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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)