How to catch prawns in South East Queensland
There's a reason why these tasty prawns are such hot property over the Christmas period across supermarkets and fishmongers around the country. And let's not get started on the old, 'Put another shrimp on the barbie' colloquialism.
Regardless of where you sit on that one, prawns are as quintessential as snags and tinnies, and if you're still craving the delicious crustaceans after the festive season, you're in luck, as the annual prawn season is kicking off.
For those fortunate enough to reside in South East Queensland, Gold Coast and Far Northern NSW, school and banana prawns make themselves known in late summer and autumn, with good numbers attracting hordes of boats and anglers to some of our most popular rivers, bays and creeks.
The prawn season generally begins at the end of January and runs through till late March and even into April. The recent rain period has accelerated the nutrients in the coastal systems which has meant plenty of food for the prawns to feast on and obtain size at a rapid rate.
If you've never experienced a prawning season, there are a few things you need to know to give yourself the best chance of experiencing success, so let's delve a little deeper.
Where to find prawns
It's important to note that when it comes to prawning locations in South East Queensland, there aren't many secrets and when you arrive to a known location, there's a good chance you'll be joining a raft of boats.
Prawns can be found in most coastal systems in the region, but the popular spots have been showing signs of good activity and will be going gang busters over the next few weeks.
As tends to be the case with most forms of fishing, the first step to getting fish (or in this case prawns) into the boat involves finding them. To improve your chances, a good quality fish finder should be your first port of call for finding prawns, particularly in the deeper sections of creeks, rivers and bays.
A good quality sounder, such as those in the Lowrance and Garmin range will provide the advantage of revealing the whereabouts of prawns before your net hits the water, taking out the guesswork and making sure you're hitting the mark when sounding around likely areas. And the good news is, if you're new to the game or on the market for a prawning sounder, you don't need to empty the bank, as even the low to mid-range models will suffice for this style of fishing.
Check out this video for a visual depiction of what to look out for on your sounder when searching for prawns. You'll notice a scattered show of arches or symbols, depending on the sounder you run, as well as your preferred settings.
In shallower sections, such as the banks or over sand flats, prawns will often do themselves a disservice and reveal themselves in a similar fashion to baitfish fleeing from pelagics. With that in mind it's worth keeping an eye and an ear out for any surface activity while sounding around as a school could breach the surface at any given time.
Generally speaking, prawns are best targeted during the hours before and after low tide when they school up in the deeper water and holes found in various systems. Use your sounder to find shows of prawns and take note of the depth as you may need to have a longer rope attached to your cast net to get down to where they are.
Where are the best prawn locations?
On the south side, for those with access to a boat, Tingalpa Creek, Jacobs Well and the Brisbane River near the Colmslie boat ramp are known to produce plenty of prawns, while Logan River and the powerlines have also been producing good catches.
Areas to go and try your luck on the north side include Caboolture River from Monty's down to the mouth and Pine River around Deep Water Bend and upstream of the highway. Out front of Nudgee Beach is another hot spot for prawns. Just look for the boats and you should get yourself among the action.
Further north still, Caboolture River and Pumicestone Passage are both popular prawning haunts and can hold good numbers at times. Listen out for reports or pop in to your local Anaconda store and chat to one of the friendly staff members for updates.
For those without a boat, the good news is plenty of land based opportunities also exist. Places to focus your attention include lit boat ramps at night, creek mouths and from jetties. Just be mindful of what you are casting into and always give way to boating traffic.
Prawning gear guide
For those just starting out in the prawning game, you'll be glad to know that you don't need a lot of gear. In fact, it's as easy as equipping yourself with a cast net and getting out to one of the popular locations in the region to start casting.
When prawning it's ideal to use a 10' or 12' top pocket or a draw string net. Top pocket nets are ideal for those looking at a prawning-specific net as the crustaceans swim in an upward trajectory once caught. This makes it faster to get the prawns out, meaning you can get that next cast in sooner.
For those looking for a multi-purpose net, combination of top and bottom pocket nets are also available and make for good options if you target live bait such as herring.
A net with a chain bottom is ideal as they throw better, sink faster and really work the bottom to get the prawns mooching on the seafloor.
The Wilson Ezi-Cast monofilament cast nets are ideal for entry level prawners. It is a dedicated prawning net that features an oversized top pocket as well as a bottom pocket for extra prawns to be gathered. The full range is affordable and will do an admirable job of getting prawns onto the plate this season.
If you're looking to step your game up and want a top-quality hand stitched custom net, check out the Pro Throw cast nets and ropes.
These nets are hand sewn with 4 reductions using UV stabilised Dyneema for all panel joins to open with ease when thrown. They also feature a large functional pocket to quickly remove your catch. Designed by a gun angler and local to the South East Queensland region, they're made from high grade monofilament mesh and have proven highly successful in recent times.
Regardless of the net you choose, look for something that doesn't have wide gaps in the mesh as you want to reduce the amount of prawns that slip through. Something around the 27mm mark is ideal. You want something with a reliable top pocket that capture the prawns and keeps them there during the retrieval process.
Salt water is not a friend when it comes to fishing gear unfortunately, so a good tip is to give your nets a soak in fresh water after use to ensure it stays in tip-top condition throughout the season.
How to throw a cast net for prawns
Casting a net is akin to riding a bike. It can be difficult to master in the beginning but practice makes perfect and once you get it, you won't forget how to do it. There are different methods for casting a throw net and once you find a way that works for you, stick with it.
It's a good idea to watch some videos online or feel free to ask someone in-store for tips and advice. Practice in your backyard or a park if room permits before hitting the water and keep doing so until you're comfortable with a casting technique that you can implement all day.
Caring for your catch
Once caught, you want to care for your prawns as best as possible to ensure they stay fresh and taste delicious once you're ready to eat them.
As you should when keeping fish for the table, it's best to keep prawns in an ice slurry where they'll cool down quickly without placing too much stress on their bodies. If you don't plan on eating them fresh, they can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container.
When it comes to eating them, well the sky's the limit as prawns are super versatile and can be used in many ways, so get creative in the kitchen and knock something delicious up. You really can't beat the taste of fresh prawns!
Know your limits:
Before you hit the water, make sure you're up to speed with the latest regulations in your region. Containment areas can also change due to white spot, so you need to be privy to this information.
Queensland regulations limit your possession bag to 10L per person with a total of no more than 20L per boat, regardless of how many people are casting.
For all the gear and tackle you need to get among the prawns this season, check out our prawning essentials.