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Beginner’s guide to catching prawns

Nothing beats a day of fishing followed by a delicious feast of prawns! With plenty of great spots across the Coast, there is no shortage of places to cast for prawns. The last month or so has seen an abundance of prawns as well as other baitfish in local waters, making it the perfect time to take advantage of the fantastic fishing the Sunshine Coast offers.

Catching prawns is a fun and rewarding experience for all ages, providing a great weekend or holiday activity for both adults and children. The easiest way to find where they are hiding is to look for boats casting for them – wherever there are prawns, there will be boats! All you need is a cast net and some enthusiasm!

When to catch them

The best time for catching prawns on the Sunshine Coast is typically from February to the end of May, but this is highly dependent on weather conditions and rainfall. Creeks and rivers benefit from good rainfall totals to flush freshwater towards the mouth and to increase the salinity in the water, which creates the optimal environment for prawns. 

Prawns are predominantly nocturnal creatures, making after sunset or before sunrise the times when they are most active. How active they are also depends on the tides, moon phases and weather conditions, so it's worth dropping into your local bait and tackle store or chatting with other fishos to get the most up-to-date info on the area you’re targeting.

Prawns like to move around under the cover of darkness, so nights around the new moon or cloudy evenings are our tip. Old fishermen and women will tell you that a new moon after rain is the prime time to catch them!

Photo Credit: Dan Park
Photo Credit: Dan Park​​

Prawns tend to congregate in deep holes in the hours before and after low tide. If you are prawning in a creek that is fed by a river, the first run-in tide of the morning is your best bet as prawns tend to migrate rapidly with the tide at that time of day. Try for the run out tide in creeks and rivers, or the tide change in open water.

How to find them

If you’re land based, try your luck around lit jetties, bridges or other structures - you’ll spot the red flash of their eyes if they are about. You can also use a torch to spot them in the water at night. Although you might be lucky enough to spot them on the surface, it's more likely that you'll find them in deeper water. If you’re fishing from a boat with a sounder, prawns typically appear as small, scattered dots, often in a cloud-like pattern. They tend to move around in large schools, which may appear as elongated shapes or arcs on the sounder display, depending on their depth and density. When you've hit the sweet spot, you’ll know it - your sounder will be flooded!

Photo Credit: Dan Park
Photo Credit: Dan Park​​

A quality cast net is your best friend when it comes to catching prawns. You should opt for a top pocket cast net, as the design allows the prawns to swim up into the net, making it easy to drop them in your bucket and get your net back out for another cast. Getting the hang of casting a net can be tricky, so make sure you practice before trying to catch prawns as reaction time is key. The quicker you can get that net in after spotting them, the greater your chance of filling the net. 

Catch Limits

There’s no size limit for individual prawns, but possession limits do apply. The Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries limits catches to 10 litres per person and 20 litres per boat (for two people or more). The maximum size cast net you are permitted to use is 3.7m, with a maximum mesh size of 28mm.

Keeping Your Catch

After catching the prawns, submerge them in an ice slurry of salt water and ice. If you’re not planning on eating them straight away, you can keep unpeeled prawns by freezing them in a container filled with water. The ice layer will help in preserving the prawns and keep them fresh.

Catching prawns can be a fun and rewarding activity for anyone who loves fishing and seafood. The Sunshine Coast is home to some fantastic prawning spots, providing an excellent opportunity to explore the natural wonders of our region. So, pack your cast net, head out to one of our beautiful waterways, and with a bit of luck you might end up with a nice catch!

Photo Credit: Dan Park
Photo Credit: Dan Park​​

As Published in Bush 'n Beach Magazine - May 2023

Corinne Aiken

Bait Master Fishing and Tackle

Carol's Garlic & Lime BBQ Prawns

Prep time


Cook time





Camping, BBQ


Fresh Prawns

2 tablespoons butter

4 garlic cloves, crushed 

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1 Lime, juiced

Salt and Pepper

½ teaspoon parsley

Lime wedges and aioli for serving


  1. Grill prawns on BBQ with a little olive oil
  2. In a small pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Once melted, stir in 4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, the juice of 1 lime, parsley and salt and pepper 
  3. Once combined spoon sauce over prawns 
  4. Serve with Aioli and grilled lime wedges

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