Wednesday, March 29, 2023
HomeFeaturesHow To Catch BC Spot Prawns

How To Catch BC Spot Prawns

When I first started prawning off Nanaimo years ago, I thought coming home with 50 to 100 prawns was a huge win. Over the past few years I’ve changed a few things in my prawn setups that have made significant improvements to my prawn catches. These tips and tricks can help you catch your daily limit of spot prawns.

Before we get to the tips and tricks, a few words about prawns. Females are larger than males. Spot prawns (Pandalus platyceros) are reddish-brown coloured with white stripes on the legs and white spots on the tail, hence the name. Spot prawns are able to change the colour of the body to blend with the colours of the environment. Spot prawns are males for the first two years of their lives, and then they change to females. Typically, spot prawns live a total of four years, so you’ll probably never eat a male spot prawn.

Prawn Traps

This is the biggest factor. Many like to use the round, stackable prawn traps. I’ve used them, and they’re fine. But after being introduced to the Bauer traps, which are rigid, square, and coated, I’ll never go back. This switch improved my catch the very first outing. I dropped in the exact same spots and they produced. Now don’t get me wrong; the round stackable traps have their places where they work efficiently as well. But for prawning off central Vancouver Island, I’ll go with the square traps every time. An older gentleman once told me that the mesh of the stackable traps moves around too much, imitating an octopus and therefore scaring prawns away. I even tested a round stackable vs. a square trap on the same 500-ft line this summer. The round trap got 37, while the Bauer trap had over 100.

Square traps

Prawn Bait

This past spring I switched to Yum Yum bait. I was on the fence about switching, but trust me, you will notice a big difference. I still use a mixture of pellets and Yum Yum canned bait. I place 1 inch of pellets in my bait jar, then half a can of Yum Yum. The pellets expand, so don’t fill your bait jar too full or your scent won’t effectively travel along the bottom and lure in those tasty critters. Many like to use Carlyle tuna blend cat food because of its price point. That’s not a bad idea, but I do find Carlyle dissipates more quickly.

Spot Prawn fishing with Yum Yum Baits


Prawn Rigging

Each year while I’m on the water I see traps drifting over 700 to 1000 ft of water. It is very important to properly weight your traps, so the tide doesn’t wash them away. Be cautious how deep you’re setting in. Are you close to a significant depth change? What’s the tide doing? Buoys are affected by wave action. Waves can cause a trap to bounce slightly on the ocean bottom, making it wander, often into deeper water. Add weight to your traps or buoy line to reduce this effect. Traps that remain stationary in the water are likely to fish better.

Spot Prawn fishing weights for line

My setups consist of a 5-lb ball at the very end of my line. 15 ft up from that goes my first trap, 20 ft from there goes my 2nd trap, 15 ft from there goes a 3-lb line weight, and then every 60 to 100 ft. I like to attach a 1-lb line weight just to keep my line straight up and down. The 3-lb line weight on my setup plays a very important part, keeping the traps on the bottom nice and flat. If your first trap continually comes up with 0 prawns, it might be because your scotchman/float is lifting it off the bottom. I also lined my square traps with some coil lead, just to help them land properly.

Prawn Trap Soak Times

My general rule of thumb calls for soaks of at least 3 hours. When I’m taking clients out for a 4-hr trip, I’ll set my traps first thing, fish for 3.5 hours, and then go pull them up, usually with anywhere between 300-700 prawns.

Prawning Regulations

  • It is mandatory to throw back berried prawns
  • 2 traps per line maximum

• All buoys must be clearly marked with the operator’s name (in printed, solid black, capital letters at least 75 millimetres high)

If the buoys are not marked with an operator’s name, DFO may remove the fishing gear from the water. A phone number should also be written on the buoy. If the gear drifts away or if the DFO has had to remove it from the water, the operator can be contacted to reclaim it. Always check the regulation for your area for limit changes, closures, and notices.

Andrew Luch is owner and operator of Andrew’s West Coast Adventures.


  1. Great article and tips Andrew. I just starting to get into prawning. Only been out a couple of times near Bowen Island and Indian Arm. Haven’t been very successful so your article was very interesting. A couple of things you didn’t mention were depth of water and the type of bottom to look for on the scanner. What’s best, flat, or rocky, or valleys, or drop-offs, or crests, or sandy areas, etc… ? Thanks.

  2. Hey Vance, to answer your question each area is a bit different. Nanaimo area, I set in 300-380 ft. Barkley Sound 220-270 ft. Prawns migrate on what some call “prawn highways”. Basically valleys that are a couple hundred feet wide. This is where having a chart plotter is essential. Hope this helps you out!

  3. I’m usually out towards cowichan bay and sansom narrows I’m finding it difficult to find a good spot in my area so I tend to go out to crofton at times thank you for the great article, I have lost a few traps in cowichan bay and have to keep checking them within every 2 hours otherwise some people steal the traps its costly to replace so cant even go fishing while the traps are soaking! Frustrating but to be expected, awful when you just want to feed your family and elders! Have fun be safe and watch out for your gear! A new store opened up in Duncan called “Gone Fishin” look it up, the staff are great and they have a fun variety of merchandise and gear!

  4. Hi Andrew
    Thanks For the article, I live in Port Moody just around the corner from Indian arm. i read your comment on Prawn Highways (200 ft Valleys) does that mean to find a section that has @20-270 ft depth that is 200 ft wide?
    Thanks for your help

  5. Interesting. I live in great pawning area of northern Vancouver Island. I know where to get Carlyle but where do you get Yum yum

  6. Andrew, just wondering how you afix/tie each trap to your line when you put the first one 15′ from the line end and the second another 20′ further up the line?
    Many thanks, Tom

    • Tom, Pacific Net & Twine set me up w/a system like the one Andrew describes. I clip each pot to the lead line using Danielson clips – same as shown above with the colored weights. The clips are an integral part of the pot bridle. I’ve never had one come loose from the line… and I’ve got some heavy pots.

      I’m wondering what kind of puller Andrew uses that can handle the double pots + additional weight. Anyone know?

  7. Lat time out with 2 Bauer traps, prawn pellets, with Carlyle cat food and prawn scent 703 prawns 2 hour soak. We have left traps longer and got less in the same spot, they do escape!!! As seen when the traps are at the surface.

  8. Is there are specific location in Vancouver island to catch them! I live in Victoria & do crabbing in sooke never found a location for shrimp catching, is there any location to suggest?!!!


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