By Jesse Rotin
Gummy sharks range around the whole southern half of Australia, anywhere from the shallowest of sand flats to the deepest of ocean drop-offs, right through to bays and inlets along the coast. Having strong fighting abilities plus a delicious taste makes this species an enjoyable and also a popular target down south. Every year many anglers like myself, devote countless hours out on the water even in some less than desirable conditions targeting these beautiful creatures. Gummy sharks are a member of the hound shark family, which over other species of sharks has the ability to sense out and hone in on prey with ease. So it’s only a matter of time until the large nostrils of one these Speckled Grey Hounds picks up on the trail of your bait.
Tidal flows certainly play a major role in the capturing of Gummy sharks and can sometimes be the vital difference between having a red hot session or a quiet rod watching affair. I tend to favor the run-out tide when fishing from a boat, but highly recommend the run-in or high tide period when targeting Gummies from the shore especially at night. The main preference to higher water levels is that in the cover of darkness Gummies will often swim into water as shallow as few foot to feed up on mouthfuls of crabs and various other crustaceans.
Rods in the 5-15kg range and reels from 3500-5000 sizes are ideal for the hunt. My favorite Gummy outfit, which I also use to target Yellowtail Kingfish and Southern Blue fin Tuna on, is the Saltist Hyper 64CJ matched with the Saltist Nero 4000 which is spooled with 300m of 30lb multi-colored J-Braid. Outfits like this are more than efficient to stop even the largest of Gummies, with an added bonus that it also enables you to retrieve less appealing species that may have pinched your bait for example Banjo’s sharks, Port Jackson shark’s and Stingrays in quick succession. I find being set up to get your baits back out swiftly while the bite is hot will bring greater success as the bite window some session’s may only last as little as 30 minutes. One crucial bit of gear I find to help in a scenario like this, which I never leave home without when chasing Gummies is my Daiwa small tackle organizer, where I keep readymade rigs, extra leader material, and spare terminal tackle like hooks, swivels and sinkers. This great bag also has a couple of large compartment trays which are full of a range of lures.
Location, location, location:
One of the most important key’s to catching Gummy Sharks on a regularly basis is finding the right location. Gummies mostly feed on crustaceans and smaller invertebrates and the best place to find these little critters is on sand and mud flats. There are no set depths when searching for that special spot, but I find positioning yourself around channels drop offs and the edges of sand bars are perfect starting points. A technique I recently picked up on which is also perfect for shore based fishing, is to position yourself in areas where there may be channel markers within casting range as your offerings will be presented right on the edge of a channel drop off. Lastly once you’ve found a location, its best to be patient allowing the scent trail of the bait to work its magic and it’s up to the gummies to do the rest.
Rigs may vary from angler to angler, also in the area you may be fishing. I find the running sinker rig with twin fixed hooks to be the best all-rounder. Octopus/Suicide or Circle styles hooks from 4/0-7/0 I favor the 5/0 size most. Tied on 40-60lb leaders of around 1m in length connected to a quality ball bearing swivel. I also attach an Ezi-rig onto the mainline with a 20cm dropper of 20lb line to a snap clip this allows you to choose the right sinker weight for the session. Sinker weights and shapes like rigs do vary depending on tidal and water movement at the location. Star sinkers are ideal for shore based or surf fishing, they will not only hold bottom best but keep maximum tension in your line. I favor bomb sinkers for boat fishing especially for rough terrain as they roll around more freely, therefore less likely to snag up. It pays to keep a wide variety of sinker weights to shapes though to suit all conditions. Gummies spend most of their lives cruising and hunting along the sea floor, searching for a likely feed and if you’re presentation is not holding bottom therefore being dragged away by current there will be a slim chance of crossing paths with a Speckled Grey Hound.
Gummies can be caught on a wide range of different baits, anything from the humble old Pilchard right through to a fillet of freshwater eel, which have both accounted for their fair share of Gummies over the years. Fresh baits, I believe significantly raises the catch rate and also put you within a shot of other favorites like Mulloway, School Sharks and Snapper, which all inhabit the same areas as Gummies. Australian Salmon fillets would have to be my favorite bait but you can’t go past fresh Calamari/Squid, Silver Trevally, Tommy Rough, Yellow eye Mullet, Yellowtail Scad, Cowanyoung and Garfish which are all prime baits. Chunk or streamline fillet baits are paramount over whole and uneven baits, as they will more often than not foul any potential hook-ups plus spin unattractively and unnaturally in the current, which will more than likely be rejected by Gummies and many species alike.
On the table:
How could anyone forget flake’s delicious taste and high demand on the seafood market? If you do decide to keep a gummy for the table, then I recommend that they should be bled immediately after the capture and once cleaned, the fillets to be left in a freezer for up to a day. This will improve their already delicious taste plus kill off any strong ammonia flavors sometimes left behind by the skin. I prefer to release Gummies around the 10kg mark and over, especially the females because they are the future breeders and may even be pregnant with live pup at the time. It’s best to release these big girls after a few quick pictures and continue catching these lovely creatures in years to come.
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