Hunter River prawners haul in good quality school prawns in first week of new season

All the signs pointed to a good start to the season and Hunter River prawners were not disappointed when they went to work last Thursday.

Amid talk of it being the best start to the season in years, fishermen hauled in loads of good quality Hunter River school prawns when the season kicked off on November 1.

“Thursday was a really good day for a lot of blokes,” Fullerton Cove fisherman Phil Blanch said. “Quite a few of them were hauling in 200 to 300 kilograms per boat on the first day. They’re good quality prawns, too.

“It’s gone quiet the past couple of days. The moon has disappeared and the tide the water is clear. Prawns don’t like clear water. Next week we hope it will be alright. More rain would be good.”

The prawning season runs from November 1 to the last Friday in May.

Prawners are able to trawl the Hunter River between Hexham and Raymond Terrace from 6am to 6pm.

Weather is always a factor for the prawn season.

Fresh Hunter River school prawns are now available to buy. They are going for between $20 and $22 per kilogram at the fisherman's co-op. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Fresh Hunter River school prawns are now available to buy. They are going for between $20 and $22 per kilogram at the fisherman's co-op. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

It determines how well the crustaceans breed and with what force they are flushed downstream for trawlers to nab.

Tides and the moon also play a role in determining the behaviour of the prawns.

On October 31, prawn season eve, the river was dirty thanks to rain and the tide was running fast.

Mr Blanch said this pointed towards everything being in favour for the trawlers come Thursday morning.

While this was the case for some fishermen, it was not the case for Mr Blanch himself.

“It wasn’t one of my best starts,” he said.

Fullerton Cove fisherman Phil Blanch with his boat docked at Stockton. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Fullerton Cove fisherman Phil Blanch with his boat docked at Stockton. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Mr Blanch spent hours on Thursday untangling a tree that he snagged in his net.

On Monday he caught a concrete house step.

“You’ll never know what you’ll get in a prawn net,” Mr Blanch said.

“It’s always a mystery, especially when people throw their rubbish in the river.”

Hunter River school prawns are hot in demand at the moment.

Being one of the only type of fresh prawn available, they are selling quickly.

“There’s not too many fresh prawns available at the moment,” Mr Blanch said.

“Even the outside [imported] prawns are quiet.

“If you’re after a fresh prawn, the Hunter River are the only ones you’re going to be able to chomp in to.”

About half the size of a tiger prawn, the Hunter River school prawn thrive in the brackish water of the local estuaries.

They are renowned for having a concentrated flavour. 

“Hunter River prawns are arguably the most highly prized of the fresh seafood that the co-op is famous for – even more so than the local lobster,” Newcastle Fisherman Co-operative’s general manager, Rob Gauta, said.

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