Prawns are a hugely popular resource for Perth fishos, with more than 50,000 people going prawning each season, mostly in the Swan-Canning and Peel-Harvey estuaries.
The best time to catch prawns is using a strong torch and a hand scoop net in the shallows on calm summer evenings, during the dark phases of the moon between October and February.
Prawners’ lights can be seen illuminating the estuaries at this time as they chase western river prawn (Metapenaeus dalli) and the larger western king prawn (Penaeus latisulcatus).
Prawns are prolific breeders – a female river prawn can produce 300,000 eggs in a spawning, while the king prawn may lay up to four times as many.
Fishing pressure can take a toll despite this breeding capacity.
There is a closed season for prawning in the Swan-Canning and in parts of the Peel-Harvey system, with a different season on the Serpentine, Murray and Dandalup Rivers.
The life of a prawn is dominated by the moon.
When young, prawns grow rapidly, moulting their shells to coincide with the full moon (and high tides) each month.
After reaching maturity, growth and moulting slow.
Live river prawns are almost translucent, having blue tips and a greasy feel.
King prawns are cream in colour, with brown body markings and blue legs and tail fins.
While a river prawn spends its life in rivers or estuaries, a king prawn goes through larval stages in the ocean, and settles in coastal bays or estuaries.
During spring, river prawns reach a catchable size of about 5cm at 10 months.
In contrast, king prawns do not achieve this until Jan/Feb, but can reach 8cm by late summer when they begin their journey back to the ocean.
Female king prawns grow larger than males.
A female prawn caught in Shark Bay measured 24.4cm long and weighed 99g.
Such is the popularity of prawning in WA that about four million prawns were stocked into Perth’s two major rivers following a reported decline in stocks.
Restocking began in 2013, and between May 2013 and March 2015, about 2.5 million juvenile prawns were released into the rivers.
Another 1.1 million prawns were released in December 2015, and about 1.5 million more in 2015-16.
WA’s commercial prawners catch more than 2000 tonnes of prawns a year.
In 2014 more than 50 per cent were western king prawns and almost 25 per cent were brown tiger prawns.
Prawns can be legally taken using a single hand-dip net, a single hand-scoop net, or a single hand-throw net.
Throw nets are not permitted in some areas, such as the Swan and Canning rivers.
A single prawn hand-trawl (drag) net that is not more than 4m across with a mesh of not less than 16mm, and not attached to a boat or set, can also be used.
Check the latest WA prawning regulation before fishing.
Bycatch such as crabs and seahorses must be returned to the water.
Fishos may may not use, or leave unattended, a prawn hand-trawl net in the Harvey Estuary and its tributaries, Peel Inlet and its tributaries, Peel Inlet channel entrance, Dawesville Cut, Leschenault Estuary and its tributaries, and Swan River within 100m of any part of the Pelican Point Nature Reserve, or within 100m of the Milyu Nature Reserve.
The Swan River has great fishing at times, see our detailed Swan River fishing spots page here.
Gear tips for Western AustraliaThese recommendations are for landbased fishing for WA's temperate species.
Bluewater boat-based fishing requires different gear from that listed below, although the same rod-reel combos can be used for temperate and tropical regions.
In WA's northern rivers and estuaries, a baitcaster combo is recommended for barramundi and threadfin fishing, along with specialist barramundi lures, however spinning reel combos can also be used.
A 3-6kg spin outfit is the ideal all-rounder for WA's temperate estuaries and sheltered waters, chasing bream, flathead, herring, small salmon, skippy and whiting. See eBay listing here.
For chasing wary bream and whiting in clear water, such as the Swan River, a 1-3kg spin outfit is ideal for estuary whiting, bream and bass. See eBay listing here.
A medium surf rod-reel combo is ideal for beach and rock fishing for tailor, bream and small mulloway. See eBay listing here.
A heavy surf rod-reel combo is needed for larger mulloway or for rock fishing places like Steep Point. See eBay listing here.
For boat fishing, a short rod/spinning reel combo loaded with 10kg line is ideal for general reef fishing in water to around 20m deep, and can also be used to cast lures to pelagic fish. See eBay listing here.
Metal slice lures are ideal for tailor, kingfish and salmon in the surf and off the rocks. See eBay listing here.
Soft plastic grubs are good all-round lures for bream and freshwater species. Listing on eBay here.
Jig heads are needed for unrigged soft plastic lures. Listing on eBay here.
Squid jigs are useful in Western Australia, especially in Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay. Listing on eBay here.
Star sinkers or snapper leads are generally used on a paternoster rig for surf and boat fishing. For most other fishing, ball sinkers are used, as part of a running sinker rig. Listing on eBay here.
Hooks in mixed sizes (suggest 1# or #2 for whiting, 6# or #8 for garfish, 4/0 for tailor, salmon and flathead, 11/0 for large mulloway). Listing on eBay here.
Ganged hooks (joined chains of hooks) are used when fishing pilchard baits for tailor. Listing on eBay here.
Email us any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos filmed on the Swan River are featured below.
Swan River prawning
Swan River prawning
Swan River prawning
Swan River prawn diving
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