When it comes to seafood delicacies in Victoria, gummy shark is highly prized. However, correct preparation is paramount to ensure they’re at their best on the table and this begins as soon as they come aboard your boat.
Dispatch them quickly and humanely to reduce by-products that build up in the blood. Lactic acid can accumulate in the blood stream, saturate the muscle tissue and detrimentally affect the flavour of the flesh.
If a gummy remains alive for a time after being caught, there’s an increased chance of the flesh becoming bruised as they thrash around the deck or in the icebox.
The quickest way to dispatch a gummy is a few hard and sharp blows to the back of the head with a small club or ‘billy’ as they are sometimes called.
The gummy then needs to be bled. This is absolutely vital with gummies and other sharks to avoid an ammonia taste in the flesh. Most people bleed gummies with a long and deep incision horizontally behind the head, which allows the blood to run out.
Personally, I also like to gut gummies and make sure the bloodline that runs down the spine is cut out. Do this by running the tip of the knife down the length of the spine, just piercing the visible bloodline.
Once all this is completed give the gummy a quick rinse out in the water then put it on ice immediately. If I’m cleaning fish in this manner and am continuing to fish, I put the entrails into a bucket rather than dumping them over the side of the boat. I prefer to avoid having gummy guts floating down my berley trail and past other prospective gummies.
Once at the cleaning table, take a fillet off each side of the shark then remove any fins that may be attached to the fillet. Now the fillets need to be skinned. Lay the fillet with the skin side down on the table and, with a sharp knife, run the blade between the flesh and the skin, trying to leave as little flesh on the skin as possible. Once removed, discard the skin and remove any small pieces of cartilage that may remain on the flesh.
I try to avoid washing any fillets from fish caught in the sea in fresh water. Instead, I wipe the fillets down with some paper towelling to remove any excess spots of blood.
Cut the fillet up into pieces and bag them up in appropriately sized portions.
The great thing about gummy shark is that it freezes exceptionally well. I believe that freezing can actually improve the taste by ‘quietening down’ any residual ammonia taste.
Normally two weeks in the freezer will see gummy fillets in prime eating condition.
CURED EEL AS GUMMY BAIT
For years I’ve considered fresh trevally fillets to be the number one bait for gummies. Recently though, there has been an enormous amount of interest in cured eel as the new champion of gummy shark baits.
With Western Port experiencing perhaps the best gummy season ever, I decided to head down there and put cured eel to the test.
That session on the water got a little hectic to say the least, so what follows is a time line of the events that transpired.
00:00 Arrive at favourite gummy spot, anchor, set 3 baits, rods no.1 & 2 with eel and rod no.3 with trevally.
03:10 Rod no.1 with eel on it loads up, spool screams.
06:23 Land 10kg gummy with flying gaff, dispatch and send same bait out again.
07:15 Start bleeding gummy.
07:17 Notice tip of rod no.3 quivering.
07:24 Retrieve rod no.3 and remove small flathead, discard remains of trevally bait then reset with eel. All rods now baited with eel.
07:46 Continue bleeding first gummy.
07:58 Watch rod no.1 load up.
08:01 Watch rod no.2 load up.
08:03 Watch reels on rods no.1 & 2 light up in unison.
08:10 Grab rod no.1, start fighting fish and keep careful eye on rod no.2.
10:33 Large gummy now boat side. Notice flying gaff is still in first gummy. Make executive decision to grab boat side gummy by the tail and pull into boat. Notice this gummy has collected both baits from rods no.1 & 2.
10:42 12kg gummy and I hit the floor together, landing on top of first gummy.
10:51 Short but violent struggle ensues.
11:28 Look down while still kneeling to see gummy blood all over new runners and new shirt.
11:45 Start wiping blood off clothes and hands and make mental note to retrieve rod no.3 before another strike now that I’ve reached the bag limit.
11:47 Rod no.3 cranks over as tip edges towards water.
11:49 Make desperate lung at rod no.3 only to slip on remainder of trevally carcass that has fallen from bait board to the floor. Do split-arse-broadie across free board nearly going overboard.
11:59 Hurl remainder of squashed trevally over the side.
12:02 Reel on rod no.3 hits overdrive.
12:04 to 12:31 100+ metres of line disappear off spool under 5kg of drag.
17:21 Gummy no.3 is boat side and is huge (est. 15kg+). Leader is cut near hook and gummy no.3 calmly swims off.
20:00 Look at mess on floor and decide to clean up later. Retrieve anchor and head for home.
Not a bad session. Will have to give that eel another go sometime soon once I’ve recovered.