Sharks around Tasmania

The business end of a Gummy shark
Carl Hyland
Some time ago, I mentioned that recreational anglers were having great success on catching target species of sharks in Tasmania. Some of these species included gummy shark, seven gilled shark and school shark. The most common capture around Tasmania's coast line are gummy sharks. I have covered the basics on what is the best method to take these fish in previous articles but it is just as important to know where to capture these much sought after fish plus be aware of the bag limits and closed areas that apply to them.

Almost all of the estuaries in this state are closed to the taking of any shark as they are determined to be breeding nurseries. Most people are surprised when you mention sharks in Tasmanian Rivers, because if they don’t see them, they think they aren’t there and most recreational anglers know, nothing could be further than the truth. Alongside the recreational targeted species there are also the large pelagic predators such as Great whites, and Makos. Tiger sharks are virtually unheard of in Tasmania but most of the larger predators are the great whites.

Whilst sharks and rays are targeted by anglers as a sports fish, there are many who look upon them as a food source and whilst this is okay whilst numbers are high, over fishing and pollution can have a detrimental effect on the population of these species. There is a possession limit for shark and rays in Tasmania and it is sharks and rays - other combined excluding elephant fish (boat limit five).

Elephant fish are not considered to be included in the shark family, but are more closely related to rays and the possession limit for them is two fish per day.

Gummy sharks are much sought after and here’s a little information on them within Tasmanian waters…..Gummy shark are bronze to grey with small white spots found along the body and a pale belly. Females grow to a length of 175 cm and males to 145cm. Ageing studies indicate that they can live for as long as 16 years. Females tend to increase their size throughout their life, whereas males' growth slows after about ten years. Gummy sharks are widely distributed around the southern half of Australia from Brisbane through to Shark Bay in Western Australia including Bass Strait and Tasmania. These sharks give birth to live young from October through to December, with pregnancies lasting up to 12 months. They carry between one and 40 pups with an average of 14.

Since the 1960s, a number of shark refuge areas, where it is illegal to take sharks of any kind other than elephant fish, have been proclaimed around Tasmania. With evidence to suggest that gummy sharks are being fully exploited, the importance of shark refuge areas to protect this species and school sharks cannot be over emphasized. There is evidence through tagging studies that gummy sharks are capable of large migrations from Tasmania to Western Australia, larger females making longer journeys than males. Gummy sharks are carnivorous and feed on crustaceans, fish, squid and octopus. Both gummy and school sharks form the basis of the flake fish and chip market. The flesh is firm and tasty though it should be well bled and preferably frozen to remove any ammonia taint.

Gummy shark, known because of it's lack of teeth.
Carl Hyland

Sharks can be taken right around the state and some hot spots are….Tamar Heads, Port Sorell, Bridport, East Coast, Southern Tasmania,

Many other species of shark are targeted by anglers and one important species is the Mako or short finned Mako as it is correctly known. Many are now opting for catch and release and I believe it is something that should be encouraged in this sport as this is an important fish in the food chain.

Spots for Mako fishing include Bass Strait, North Coast, plus Burnie and Southport in Southern Tasmania.

A lot more boating anglers targeting Mako are telling of encounters with Great whites and there was only one in the North of the state last week….

For those who wish to know more about sharks in Tasmania, I can recommend the book, White Pointer South by Chris Black.

Carl Hyland