Fresh prawns are a top shelf bait if you can catch them yourself and use them within a few hours - moonless nights and run-out tides are the best conditions for the prawns to 'run' from estuaries to the sea - standing in the current with a prawn light (or torch) and dip net can be productive on the right night.
Packaged, frozen prawns are a good bait for most species - whiting and bream are two popular species targetted with prawns.
Depending on the size of the prawns and the intended target species, prawns can be used as bait a number of different ways: whole or tails, peeled or unpeeled.
In general, all you need for prawning is a prawn net, and a torch. However, variations on this theme are also used. The common prawn-catching time of the year is said to be 'Any month with an "R" in it'. Nights where there is no moon, are also preferred.
The Run Edit
On moonless nights, in the middle of prawning season, you can practically stand in a channel near the entrance of a river on the run-out tide, and pick large prawns up with a net, as they float past on their way out to sea.
Cast Net Edit
On a calm night, in Queensland bays, prawning from a boat, with a cast net is the preferred method.
Hunt and Nab Edit
Prawns are usually still found in estuary systems outside of the 'prime season' and 'prime nights' - they're just a little harder to find. Walking the shoreline with a light, and using the net to scoop stray prawns, can still produce reasonable results.
No net? No worries. You're unlikely to get quite as many as you would with a net, but have a go at the following technique:
- Use a torch (rather than a submersible prawn light).
- Once you spot a prawn, try and guide him towards the shallows, then shine the light on him DIRECTLY from above. This will often get them to drop to the bottom, and start to dig into the sand. You may have to 'wiggle' the light a little to get them moving.
- Watch the direction in which they bury themselves. When they finally dig themselves in so that their eyes are under the sand (their antennae may still be just visible), slowly drop your hand over them (fingers to the side of the prawn, palm flat to 'push' them down into the sand more), and grab a handfull of sand - the prawn should be inside also.
A few dozen bait-sized prawns caught at night with a torch and dip net - they were converted to whiting and flounder the following morning