Best Baits - Prawns and Shrimps

Part two in a series, by Phil Ellerton, on the best baits to use in Tasmanian waters.

This issue, I decided to discuss one of Tasmania's most commonly used recreational baits - prawns and shrimps. Prawns and Shrimps are a particularly relevant bait at this time of the year, with a lot of anglers targeting winter species such as bream and flathead.


First things first, where to get the bait. If possible, the same as any bait used, live bait, or as fresh as possible will get the best results. Small live shrimps can be found in many of Tasmania's various estuaries and rivers. A simple butterfly net is by far the most effective, because nothing can fit through the tightly woven net. You can gather shrimp in either broad daylight or the shelter of the night by simply scooping the net carefully through the submerged weed beds. If all else fails there is always a ready supply of frozen bait at your local tackle shop. Although the fresh alternative is the better of the two. Some anglers prefer to decapitate the prawn or shrimp fully shelling the body, presenting the bait in a nice, bite size cutlet. I personally prefer to present the bait as natural as possible, always leaving at least part of the shell remaining. I also find that if the bait is a little soft the shell helps in holding the flesh together. Always remember to make use of all available fish attractors, (berley), with the small usable shrimps or prawns, shells or heads making for an exciting entrée for your average fish.

Target Species

Prawns will catch a variety of species, irrespective of their bottom or surface preferences, their not being many fish who will resist a well presented prawn. Prawns will be readily accepted by a wide range of species including: Silver trevally, salmon, Bream, Flathead, Mullet, Mackerel, Leatherjacket, Wrasse, Whiting, Warehou (Snotty Nose Trevally) and many more. Prawns are one of the best all round baits for our sometimes finicky feeding bream. I have personally had success chasing the sometimes elusive Silver Trevally which can enter out estuaries and bays at certain times of the year. I have heard of patient anglers catching sea-run trout on prawns intended for a big Derwent River Bream. A live shrimp in any of the East coast bream destinations will not have a very long and productive life span. Prawns would also remain one of the commonly used flathead baits. Mostly because of their relatively tough flesh staying on the hook particularly well when targeting species in our bay and offshore regions.

Rigging and Gear

There is no specialised prawn fishing gear. Standard spinning tackle being quite sufficient. A mentioned in the last issue, I prefer to use as light a line as possible fishing between 1-4 kg (depending on conditions) Normally a small piece of leader is recommended, especially when dealing with fish renowned for biting through line (species such as bream, wrasse, leatherjacket and flathead). Again rod length is not important with it being entirely up to the individual. I prefer a rod between 6-9 ft a lot of the 9 ft bream rods with a very soft taper, being ideal for this type of fishing. A thread line reel is the most practical and affordable to use. A standard running sinker is the most effective rig to use, although depending on the fishing conditions a paternoster rig always works wonders. The size of hook used is dependent on the size of bait being used. If using a small live bait shrimp a small size 8 or even 10 would be quite sufficient. On the other hand if using a large king prawn (which tastes better on your plate rather than a fish) a size 4 may be needed. Swearing by the chemically sharpened hooks I use the Gamakatsu, octopus, red coated hooks, the red working as a great camouflage when hidden in a prawn. Just recently I was referred onto the Shiner hooks, by the same brand, looking like your standard grub hook they are brilliant when fishing a dead bait, a prawn threading on perfectly. The size six being the most effective. Remember to check regulations when netting shrimp or prawn.

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