Don’t use supermarket prawns as bait
How can I help?
Thank you for helping keep Queensland prawns and waterways safe.
1. Don’t use supermarket prawns as bait or use heads and tails as berley
2. Check your bait is from a bait shop, service station or catch your own
3. Make sure you dispose of unwanted bait and seafood in the bin, not into Queensland waterways.
Why can’t I use supermarket prawns for bait?
Imported, raw prawns sold at supermarkets may carry diseases, such as white spot disease, which, if introduced into our marine environment, could have devastating consequences on our prawn populations.
If prawns from the supermarket have diseases how can they be safe to eat?
Diseases such as white spot disease only affect crustaceans, not humans. However, cooking the prawns will kill the virus which means they are completely safe to eat. It only becomes problematic if raw prawns purchased from the supermarket are used as bait, as they could introduce disease into our marine environment.
Can I use Australian prawns from the supermarket as bait?
No, there is a risk that cross-contamination could occur between raw imported prawns and raw Australian prawns, and if used as bait may introduce diseases into our waterways. Raw prawns from the supermarket used as bait are still considered the most probable pathway for diseases coming into Australia. Buy your bait from the bait shop, service station or catch your own.
Why is the onus on me? Why doesn’t the government stop importing raw prawns?
Australian prawns only make up 40 per cent of consumer demand in Australia, which means prawns are imported from other countries to meet demand. Enhanced import conditions are in place at the border and despite all the risk mitigation measures in place disease may still manage to get through.
This is why we all need to play our part to help stop disease entering our waterways by not using supermarket prawns as bait.
What would happen if a disease was introduced into Queensland waterways?
In late 2016 and early 2017, white spot syndrome virus (WSSV), the causative agent for white spot disease, was confirmed on seven prawn farms in South East Queensland, and then in waterways around the Logan River and Moreton Bay. Movement restrictions were subsequently put in place to stop the spread of the disease into other areas.
This meant prawn trawlers in the Moreton Bay region were unable to move raw prawns outside of the restricted area, affecting trade. The disease also shut down all seven farms and put them out of production for almost two years.
That is why it is important we all play our part to stop disease introductions such as white spot disease. Buy your bait from the bait shop or service station, not the supermarket.
Where should I buy bait from?
Always buy bait prawns from a bait supplier or service station and not from a supermarket.
How do I know which prawns are safe to use?
Prawns bought from a bait supplier or service station are safe to use, so it is recommended you use these. If you catch your own bait, remember movement restrictions are in place for raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms caught in South East Queensland. This means you can’t take these animals out of the area unless they are cooked first. You can check the map for more details.
What should I do if I suspect a disease in prawns?
If you suspect white spot disease, take a photo of the prawn, collect a sample and refrigerate, then report it to Biosecurity Queensland online or call 13 25 23.
Tips for catching your own bait
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. It is important you are aware of the possession limits for bait species. Any species without a specific possession limit is subject to a general possession limit of 20.
Yabbies are easy to catch and are great bait for catching popular 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 yabbies crawling around in the sand, mud or water, often spotted by their orange egg sac. 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 nets are great for catching a range of bait species such as prawns, mullet and herring. 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 are great for catching inshore fish species such as whiting, dart, bream, flathead, and mulloway. Beach worms are subject to a possession limit of 30.
What to do: Pipis and fish frames can be used to catch beachworms. Be sure you are within your pipi possession limit of 30 at all times.
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.
Cribb Island worms, formerly known as bloodworms
Cribb Island worms are great for catching most estuary species such as whiting, bream and flathead. Cribb Island worms are subject to a possession limit of 50.
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: Cribb Island 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 are great for catching small estuary species such as whiting, bream and flathead. Pipis are subject to a possession limit of 30 in Queensland. Other gastropods and bivalve molluscs are no take in Moreton Bay. More information is available at Management changes for Gastropod and bivalve molluscs in Moreton Bay.
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 thread the soft muscle inside straight on your hook.
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.
For details on in possession limits for fish and bait species, refer to the fishing rules and regulations for Queensland.
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.
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.