Night of the Monster Prawn
  |  First Published: October 2005

I’m no expert on prawns but with a bit of luck and some calculated observations I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this month during the dark of the moon we could see one of the best runs of big prawns in Lake Illawarra in many years.

I base my theory on the fact that the October dark is generally the first, and often one of the most productive prawning times of the season. And over the past two seasons the prawns have had nowhere to go because the lake was closed to the ocean so they just swam around getting bigger.

These prawns last year were on average medium to large king size – some of the biggest prawns seen in the lake – with very few small prawns, probably due to a lack of new recruits from the ocean.

This season will see these prawns at three and four years old and now that the lake has been open, all these crustaceans that have been denied a free passage to the Pacific could well make a run for it on the first dark in October.

It sounds feasible but there is only one way to find out: Grab a net and a light and have a look. Even if it doesn’t happen, it is great fun scooping a few for a feed or bait.

This year October has two darks, with four or five days either side of the new moon on October 3 offering perfect holiday weekend prawning fun. And if the big fellas don’t run then, there is always the chance they will coming up to the next new moon on November 2.

The prawn run often stimulates the lake and surrounding beaches into action for the Summer season ahead, with the flathead the first to stir.

The main channel is a great spot to start with the usual soft plastics – and of course live prawns – the way to go. Big bream can be found around the bridge pylons at night while the sand flats around the entrance should see some whiting starting to show and they can be solid fish.

With the lake now having a tidal flow, blackfish are back so if you like watching that little float as it drifts up along the edges of the weed beds in the channel, you are in for some fun. You can obtain weed from the local tackle stores like Deans Bait & Tackle at Windang.


On the beaches, catches are improving with many species starting to look for a feed in the gutters and on sandbars. Windang and Warilla are the pick of the beaches this month with the gutters holding tailor and salmon for the pilchard-tossers while worms and live prawns will see some good bream and the first of the Summer whiting, along with a few flathead.

The high tides during the evenings should even see a few jewies moving into the gutters.

Most of the other beaches will start to pick up this month with flathead and whiting showing a marked improvement and tailor and salmon patrolling the gutters.

This month generally signals the start of the jewie season but on some beaches they seemed to hang around all Winter, even the smaller schoolies.

It is hard getting info out of the royal and ancient secret society of mulloway anglers but if you are persistent, small snippets will filter through, particularly if you use the right approach, generally a couple of schooners.

You know the information is correct when you turn up at the alleged location at 1am on the top of the tide at the gutter you carefully marked out the evening before and there are already a dozen people fishing it! So you move to your second-choice gutter and there are a couple fishing there too – so much for the secret.

It has been like this over the Winter but the angling pressure should dissipate as the jewies start to spread over more of the local beaches.

The rocks are improving, too, with good catches of drummer in the washes off most headlands. Royal red prawns are the bait of choice and easy to obtain. Just about everything eats them and they are easy on the hip pocket with a kilo setting you back only about $8.

Trevally are appearing off the deeper ledges around Bass Point and Kiama, particularly when you ad a bit of bran and bread as berley and use royal reds as bait.

In the bays and shallower washes there are some nice bream with half a dozen a good catch.

On the deeper ledges salmon and tailor are taking pilchards on ganged hooks but if you want to step up a level, it is time to dust off the live-bait gear and hit the Blowhole Point or Marsdens Head. Live yellowtail or mackerel could account for some large mackerel tuna or something bigger this month while a live squid should surely attract the attention of any solid kings about.


Offshore, things are starting to get going as most species, particularly the flatties, begin feeding as the water starts to warm. There should be some good fish about over most of the sand patches with catches increasing over coming weeks to where bag limits will be the norm again.

Barracouta, snipping off hooks and sinkers, could be a problem so if you encounter some, move.

Snapper have slowed right down over the inshore reefs with heavy berleying the only way to attract any stragglers or local resident fish. Most of the snapper have moved out to the deeper reefs where you will find them on days with little current.

There should be plenty of tuna, salmon and tailor about this month, along with a few kings as well, so keep an eye out for the diving muttonbirds.

Further offshore, yellowfin and albacore generally appear around the 100-fathom line this month. Trolling small skirts, bibless minnows and Rapalas CDs is a good way to find them and when you do, lay out a trail of pilchard cubes.

You could just drift along berleying and cubing, with the probable outcome being a big mako or blue shark will swim up the trail. It’s shark time on the shelf and with generally calm seas at this time the game boats will be looking for some record-breakers.

Trolling small lures for ’fin might even raise a striped marlin so it is all starting to happen.

Before I go I’d like to comment on the latest plan to cut bag limits and increase the legal sizes of the fish we pay so dearly for these days.

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing the fact is that these discussion papers are nothing of the sort and I don’t know why so much taxpayers’ money is wasted on these glossy productions when it is virtually cut and dried that what you see in print will be implemented.

I don’t kill many fish, preferring to release most. I keep a few snapper and kingfish and some flatties in the lakes and rivers and I pay a very hefty price for these few fish. Frankly, for the price of 10 litres of petrol these days I can buy a week’s supply of fish for the family and spending a day on the water to bring home the proposed five flathead allowed won’t even feed my family.

It hurts even more when the pro next to me at the ramp unloads five or six boxes of the same flathead and he kills that many every day he can, not just on his morning off for some R and R.


One thing berley will attract on the offshore grounds over the coming weeks is muttonbirds. These fluttering little signposts of the sea (I have heard them called other things as well) will be migrating en masse over coming weeks and can swarm around the boat in their hundreds, taking every piece of bait and berley that enters the water. At times hunger will drive them to almost climb into the berley pot.

If the baitfish don’t appear on their travels, these birds starve to death so a bit of berley could save their lives. If they are really swarming and hungry, give them a feed and go home but don’t kill them – it is an offence as they are a protected species.

We are funny creatures: Some will kill a small, starving bird if it tries to take a bit of bait but the same people will be the cheering them on when they are showing them where there is a school of feeding tuna, salmon or tailor.

Give the muttonbirds a break – it is a long flight from Russia to Tasmania and a bird gets hungry.

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