Gurnard, Red – Chelidonichthys kumu
Other names for gurnard: kumukumu
The red gurnard look quite unlike other fishes. The eyes are set high on the large head, the mouth has only small fine teeth, and the body is long, tapering towards the tail. Most notable of all the red gurnard has a bright orange body colouring and distinctive large pectoral fins. These being blue green in colour with a blue fringe, together with a large dark spot within which are smaller white spots.
Red gurnard are the most common of the species found in New Zealand waters. The others are: the similar looking but smaller scaly gurnard, the spotted gurnard, and the yellow spotted gurnard. These other gurnard species are generally smaller and confined to deeper offshore grounds.
Red gurnard grow to as much as 60cm in length but most sold in New Zealand fish shops measure about 35cm and weigh a kilogram at most. They are generally found on open sandy bottoms rather than over fowl ground. They can be caught around most of the New Zealand coastline, usually in shallow water but they are also caught in offshore water down to 180m. Red gurnard are caught commercially in New Zealand by shallow coastal trawling. If you are fishing from a boat and are starting to bring up gurnard you have drifted off the reef out over sandy bottom.
This species are more numerous north of the Canterbury Bight. They are particularly plentiful in North Island harbours over summer.
The red gurnard lives on small crustaceans; mostly shrimps and crabs. But will also eat small fishes, shell fish and worms. As for bait they will readily take most cut fish baits. Tautuas are regarded as top bait for red gurnard as are the prawns you buy at the supermarket. Use the head and tail as two separate baits – tie on with bait elastic.
Some beaches around New Zealand fish well for gurnard whilst at others it is rare for surfcasters to catch them. Use 4/0 size hooks. Also keep your baits on the small side when targeting gurnard. They will be feeding on the bottom using their snout and feelers to probe the bottom for food.
Gurnard are hopeless fighters. Their main attraction for anglers is that they are very good eating. It is important to remove the row of small bones from each fillet before cooking. With that done gurnard are one of the best fishes to eat having firm pink flesh.