eating dogfish but never really thought about giving it a try myself. Might have to consider it next time I hook up, especially if it’s a smooth dogfish. Thank you for the article!

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