Help stop white spot disease

Don’t move raw prawns out of South East Queensland

Frequently asked questions

What is white spot disease?

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans such as prawns, crabs and yabbies. When found in high intensity production areas, such as prawn farms, white spot results in the rapid mortality of prawns. The white spot virus does not affect people, fish or other marine animals and is primarily spread by infected animals and contaminated water.

What can I do to help stop the disease spreading?

  1. Don’t move raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms out of South East Queensland.
  2. If using prawns as bait only use Australian wild-caught prawns purchased from a bait supplier or catch your own.
  3. Dispose of unwanted crustacean waste into a rubbish bin and not into our natural waterways.
  4. Report prawns you suspect may have white spot disease to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Prawns swim, so how can movement restrictions help?

The most likely way white spot disease will spread long distances quickly, is by people moving raw prawns out of South East Queensland and using them as bait in other waterways. Not all prawns in South East Queensland have white spot disease but as the disease is not always visibly identifiable, it is safer to assume that any prawns caught in the movement control area may be infected and therefore pose a risk for spreading the disease. Remember, all it takes is one infected prawn to spread the disease.

Can I still use prawns and yabbies as bait in the movement restriction area?

Yes. All prawns sourced within the white spot disease movement restriction area are fine to use inside the area. The biggest risk for spreading the disease is if people move raw prawns out of the area.

What does white spot disease look like?

Prawns with white spot disease may have a loose shell with numerous white spots (0.5–2.0 mm in diameter) on the inside surface of the shell and a pink to red discolouration. (Please note: infected prawns and yabbies may not display any symptoms and white spots may appear for a range of reasons including freezer burn and bacterial and fungal infections).

What should I do if I suspect white spot disease?

Suspected cases of white spot disease must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland immediately. Take note of the location and time, keep a sample if possible and report this information by calling us on 13 25 23 or completing our online reporting form.

Tips for catching your own bait

Catching fresh bait is a great way to improve your chances of catching fish and can be a fun activity for the whole family. The fresher the bait the more appealing it is to fish. Below are some tips for catching and collecting your own bait.

Before you go fishing, make sure you are familiar with the fishing rules and regulations for Queensland.

Pumping yabbies

Yabbies are easy to catch and are great bait for catching small estuary species such as whiting, bream, and flathead.

What to do: Look for sand flats at low tide with small holes, as this is where the yabbies live. Using a yabby pump, pump 2 or 3 times and direct the sand and water onto the ground. Look for small orange yabbies crawling around in the sand, mud or water. Pick them up and keep them fresh in a bucket of seawater. They may have nippers so be careful when collecting and baiting on your hook as they can pinch.

Note: Yabbies caught in the white spot disease movement restriction area in South East Queensland cannot be moved out of the area unless cooked first.

Cast netting

Cast nets are great for catching a range of bait species such as prawns, mullet, herring and silver biddy. Learning how to throw a cast net correctly takes practice, but once mastered it is an invaluable skill for any fisher. To get started, speak to the staff at the bait and tackle store when you buy your cast net and they will be able to give you some pointers on different casting techniques. Alternatively, there are many demonstrational videos available online to help you perfect your technique.

Note: For details on size restrictions for cast nets, refer to the fishing rules and regulations for Queensland.

Cast netting prawns – Fresh prawns are great for catching inshore fish species such as whiting, dart, bream, flathead, snapper, and mulloway.

Note: Prawns caught in the white spot disease movement restriction area in South East Queensland cannot be moved out of the area unless cooked first.

Beach Worms

Beach worms are great for catching inshore fish species such as whiting, dart, bream, flathead, and mulloway.

What to do: Pipis and fish frames can be used to catch beachworms. Using a bait bag or stocking, fill it with fish frames or pilchards, and wash through shallow water on an ocean beach to attract the worms. Once you locate a worm sticking its head out of the sand looking for the food source, place a small amount of fish about 1cm away and 1cm off the sand. Don’t let the bait touch the worm. The worm will arch its ‘neck’ out of the sand and grab hold of the bait. At this point carefully slide your fingers, around the worms head and grab the worm tightly, but not too tight as to crush it. Slowly pull the worm out from the sand with an even pressure to ensure you don’t break it. Store your worms in a bucket of fresh seawater ready for use. There are many demonstrational videos available online to help you perfect your technique.

Note: Beach worms caught in the white spot disease movement restriction area in South East Queensland cannot be moved out of the area unless cooked first.

Bloodworms

Bloodworms are great for catching small estuary species such as whiting, bream and flathead.

What to do: At low tide look for easily accessible seagrass-flats and using a garden fork turn sods upside down, exposing the roots and mud underneath. Look for red-brown worms moving in the mud, pick them up, and place in a bucket of fresh seawater.

Seagrass meadows are fragile habitats, and activities that damage them may affect associated fish populations. People harvesting bloodworms (commercially or recreationally) must level the working area and replace all seagrass in an upright position either during digging or immediately afterwards. Disturbance to seagrass is an offence under fisheries legislation, so all harvesters must be vigilant during their operations.

Note: Blood worms caught in the white spot disease movement restriction area in South East Queensland cannot be moved out of the area unless cooked first.

Pipis

Pipis are great for catching small estuary species such as whiting, bream and flathead.

What to do: On a sandy surf beach, look for small rises, about the size of 50 cent coin, in the hard sand between the high and low tide marks. In ankle deep water, dig into the sand about 10cm deep, or wriggle your feet side-to-side until you feel a hard shell. Turn the sand over and pick up any pipis you find. Keep your pipis in a bucket of fresh seawater. Open them with a knife or hit them together and use the soft muscle inside straight on your hook.

Bait jigging

Bait jigging is a great way to catch a range of small fish species such as herring and yellowtail scad that can be used as live or dead bait. Try jigging from a jetty or rubble reefs.

What to do: Buy a 6-hook bait jig from your local tackle store. The bait rig has a series of small hooks and shiny plastic strips to attract fish and a sinker on the end. Jigging works best near submerged structures such as jetty pylons, beacon poles or rock walls, where you find small schools of fish. Bounce the jig up and down in the water until you feel a fish take hold. Keep your bait fish fresh in a bucket of seawater until you are ready to use them.

Lures and soft plastics

Lures and soft plastics are a great alternative to bait fishing. They are reusable and aren’t messy and smelly like some bait. There is a huge range of lures and soft plastics available that target different fish species and are suitable for different fishing situations. Ask the staff at your bait and tackle store for advice when selecting lures and soft plastics or go online and search for demonstrational videos to help you perfect your technique.