SHARK; GUMMY and SCHOOL
Sci: Mustelus antarcticus and Galeohinus galeus
Common Names: The gummy shark or "gummy" (M. antarcticus)
is often confused with the similar-looking school shark (G. galeus). Both belong
to the family Triakidae. Other names for the school shark include tope and snapper
shark, and the flesh of both species is usually marketed as "flake", particularly
in southern states. The gummy shark is almost identical to the smooth hound found
in British and European waters.
Description: The gummy shark is a long, relatively lightly-built
shark. The second dorsal fin is almost as large as the first, and both are slightly
rounded at the top. There is a small tentacle or whisker adjacent to each nostril.
The gummy shark's back is dusky grey to greenish-grey or greenish-brown, fading
to white or cream on the belly. The back and upper flanks are sprinkled with small,
light-coloured spots. The school shark or tope is more streamlined. The first
dorsal fin is considerably larger than the second and the snout is more pointed,
giving it a whaler-like appearance. There are no obvious tentacles or whiskers
around the nostrils. The school shark's back is grey to bronze, fading gradually
to white or cream on the belly, and it has no obvious light spots. The most conclusive
way of distinguishing these two edible sharks is by examining their teeth. The
gummy has flat, grinding molars arranged like the cobbles in a footpath, while
the "schoolie" has small, sharp, cutting teeth.
Size: The gummy shark grows to a maximum of about 1.7 m
in length and weights approaching 30 kg, although it is more common at half that
size. The school shark or tope is larger, occasionally attaining 1.8 m in length
and weights of 30 to 35 kg.
Distribution: Gummy sharks are found in the waters
of central and southern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania,
South Australia and around the West Australian coast to
about Geraldton or Shark Bay. They prefer deeper, offshore
waters, but will range along beaches and rocky foreshores
and occasionally enter large, deep estuaries, harbours and
bays. School sharks range through our temperate and cool
to cold waters, from southern Queensland to about Geraldton
in Western Australia. They are also found in Tasmania and
New Zealand. Their habitat preferences are similar to those
of the gummy shark.
Fishing Techniques: Both these sharks, particularly the
gummy, are eagerly targeted by southern anglers. The majority are taken by surf-casting
fisherman along ocean beaches and around the mouth of larger estuaries and bays,
but many are also landed by boat fisherman working offshore grounds, bays and
harbour waters. Besides those caught deliberately, many are taken, or at least
hooked, by anglers targeting snapper, flathead and salmon. Best baits for both
types of shark are reasonably large slabs of fresh fish or strip, whole pilchards
or garfish, squid or octopi. In their larger sizes both these sharks are strong
and active fighters, and sturdy tackle is needed to cope with them. A wire trace
or leader is best when fishing for school sharks.
Eating Qualities: Both these small sharks are highly-rated
table fish, especially in southern states, where "flake" is the ubiquitous accompaniment
to fried potato chips. Both species have firm, white meat and no true bones. The
flesh is particularly well-suited to frying in batter. To improve the flavour
of the cooked flesh, both tope and gummy sharks should be killed and bled by severing
the head and tail immediately after capture.