Red gurnard are an easy fish to approach and are often seen when diving for scallops. They are often not the biggest fish but can certainly make up for it in taste.
Hunting gurnard can be a really great experience, but with winter being the better time of year to catch them, it is important to prepare for a colder dive. Some things to consider would be a warmer suit for the trip and a cup of soup for the trip home.
Gurnard are not the hardest fish to hunt but a little bit of preparation will make the day successful. Venturing out after a heavy rain is not going to help. You will be diving in the shallows and close to the coast, so a good break in the weather will be important, and an off-shore wind will flatten out the sea to give you more comfortable and near-perfect conditions.
The speargun of choice is the one with good accuracy - a larger gun is not necessary. Often this is a good time to use a reel gun as you won’t require a floatline to haul in a gurnard.
To select a spot, take some time out to pull in to the first sandy bay, as we often drive past the good places in our hurry to get to “Spot X”!
To make it easy you need to bring the gurnard to you. They are bottom feeders, attracted to the sandy bottoms, so a really good burley will do the trick. When choosing your burley use one that has finer particles.
With sandy beaches we have a few predators which may include sharks. Using fish frames is a good way of asking for a shark to take your burley so although it might be pretty cool to see, it will scare away any gurnard, bringing you nothing for your day’s efforts.
The good old kina burley bomb you pick up from your local petrol station seems to do the trick perfectly. If this is not an option then grab a mincer and make your own from any fish you have left over - the key point with the burley is that it must be nice and fine.
Spearing gurnard is possible with shore diving but most beaches gradually get deeper over a long period of time and you could find yourself in trouble out too far. With this in mind, using a boat is recommended.
When we go for gurnard we take three to four burleys and spread them out over the bay, each one being marked with a float line and a flagged dive float. I set the burley up with either a burley cage or a cray net - both require some lead weight as frozen burley will float.
As you spear your gurnard, gill and gut them as you go as this will add to your burley. A depth of around 10m is usually more than enough to get onto gurnard. They often sit motionless beside the burley, filtering the scent so you are best to approach the gurnard from above, dropping quietly onto them and aiming for a head shot. This will ensure a nice clean kill without damaging the fillets.