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Coila Lake prawns - an update

At the community village meeting on November 21st, 2016, local Member for Bega, Andrew Constance was asked by several at the gathering for more information regarding the fishing, both commercial and recreational, of Coila Lake. Locals told him they were mystified as to why there is NO commercial quota on fish stocks in Coila Lake that means every last fish to be taken including all the by-catch that has no commercial value. As a town that is dependent on tourism one key tourism activity in the town is the annual Christmas activity of families catching prawns. To many who have lived in Tuross for more than a decade the numbers of prawns that can now be caught by a family on an outing can be counted on one hand. Minister Constance advised that the Minister for Fisheries was now undertaking a structural review of commercial fisheries in NSW. Prawning in Coila

Undertake any Google Search for "Coila" and "prawns" and you will find hit after hit referring to the famous prawns of Coila Lake. Talk to old timers of Tuross and you will hear stories of families prawning under torch light through summer. It was a part of the tradition of celebrating summer holidays in Tuross that has now become just a memory of the past

There used to be vast quantities of prawns in the lake to such an extent that it attracted commercial fisherfolk to haul net them regularly. Most often, after the plunder, there were prawns left for the families to potter around with.

Up until 2009 it was allowable to under FISHERIES MANAGEMENT (GENERAL) REGULATION 1995 - REG 29 to net haul prawns on Coila Lake if the total length did not exceeding 75 metres; mesh throughout not less than 30 mm nor more than 36 mm; length of each hauling line not exceeding 130 metres.

The total weight of prawns caught in Coila Lake fell dramatically in 1993–1994 because the mouth of the estuary closed to the ocean in January 1993 and subsequent closures may possibly have contributed to the prawns fading away.

The Coila Bar has been opened several times since the report of 1993-1994, in 1995, 1998, 1999 and in 2002, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Coila Lake did perform fairly well last year though incomparable to days of old. The first run of prawns were netted in early December to be sold for the Christmas demand and though they were small they were firm and sweet.

Last summer also saw the return of the holiday makers prawning lights that had Coila Lake sparkling like a cosmos however holiday prawners were often disappointed with their catches.

Many were angered when they saw the intensity of the commercial fishers and felt it wasn’t right or fair.


If you know of boats fishing without navigation lights ring the Boating Services Officer immediately on 0419751855 as it is illegal to run a ANY boat at night without navigation lights.

Whilst some commercial fishers might suggest they do not use lights for "traditional" reasons sadly it is often the case of poachers not using lights for illegal reasons.

What is a Prawn running net

A prawn running net is used to take prawns. In Coila Lake the running net is normally set perpendicular to the shoreline and is staked. Some fisherman may use two boats when using a running net. Commonly, the fisherman runs the net every half hour (depending on the number of prawns he is catching). The prawns get caught in the bag at the end of the net and are scooped into a fish box. This is a passive method and is commonly done during October to April, after the full moon.

The net cannot be set earlier than 1 hour before sunset. It must not be set within 10 metres of the high water mark.

Commercial fisherman must not leave any net stakes in the water between the hours of sunrise and 1 hour before sunset.

Commercial fishermen are also allowed to keep any fish that are caught in the net, as long as those fish do not have a size limit (for example, a leatherjacket).

The maximum length of a prawn running net used in Coila Lake is 75 metres, with mesh between 25 and 36 mm.

For more info regarding the regulations of fishing on Coila Lake visit this website