A TREMENDOUS tope of 68lb put a smile on Basildon angler Mick Toomer’s face when he fished aboard the Eastney-based charter boat Moonshine.

The fish, believed to be the largest tope landed so far this year, came on the first cast of Toomer’s first tope session of the season.

Toomer and pals Rory Coase, owner of Southend Angling Centre, and Ricky Cook, proprietor of Churchgate Angling, had started their day fishing an inshore mark for black bream.

After netting numerous bream, dogfish, a bass and a wrasse on light gear, the trio switched to boat-casting tackle and tope traces when the skipper moved the boat to a more distant mark.

Within minutes of casting out at the new spot all three anglers were fighting tope, moving around the boat as the three fish crossed and re-crossed the lines.

Coase’s and Cook’s fish were males of around 30lb each, while the 68lb female tested Toomer’s 20lb line with three long runs before using its weight in a dogged battle deep in the water.

The trio went on to share seven more tope weighing between 25lb and 35lb before the increasing tide strength and problems with weed forced them back inshore.

The big fish was Toomer’s 16th tope of more than 60lb, with his personal bests being fish scaling 70lb and 72lb 8oz.