Prawn Rush


I was like a kid taking their first visit to the candy shop.  The excitement didn’t wane as I stood on my feet the whole night with net at the ready to scoop the prawns.  I would totally recommend it to any man, woman or child that has not yet experienced prawning.  It was thrilling watching the prawns rush out with the tide but also an experience watching the surrounds of nature and how everything unfolds before the prawns start to run.

I had only been prawning about three times in my life before.  Twice I had been to the back of Lake Illawarra wading in the water scooping the prawns out of the weed and the third was down Sussex Inlet when they weren’t really running hard.  There was only one or two prawns coming down every couple minutes and worst of all I would miss most of them.


When a good mate Efton asked Scott and I to join him for a prawning night on the dark of the moon there was no way I was missing out.  The week couldn’t go quick enough.  The plan of attack was to be on the lake just before the outgoing tide change.  Trying to work this out was trial and error.  It turns out we were about 3 hours early but that has now given us an indication for future ventures.  It doesn’t matter which river system you are fishing you should take note of the official tide change and then go and watch the river/lake and take note of when it does actually change on the water.

In the summer months the prawns run from their cover of weed beds and sand and head to the river mouth out to the ocean.  In Lake Illawarra we were able to anchor up on the west side of the bridge, just off to one side of the main channel and wait armed.  It was a great time to take in the surrounds while the tide was still running in.  The water was crystal clear and the bottom could be seen easily.  The pelicans were resting on a sand bar and there were fisherman on top of the bridge.  About half an hour before the tide changed we started seeing flathead appear under the boat, bream moving through, people starting to yahoo from the bridge of their fish captures and the pelicans became restless starting to move into the water.  Before we knew it, it was feeding stations all round.  The tide started screaming out and the red eyes of the prawns were glowing under our torch lights.


I had a few lessons come quick and fast then as a few prawns gave me the shimmy shimmy shake and went around my net.  Maybe I was just a bit naïve but I thought you just put your net in the water and they swam into it, not so.  You could pick the bigger ones out by the size of their eyes and as they got closer you could see their bodies, they would pause in the torch lights for a bit and then you had to make the quick jab with the net predicting what way they were going to flick off.  I found a little trick which made life a little easier was to just lift your torch slightly once you had them close and before going for the jab, they didn’t seem to move as much.  Another lesson was once you thought you had one shake it to the bottom of the net so it doesn’t swim out again.  When you start getting a few prawns in your net you will need to empty it otherwise it acts like a big drag in the water against the current.  We had an esky with some water in it that we emptied them into.  It was everything I was hoping for with yelling and bantering amongst us “get this one, did you see that one, I think I got him”.


Watching weed clumps come down with a number of what we called – “hitch hikers” on it was fun.  You just saw a row of gleaming red eyes clinging to the weed clump as they camouflaged themselves against predators.  We seen a couple of crabs go by laden with eggs and occasionally you would see a fish or two coming in for a feed.  The pelicans at this stage were gorging themselves.


You must be careful when emptying your net of fortesque.  They are really tiny spiky fish that give you a nasty pain when spiked and are good getting entangled in the net.


What you need is a “prawning net” this is a long handled net with tightly netted mesh so the prawns cannot swim through and some strong lighting to spot the prawns.  We noticed as the night went on and our lights got a little dimmer it was harder to spot the prawns through the water until they were really close.  If prawning from a boat you will also need an anchor and a bucket or esky to put your catch in.  You do need a fishing license to go prawning and the limit is a 10litre bucket per person.



After staying throughout the whole tide we realised the first half of the tide seemed the most productive with the largest amount of prawns rushing out, it then thinned out until towards the end when we experienced more short bursts.  We got home at sunrise this day, we weighed up and separated our prawns and then went home to cook them, had a shower while they were cooling and then refrigerated them and had a feast after we awoke from a well deserved sleep.  They only took a few minutes to cook, once they change colour and float to the surface they are done.


Fresh prawn rolls with homemade seafood sauce were the bomb.  I can’t wait until the new moon next month.


7 responses to “Prawn Rush

  1. Reminds me of my first serious prawning adventure. January 1956 I went for a night session of prawning in the mangroves south of Townsville. Rub mud on your face, hands and feet and make sure there were no openings in the long sleaved shirt or long trousers. On the water by 11pm so we could use the tide to drift down the creek we lived on and go and work “Sandfly Creek” after the change of tide we worked back doing quite well in “Little Sandfly” to eventually get home just after sunrise with 40kg of good big prawns.

    During the seven hours of rowing the boat or casting the nets all of the mud had been washed off so that now my hands, face and feet looked like raw liver from sand fly bites. The worst part was 3 days in bed with a bad fever the best thing was my body gained an immunity to sandflies.

    So for the past 57 years I have not been bitten by sandflies or mosquitoes. Though 5 years ago at Hinchinbrook I did ask the guide for the Aeroguard and he said “why you don’t get bitten?” and I replied ” I’m just sick of the little buggers walking around my eyelids”

    Yes prawning can be a good outing. Cheers.

    • Ouch Bruce, I am glad we did not have to worry about the sandflies or the mosquitos on this particular night. Sounds like a trip you will never forget.

  2. We did this for many years prawning the channel that runs along side b
    ull island and under the southern side of the bridge, we prawned on the eastern side of a deep hole raising to a shallow area ,forcing the prawns to raise making it easier to net them. I’m talking 70’s and 80’s often catching an 80 lt garbage bins full. So you would prawn from dark to 4 in the morning, no limit In those days. and after cooking the prawns it was probably 9 or 10 am before you went to sleep. great times, glad the now have a bag limit on prawns. the only problem was the Pro had zig zag nets near the entrance so not to many got through, great fun and time at Windang.

    • Wow, Allan that is a lot of prawns, even with the 4.30 kg we had caught and split between us, we still had to invite friends over to come and share. I couldn’t imagine what you you would have done with an 80litre bucket, but that was the norm back then, I am glad there are bag limits too.

  3. Pingback: Four things I plan to do these holidays… |·

  4. Is it legal to catch prawn around the bridge from the bank? I heard that its illegal (even with a simple pawning net), I was planning to go there in a couple of days any one recommends any based spot/location?

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