A yabby pump in action in perfect territory – soft muddy sand.

Catching your own bait

Hi folks, I’ll start with an apology for not having an article last month. I had major spinal surgery but have recovered enough to pen this piece. bait

And though my fishing and prawning may be a couple of weeks away yet, I’ll be back at it better than ever very soon.

Now back to this month.

While considered old school by some in the fly or lure only fraternity, the truth is that bait fishing will always have a place in fishing, from beginner to experienced anglers.

And though I love lure fishing in a variety of scenarios – from tossing lures off the beach to trolling lures for everything from mackerel to marlin in the salt – I still love bait fishing in a variety of scenarios.

Top-pocket cast nets are best for catching prawns.


For a start, it’s effective. In fact, it is even more effective if the bait you are using is live.

And why is that?

Well, obviously the bait looks natural and, as it is secured with a hook, it is thus swimming erratically and sending out distress signals to fish who might see it as an easy meal.

So, let’s have a look at four key live bait options for the beach and estuaries, two of my favourite target areas.


I’ll start with prawns because – going by their late start to the year and last season – the banana prawn run in southeast Queensland should go deep into May.

Banana prawns are sensational to eat, however if you can spare a few and keep them alive in an aerator and bucket, they are a hot bait for anything from whiting to barramundi.

In Queensland, banana prawns are best caught with a 10” or if you can manage it 12” top-pocket only cast net.

During the peak season of February to May, you want to be searching for them in the deep holes of rivers and creeks.

A live prawn hooked up.


As the season progresses into April and May, you want to be in the open bays, such as Redland Bay to the south and Nudgee to the north of Brisbane.

If you’re not exactly sure where, simply follow the scores of boats, particularly on the weekend.

It’s a fairly relaxed atmosphere in the prawning mosh pit, so don’t worry about joining the crowd, though if you can find your own hole and prawns, it is all the more rewarding.

There is also another way to target prawns – particularly tigers and bay prawns – and that is using strong headlamps or underwater lights and prawn scoop nets.

I have used both types of lights, particularly strong LED lights on a do-it-yourself headlamp, which I have written about a few times in this publication in the past.

In the shallows of Moreton Bay, prawns are in such little depth that the underwater light is much less effective than a strong headlamp, which can search out the red beady eyes of the prawn from afar.

To keep these prawns alive, you ideally want to use them that day.

Live beachworms kept alive in a shallow tray with aerators.


But if not, change the saltwater in your bucket or flat tray a few times, particularly if keeping them overnight.

Keep them well aerated with portable aerators, or even a 24V fish tank aerator, if you have one.

Then, when it comes time to hook them up, a size 1 circle hook through the third last section of the prawn’s shell is ideal, and will allow it to swim and kick about, attracting fish to investigate.

Saltwater yabbies

Saltwater yabbies are another awesome bait – as are freshwater crayfish or freshwater yabbies in the fresh.

Saltwater yabbies are probably the second easiest bait to collect, behind pipis.


About Sean Thompson

Sean caught the fishing bug bad one very cold Canberra day 20 years ago when he was bored and picked up and read Angler's Almanac by the fireplace. Since then he has filled his mind with knowledge from fishing magazines, books, the internet, TAFE fishing courses, guiding fishing charters (estuaries, beach, bay and mountain lakes) and of course 'on water' experience. He and a group of mates formed a social fishing club and soon started to share what they learnt and caught online. Sean is the admin for Ontour Fishing Australia on Facebook, which is a page that shares information, reports and sponsor giveaways and welcomes all to the site. He plans to move into blogging on his new website when time allows.

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