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Prawning - A beginners Guide
Posted: 16/03/07 11:00:00 (Australia/Sydney)
This arcticle has been viewed 54935 times.
from Blacksmiths, NSW
This "How To" - Prawning - A Beginners Guide, was inspired by a question on here, in one of the forums a while ago,(Prawning Around Sydney). While not being an expert on the subject, hopefully I can share enough information to get people started.
Prawning is a fun activity for the whole family. During the summer months Lake Macquarie and predominantely Swansea Channel become very busy with family's and friends out to get themselves a feed of fresh Prawns. There are a couple of ways to catch yourself a feed of fresh prawns, with alot of people prefering to wade the shallows. If you dont like to get your feet wet you can also sit on a jetty or pontoon that is out in the main current and take your chances with what the current brings to you.
The 4 or 5 days around the new moon are the best time to prawn. Pick a night when the tide will be starting to run out a few hours after dark. Once the tide starts to run out, its time to start prawning. How long the run lasts, is totally dependant on the month, night, wind and of course how the prawns feel. You cant do much if their not there, just move around a little until you find the thickest line of them. This may require you to move a few times at different stages of the tide.
Prawns I am told are the same as crab, in that the best months for them are any month with a "r" in it, septembeR through to apRil.
My method of prawning is to anchor just outside the channel and netting the prawns from the surface as they float by on the surface as they move out to sea on the outgoing tide.
The most important factor to a succesful prawning trip is to anchor on a weed line as the weed is what the prawns hold onto for cover and protection from preditors while they move out to sea.
If the main weed line is in the channel you can use your motor or electric motor to move through the channel with one person driving, looking out for other boat traffic, while another person or person's scoop the prawns. But do not anchor in the channel as this is a navigation hazard and you can be fined by the NSW waterways. Or worse still, be involved in an accident.
As the prawns are coming towards you if you shine your lights on the water just infront of the boat you can see the prawns eyes glowing red (As can be seen in one of the pictures here abouts).
There are some different lights available to buy from tackle stores for prawning, including ones similar to the ones I have made but if you can get your hands on some of the gear cheaply they are easy enough to make.
My Helmets consist of a Miners Helmet (They have the mounting bracket already on them), a baked Bean tin, a low voltage down Light (they fit in the Baked Bean tin perfect), and enough cable to enable free movement around the boat. A 12 volt coupler wired about 300mm from the end of the cable to give an alternative power source, and 2 bulldog clips on the end to clamp straight onto my prawning battery. (I run a seperate car battery just for prawning but the 12 volt plugs give me the option of running them of 1 of the boat batteries).
I also include a 12 volt plug wired into the end of the cable so I can run my light's on a ordinary car battery with the bulldog clamps or if the battery goes flat and I can still run my prawning light on one of my boat batteries.
I dont have to worry about flatteniong my boat battery and not being able to get home as I have dual batteries in my boat. So long as my battery isolator is'nt set to "both" I still have the other battery to get home on if I flatten one while prawning.
Prawning nets are relitively cheep. All your local tackle stores should have them. Check with them while your there on the legal length of the handles. You want the most reach you can get as the prawns seem to come down just out of reach everytime.
If your scooping prawns that are to small they will simply fall throught the net when you lift it out of the water. Take it from me if there falling through dont be to worried as when there cooked up they shrink even further and these small prawns are hardly worth peeling when their that small.
You dont need to lift your net out of the water and empty it every time you get a prawn, any that are of a reasonable size will stay in the net. I simply leave the tail of the net resting on the surface with the rim (opening) of the net out of the water to stop any of them from flicking back out of the net. Emptying the net after every prawn simply wastes time with your net in the water and while your emptying it more prwns are floating past. Empty the net only when you need to as the drag from the current is getting to much, or there is a break in the eyes that you can see coming towards you.
Once you have caught enough prawns (maximum legal limit in NSW -10Lt bucket - I have never caught that many or anywhere near that) you need to sort your catch, for this you will need a pair of gloves. The gloves are to protect you from anything dangerous that you may have inadvertantly caught, such as Blue ringed octopuses and Fortesques. What is a Fortesque? I here you ask. A fortesque is a small fish that is very common when prawning as they also like to live in the weed that the prawns hide in on their way out to sea. A picture I took can be found with this article. While my picture is'nt very clear, these small fish have a powerful punch and will have you in alot of pain if they prick you with their spines, of which they have many. Sometimes you get lots of them sometimes you dont get many, just be careful as being stung by one of these fella's will see you haveing a day or 2 off work before you feel well again.You need to be careful when emptying your net each time that you dont grab one of these guys stuck in your net, this is the most likely time you will get stung.
As for Blue Ringed Occy's they are very rare to catch when prawning, but you wont get over a bite one of these guys, they are poisonous and should never be touched. This is the reason some people like to sort their catch from the sea weed with a pair of tongs.
After sorting your prawns from all the weed and other stuff you netted, its time to cook them. I do this by getting a large pot, half filling it with water and add salt to make it the same consistency as sea water. I have been told formulas to do this such as, so many tablespoons/cups per liter of water, but I find the best way is to taste it till it taste right to you. Bring the water to the boil and add the prawns. You may need to do the prawns in 2 or 3 batch's, as to many prawns will bring the temperature of the water down too much and the water will take too long to come back on the boil.
When you add the prawns it wont take long for them to cook, I wait for them to start float (usually 2 minutes depending on the temperature of the water), and then give them another 60 seconds. Then scoop them back out and put them staight on ice, add a handful of rock or sea salt and put them straight in the fridge. Give them an hour to chill and then their ready to eat.
Some nights you have good nights, some not so good. Just watch everybody else, ask people that seem to be getting a few if you have any questions and always be curtious to other people using the waterway.
In addition to the prawns, you will also get Crabs, Squid and Fish including longtom, Mullet, garfish and many others. So dont be suprised by what you catch and if you do scoop any crabs, return the females, abide by size limits and check your nets for any holes from there claws, the prawns will definately find any hole in your net and cut your catch rate.