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Gurnard are a strange looking fish with red coloring, big green wings, three legs and a large shovel for a snout. Gurnard live almost exclusively over sand and mud bottoms where they feed on crabs, shrimp, small fish and worms. They prefer a depth anywhere between 25 to 55 meters but can be found anywhere less than that too. They commonly live to around 16 years, and can grow as large as 65 cm in length and weigh 2.8 kg in weight. This is rare, however, and most fish will weigh around 1 to 1.5 kg. Gurnard spawn throughout the spring and summer.
These fish prefer sand and mud bottoms, so if you find these types of areas then you will probably find gurnard. Any drop offs, channels or change in depth can congregate gurnard in big numbers so be sure to check these types of areas. Looking for sand in a wavy pattern is a great indicator of excellent gurnard habitat. As with a lot of forms of fishing, the tackle you use must be selected dependent on the species of fish that you are targeting. Hooks that are too big will not fit into the small mouths that they use for small prey, so sizes 2/0 to 4/0 are recommended. Placement of the hooks on a line can greatly improve catch rates and having a hook closer to the bottom will make it easier for the fish to find and eat. Try to use the sharpest hooks that you can find, which will make hooking a fish much easier.
Gurnard are bottom feeders, chasing small fish, crabs, and shrimp. They tend to respond well to flashy rigs and colorful lures, but yellow, red, and orange ones work great. When choosing a bait, anything that is smelly works best. Gurnard eat crabs, shrimp, and small fish so all of these will work as bait, but anything with a strong scent will see more success. A few popular choices are pilchard, tuna, blue mackerel, and sanmar. Lures can be successful depending on what the fish in the area are feeding on. They also tend to be more aggressive during spawning season, making them easier to catch with a lure as well. The real key is to find a lure that is small enough to fit into their tiny mouths. The hook must also be in the right position to properly hook them in the mouth. Gurnard will hit a bait or lure hard, and try to run away with it. Be ready for a strike, and set the hook to ensure you can get a catch.
Gurnard are great fun to target and one of the best eating fish in the ocean. It can be very exciting to see the bright red colors and green wings coming up out of the water, and these unique fish are unlike anything most people have ever seen. They are a fish to be respected and enjoyed, and hopefully many anglers will now get out and enjoy them.