August 2012

August 2012
August 2012
August 2012
August 2012
August 2012

PRAWNING 101

by Mike Smith
Life History
Life history of prawn (spot prawn Pandulus platyceros) is short. The eggs (larvae) are released about April 1, 2012 for an example. A year later (2013) they are immature males. In 2014 they are mature males (breeders). In April 2015 they are in transition stage. Between April 2015 and September 2015 they change sex, have sex and fertilize the eggs as they are passed down to the "undercarriage" of the new females. Usually all females are carrying eggs (berried) by November 2015. These eggs develop into larvae by March 2016. The female dies shortly after releasing her larvae.
Range and Habitat
Spot prawns range from San Diego to Alaska and are usually found on rough hard bottom between 150 and 450 feet.
The Commercial Fishery
About 250 licences participate in the fishery. It is exclusively a trap fishery and each licence is permitted to fish 300 traps, hauled once per day. The fishery begins early in May and ends in late June. The value of the fishery is usually greater than $20 million per year and Japan buys 80 percent of this product in frozen one kilogram packages.
Fisheries Management
Catches aboard the commercial fishing vessels are routinely sampled for numbers of each sex stage (males, transition, females) during the fishery (May - June). From this information fisheries biologists obtain a spawner index. If the numbers of transitions and females of the same year class diminishes beyond a certain point the fishery is closed. Additional surveys are conducted in November and January in specific high use areas. The high use areas include Saanich Inlet, Stuart Channel, Howe Sound and Alberni Inlet.
For the past four or five years pulse fishing in high use areas has been used in the recreational fishery. The pulse fishery begins on the 16th of the month from September to March depending on the spawner index ratio. Keep informed before fishing in high use areas.
Recreational Fishery
Recreational fishing can be conducted by anyone with a Tidal Waters Fishing Licence. You are allowed to fish four traps and the possession limit is 200 prawns per day. If more than two traps are attached to one line both ends must be buoyed and the name and phone number of the fisher must be on the buoys.

Fishing Technique
Prawns are usually site specific and good prawn sites do not disappear. It is like having a good chequeing account. You can go back to your spot time after time and it will still produce. Prawns set themselves up where food, such as detritus and worms, comes to them.
Traps
Stacking, mesh covered stainless steel framed traps are the most popular. Many of these are recycled commercial traps. These traps usually have three tunnels held in place along with a bait jar by inner tube elastics. There are also square vinyl coated wire mesh traps with four tunnels and a bait holder. These traps to not nest like the above traps.
Buoy Line
Leaded poly buoy line, 5/16", is the best (500' when fishing at a depths of 300 - 350' and 400' at depths of 220 - 260'). Leaded poly line is easy to hold onto and coils down nicely. Polypropylene line is much cheaper however it floats and creates a hazard to navigation unless weighted. It also stretches and the snaps lose their grip on the line.
Buoys
Buoys should be large enough and bright enough to be easily seen, about 16" in diameter and buoyant enough so strong tidal currents do not pull them under. Owners name and phone number should be easily read on the buoys.
Bait
Usually two techniques: four-ounce cans of cat food attached in the trap and prawn pellets in bait jars. Prawn pellets can be enhanced by mixing in cat food and fish oil. Bait jars should be 3/4 full.
Setting Traps
Find your "spot", move into deeper water, snap traps 25 feet apart then snap on a 5 lb. weight 35 feet from the last trap . Slowly move back to your "spot" while letting buoy line stream out. Tug on the line occasionally to stretch the weight and traps. The 5 lb. weight does two things: it fixes the traps on the bottom and prevents the buoy line from tugging on the traps. If the traps move around prawns will not enter.
Soak Time
Most areas require four to six hours or at least through a tide change. Stuart Channel can be spectacular as two-hour soaks are normal. Leaving the traps overnight can be risky because of tow boats, theft and weather.
Location
As previously mentioned prawn fishing is all about location. GPS and depth sounders are essential. The "sweet depth" in the Gulf Islands is 220 – 240 feet' and in the Strait of Georgia it is 300 – 360 feet.
Hauling
Keep your buoy line straight down when hauling. You can back up to keep your line straight down if it is not too rough. Keeping the line straight down when hauling minimizes the mudding of your traps. Watch for the weight and traps as the snaps can open if pulled through your hauler.
Sorting the Catch
Dump the traps into a tub and sort out the small prawns and the berried females and discard. Also discard bi-catch such as squat lobsters, fish and the occasional octopus.
Things To Remember
If in doubt about the status of your fishing area it helps to know your subarea when contacting fisheries. Some high use areas are closed to recreational fishing for the first week of the commercial season. It is recommended that you do not prawn fish during the commercial prawn season.

 

 

 

Huxley’s Run: 

My first lesson with a spey rod was to watch out for power lines. It was a 14 footer, a 10 weight, thick and not too subtle. It was supposed to be easier than a single-handed fly rod. Perhaps in the hands of someone who can handle one, but in my hands — learning from a video — it was one long piece of trouble.
I didn’t give up however, despite near trips to the hospital for bullet-like wounds. (Miss your anchor point, screw up the D loop and if you don’t duck — THWACK!)
Out of 10 casts I would get three that bore some semblance to what a spey rod was supposed to do. For the other seven I was more like a wizard on LSD, waving an oversized wand at a swarm of buzzing insects.
But I persisted in taking that weapon into battle. I remember the awe which my fishing buddies would be in when I assembled that portable telephone pole. Their eyes would widen and then squint and they would shade their eyes as they looked up to see its tip. Then it was as if they were ready to bow down before the master, bent at the waist in subservient respect.
And, of course, came the performance. Well, maybe not a performance, but judging from the laughter, it undoubtedly proved entertaining. Given an audience, my three out of 10 percentage deteriorated rapidly. I became a creature of mythical proportions, sometimes taking out whole branches of trees that had the nerve to grow behind me. Sometimes I almost parted the waters as the big stick came through and down and splashed, sending any fish within a mile scurrying away. Sometimes I looked like a clown at the centre of a spaghetti convention.
But I stuck to it. That was part of the mantra, ‘Stick to it, it’ll come to you.’
Come to me? Come to me!?
?
Comeuppance perhaps.
So one day my friend and death-wisher Dave Hadden took me to the Salmon River, to a pool far away from humans, cars, windows, cats, dogs, little children and planets. He showed me to the pool, let me set up, went down the river until I could barely see him and then pulled out the megaphone. “Okay, go ahead!” he announced, before ducking back into the cover of the forest.
Within five or six casts I had almost evaporated the water from that section of the river and quite suddenly, lo and behold, I saw Jesus on the bank watching me. Well, not really Jesus, but in some fishing circles Mark McAneely is pretty close. Mark told me to stop casting and on second thought told me to set the rod down completely before he dared approach. What happened next was almost as great as walking on water.
A few tips, a few demonstrations and it was unbelievable the difference it made. My casts were actually landing in the water! Wildlife and birds actually came out from hiding. Dave stumbled down river towards me as if we were gold panning partners and I had just hit the mother load.
Mark watched, undoubtedly vastly impressed and totally taken aback, as I proceeded to dish out casts of 25, 30 and even 35 feet. “How long have you been using the spey rod?” he asked incredulously.
“About two and half years,” I said proudly, winging a wicked cast by my ear, then Mark’s, then David’s, then mine again and so on until impetus was lost and the fly seemed to cough like a Sopwith Camel that’s just out of gas and dropped into the river at our feet.

 

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