Gummy Sharks have been a favourite of mine for a very long time and, probably will be for the rest of my days. I have many great memories of hours spent on the water with great mates soaking baits and waiting for a reel to howl under load. It’s quite a relaxing way to fish and very rewarding when you start getting it right, not to mention gummy sharks are a high yielding fish meaning you get a lot of edible flesh for the weight of the shark making for a magnificent meal of fresh boneless fillets to keep all the family happy. When targeting gummy sharks, three simple but extremely important things to find success are fresh bait, proper bait presentation and location. Once you start to get these three elements working for you, it’s only a matter of time until you achieve your own monster gummy.
Gummy Sharks are part of the hound shark family and use their nose to forage and locate food. They have an extremely sensitive sense of smell which is why oily fresh baits are without a doubt the best option. Not only is “fresh is best”, most of the species we use for bait are easy to catch and can be heaps of fun too. Excellent baits for targeting gummy sharks are silver trevally, barracouta, squid, salmon, scad mackerel (or yakkas), slimy mackerel, salmon and mullet …just to name a few. I prefer a cutlet or chunk style presentation. This is basically fish that are cut strait through in cross sections along the body from top to bottom. This makes for hardy baits that withstand the constant attack of lice and small pinky snapper much longer than the more traditional fillet, or strip baits. Chunk baits have the same mass as a fillet bait but have less soft flesh exposed for lice and peckers to destroy. The chunk is also more of a “bite-sized” offering which makes it easier for the fish to swallow and therefore increases hook up rate. The baits need to be hydro dynamic which simply means presenting the bait in such a way that it does not catch current as it flows over it which leads to erratic spinning. Always test your baits in the current beside the boat to see how they sit before casting them out. The fish won’t attack unnatural spinning bait just like we won’t eat our meals from a ceiling fan. A single circle hook is the best style of hook when targeting gummy sharks and should be pinned lightly through the top of the bait making it difficult to be pulled off the hook unlike a fillet that can tear off easily.
Pin the baits so the circle hooks can roll with ease, allowing them to do the job they are designed to do and roll into the corner of the jaw for hook ups. This can also increase your chances of landing a toothy shark like school sharks or bronze whalers without the need of a wire trace. With the hook securely pinned in the corner of the jaw, bite offs are reduced if a toothy does take a liking to your bait.
Rigs and Gear
I run 10-15kg rods in both overhead and spin when fishing for gummy sharks. You want a rod with a light supple tip, which is critical for bite detection in deep water. A forgiving action is necessary so when the fish run or head shake it will aid in reducing pulled hooks or snapping fish off close to the boat. Light graphite rods provide a more enjoyable fight compared to heavy fiberglass rods. I like to use Nitro Godzilla rods when targeting gummy sharks and if you’re looking to purchase some new rods I recommend you check them out. A quality spin reel in size 8000-10000 or size 10-16 in overhead is adequate to target these fish. Make sure drags are serviced and smooth as a big gummy will strip line in quick bursts. My reels are spooled with 10kg line either in mono or braid attached to a sliding paternoster rig. The sliding paternoster rig consists of a large Ezi Rig with the clip removed and 30-45cm of 6kg line tied as a dropper (in replacement of the clip). We remove the clip of the Ezi Rig and tie on a dropper with a light breaking strain so if the sinker snags in the initial hook up of your prized gummy you will only lose the sinker and not the fish. The dropper also helps with casting and in current presents the bait just off the bottom in the view of predators cruising the currents.
An 80lb crane swivel acts as a stopper for the EziRig with 120-150cm of 80lb mono trace to tied an 8/0 circle hook at the terminal end of this simple but effective rig. The use of glow beads above the hook is a personal preference, but can prove to be very effective in attracting interest from Gummies as they cruise along with the current picking up the scent of your baits. Sinker size varies depending on current and depth. Always try to use the minimum weight required to hold bottom; it seems to get us better hook ups and does not hurt the wallet as much when you lose them.
Gummy sharks use the tide like we use an escalator; pushing them up and down the bays and estuaries to feeding or breeding grounds where they pup. Females bear live pups so they seek shallow areas out of the main tide flow to birth. The areas selected will also offer multiple food sources for the young pups to feed on and grow. Vast expanses of weeded banks that are out of the main tide flows and covered in crustaceans and invertebrates for the little sharks to feed can hold large populations of gummies. There are many things to think about when choosing a likely gummy spot. For instance, current strength, other boats in the immediate area and how the boat will sit at anchor will all impact on your success rate. As the gummies use the tide to race up and down our bays and estuaries searching for food, the best places to intercept these beasts are the bottom edges of channels. Think of the bottom of theses drop offs as the white lines on the edges of our freeways and highways; the gummies use them to aid navigation as they explore the waterways. These channel edges and drop offs are also major erosion points meaning that more current flows which gives the gummies an easier and quicker ride to their destination. The easiest way to anchor on these edges is to find a bend or finger pushing out into the channel you can easily drop your anchor on top of and release enough rope until your transom is in the required location, bearing in mind the basic rule in anchoring in tide is having three times the depth of rope out. If you study the tide charts, you will notice we get smaller tides in the week leading up to the full or new moon cycles. These smaller, slower tides allow us to fish deeper water so fishing edges of the main channels is a lot easier. These slower tides allow us to hold anchor effectively in the deeper water and we can keep baits on the bottom with less lead. Once you have anchored you need to fish the whole tide doing regular bait changes throughout the tide. Gummies are on the move constantly, therefore, the more you move looking for them the less likely you are to meet up with a beast. I prefer it not to be overly windy especially beam (or side) on when targeting gummies. If wind is challenging, the use of a bridle rope and sea anchor to help keep the boat steady and your baits from moving can double your chances of success. During the stronger current cycles in the month, you can use the same theories but just put them into practice in shallower areas say 8-14m I still look for gutters or smaller channels to anchor in instead of the deeper 20-35m of the main channels. If targeting gummy sharks offshore, I prefer depths of 20-40m and look for light rubble bottom adjacent to heavy reefs. These are ideal habitats for gummy sharks to forage around. If the weather and current allows, you can anchor on these grounds or sometimes drifting might be an easier option. When drifting, I suggest a standard Paternoster out of 80lb line and small 150mm leaders to run the hooks off.
Landing the fish of dreams
Once you have settled in on your chosen location and your baits are set, I suggest running your reels with about 2kg of drag and in gear at all times. With the trap set, the waiting game begins. The first indications of a shark munching your bait will be as your rod gets that sharp telltale bounce and nods of a gummy on the chew. Always let the fish take its time and don’t be tempted to strike too early and pull the bait out of the fish’s mouth. Gently pick up the rod from the holder and wait patiently; let it load right up with weight before you set the hook. Once you have set the hook, the shark will run – let it go and don’t adjust the drag as you enjoy the sound of a screaming reel. There is just something about the sound of line being pulled under load across the guides of your rod that always brings a smile to the face and gets the heart pumping. The Gummy will stop – they always do, and turn up current heading straight towards the boat. Typically a Gummy will stay low in the water column and you will experience the occasional head shake and small run. Smoothly and calmly collect your line as the fish allows you to and use the rod to keep the fish moving forward. If you are erratic and aggressive in your actions the fish will panic which can cause them to roll resulting in break offs. It’s always best to fish a limited amount of rods; I fish 4 rods when targeting gummies. When you are hooked up, it’s best to bring the other rods in so they are out of the way. Tangling during a fight can cause a lot of headaches and the other rods could cut off your fish. This is extremely important when fishing with braided lines. Once you have your gummy on the surface and boat side, take your time and calmly guide it head first into the net. This is when the mayhem will commence and your Gummy will thrash violently in the net. Get your capture into the boat and if you intend to release it, try to stop it from thrashing around too much as they can do injury to themselves banging around the floor of your boat. As soon as the fish is boated get the other rods straight back into the water – it’s not uncommon to catch other gummies within a few minutes of each other.
In winter, I make a few subtle changes when fishing for these magnificent fish. Once we have located our fishing spot (as described earlier), I fish right up until the end of the tide. If you are catching a lot of undesired species such as rays, skate, Port Jackson or draught board sharks, continue to fish through them until a gummy comes along, because at least you know you are in a feeding area. I have found that the best bight times have been an hour before sunset until a few hours after dark, it can be common to catch them in as shallow as 1.5m of water so land based is a definite option. We also decrease our bait size because there is less pickers like pinky snapper to destroy our baits so no need for the larger baits. Some great winter baits are small strips of fresh barracouta, squid with the odd piece of cured eel in the mix.
During the colder months, I prefer to fish the shallower areas in preference to the main channels. I believe that the gummies in these areas are more actively feeding and will hunt out your baits quicker. As always, give yourself plenty of room between yourself and others to increase your chances.
Now it’s up to you to use this new found knowledge and go hook up to the fish of your dreams as a big gummy takes the bait and hits the Nitro after burners.