Down south sharks are viewed in a totally different light compared to more northern parts. There's a few species of sharks that roam southern waters which are highly sought-after both for the lively scrap they provide on rod and reel, but also the sublime eating they offer.
School shark, seven gill, bronze whalers and makos are a few of them, but undoubtedly the cream of the crop is the gummy shark.
While they don't have a set of fangs, the gummy still provides all the other antics you expect from a shark which can still reach solid sizes, and when it comes to the dinner plate a feed of gummy is some of the tastiest tucker the ocean gives up. It's no surprise they attract considerable commercial and recreation attention.
Gummy sharks are accessible to a lot of anglers down south, and given they live in both offshore and inshore waters, shore and boat sessions are possible.
Catching these sharks boat-based is a whole lot of fun, and many gummy encounters aren't when you're deliberately targeting them, but rather they're common bycatch when after snapper, whiting and other reef and sand loving species. Many reefs that have sand nearby seem ideal for gummies, however any lively reef system can be a potential haven for them.
When bottom bashing the gummy bite is hard to miss. It'll usually be felt as a few heavy thumps up the line followed by a lot of weight, while conversely the strike can be a 'hit and run' affair and you'll be getting instantly smoked.
So many gummy shark encounters offshore end with the shark being lost as ill-equipped anglers struggle to hold what can be a powerful animal. Gummies will at times roll up in your line, go on blistering runs and generally test out both your terminal gear and the rod and reel in use.
We generally don't berley heavy for these sharks offshore as it can attract other bait stealers, but it can work under the right circumstances. We've also noticed in deeper water that when a shark arrives on the scene all other fish life will go quiet. Often when we're into a hot whiting bite and things go dead we'll point the finger at the gummy and sure enough regularly someone gets a big hook-up not long after.
Victoria probably has the most well-established bay fisheries for gummies, although any location in their range can provide chances not that far from shore. Gummies will feed and move through channels and hold near any low-lying reefs in inshore waters. They are a fairly mobile shark, so sitting and waiting is often required.
From the Beach
Catching gummy sharks from the beach is a popular pastime and while many of these sharks are taken by anglers after jewies, no one seems to complain too much when a glowing set of eyes is spotted under torch light and the long, pale grey form of a gummy hits the sand. Thankfully when fishing with mono leaders they are one of the few sharks you can consistently land on the beach without getting bitten off.
A majority of gummy encounters in the surf occur at night, unless you're fishing more remote beaches or those with particularly deep gutters. Choosing your location should be based on a having clean looking water in front of you, with your gutter having a branch that extends to deeper water. Any reefy structures nearby will only further encourage a gummy to come in for a look.
A berley sack staked into the sand will further increase your success, or you can introduce regular chunks to the wash by hand to tempt them in.
Gummy Tackle & Bait
The key to landing gummy sharks regularly is to not fish to light for them and to show them some respect. While the odd gummy will come in without much of a fight, a majority will at some point of the encounter wake up and go berko!
For offshore and inshore waters 30lb mainline is a good starting point, with up to 80lb braid standard. We've been tied up even on heavy gear for a considerable time on gummies well over 6ft long. I like a rod around the 7ft in length for bite detection and to have a bit of fun.
Your leader set-up is crucial also and I prefer a long wind-on of at least 80-100lb plus. I've seen this wear through quite easily however when a shark has rolled in the trace, but it does keep you connected if they're tail slapping your line or running you around near reef.
In the terminal department if you're specifically chasing gummies a leader of 60 to 100lb mono is preferred, with octopus or circle hooks up to 8/0 used. In deeper water paternoster rigs work fine, while for surf and shallower parts a running sinker arrangement is best.
If you intend on keeping your sharks be mindful of how you're going to land them. A gaff or net is often used in a boat, while surf anglers will 'tail' their shark or use a gaff if they want it quickly secured.
In terms of what to be serving them, nearly any fish flesh and squid can be used. Surf fishos will find any mullet, salmon etc. they can pull from the suds and slab up or use whole will work a treat. Boat-based we've found squid to be number one, however any oily fish flesh like slimy mackerel, tuna, or even garfish etc. will be found and eaten no worries. Try and keep your bait fresh and in the best possible condition if you want to improve your return on these sharks.
A lot of fishos practice catch and release on gummies, particularly the big ones and those obviously pregnant with young, which is a good way to approach this fishing rather than looking to kill anything you land. This said, they are ace eating and one or two sharks will provide ample flesh for many meals.
Caring for you catch is vital, even more so when it comes to sharks. If you're keeping a gummy remove its head and gut as soon as you can and scrape out the bloodline down its spine. Also cut off any fins including the upper tail lobe. This 'trunk' should then be iced down for skinning and filleting. Once the sides have been removed and skun, the fillets should be further cut into sensible sized portions then vacuum sealed and frozen. Gummy shark flesh freezes remarkably well and comes up a million bucks when coated and lightly fried, or even used in fish curries. Enjoy the tenacious fight of the gummy and savour the thick, moist white fillets you'll be privy to afterwards!