In the warm months of summer, you’ll want to do anything you can to stay outside, especially if it involves getting wet and cooling off.
For a really unique experience by the water, why not slap on some sunscreen, carry a picnic and try your luck catching some dinner.
Fishing teaches patience. Kids also learn about local ecosystems and respecting where your food comes from. So, grown-ups grab your recreational license (these vary in each Australian state), do your research and get going.
Fishing is a good place to start, even for littlies. Popular Australian fish breeds are flathead, bream and whiting.
Make sure you check the regulations specific to your area. Different regions have different legal size rules. If the fish you catch aren’t big enough – you will need to toss them back.
Try to find a spot free from weeds, rocks and snags. Fishing off jetties or railings can be good. Beach fishing is tricky, and no good for small or inexperienced enthusiasts.
Some popular sites around Australia include Exmouth fishing town, Fremantle Harbour and the jetty at Hillary’s Boat Harbour in Western Australia, Currimundi, Caloundra and Shoal Point Beach in Queensland, Port Lincoln in South Australia, Lilydale Lake and Albert Park in Victoria, and South West Rocks in NSW. Coffs Harbour Jetty is great for fishing. Try fishing for trout at Lake Jindabyne.
Equipment varies depending on what you expect to catch. You can arm yourself with a small (and cheap) rod and line, a simple net, a hand-held line and plenty of bait. Some experts even recommend using a lure to cut out the time-consuming and messy process of replacing bait on a sharp hook. First aid and life jackets are definitely wise additions, as are snacks and drinks to keep you going. A really helpful tip, especially if you are fishing for the first time with your family, is to start small. Plan to only fish for an hour or two, warn everyone they will need to be patient, and pack up while everyone is still optimistic.
Step things up a notch by going prawning. Best done at night (for maximum catch potential and huge novelty value!) prawning is better for older kids who can be patient and stay up late. You can throw back your catch, use it as bait, or cook it up in boiling, fresh water for a delicious treat!
The peak of prawning season is from December to February. Go after dark and around a new moon, when tides are biggest and when prawns are moving from estuaries to the ocean on tidal currents. Experts recommend you look out for a ‘run out’ tide, usually two hours before low tide. Wear old, closed in shoes and be prepared to get wet – you’ll have to wade into shallows or sandflats, preferably near a river mouth, to find a channel along which the prawns are travelling.
You’ll definitely need a torch to spot the cheeky little critters, a net to scoop them up and a bucket to collect your catch. Sometimes the prawns won’t come up to the surface so you will have to gently “kick” them towards your net by moving your feet along the bottom. The NSW coast is extra popular with prawning families in summer because of an abundance of shallow flats. Tuggerah Lakes, The Entrance, Myall Lakes and Tuross Head are great spots.
Scuttle like a crab to your closest crabbing hotspot for a truly unique family activity. Crabs are found in saltwater or brackish water in bays and marshes. Mud crabs are a popular catch in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia and make for a great addition to Christmas lunch. You can also find Blue Swimmer crabs by trailing a net along tidal flats in areas like northern Adelaide.
Crabbing can be a bit trickier in terms of technique and equipment, especially because kids and pincers absolutely do not mix. We recommend you take gloves and let Mum and Dad do the crab-wrangling. You can use a variety of traps, pots, lines or nets. If you’d rather not brave it alone, try the Catch-a-Crab vessel in Cairns, or other guided experiences like it. Once again, it is really important to be aware of the regulations – importantly, any crab with eggs must be released by law. Not all crabs are edible – if you have done your research and plan on eating your crab, it must be kept alive and eaten fresh. There is no pressure to eat what you catch either – you can release it straight away!
Whether or not you make a lucky catch, fishing as a family is a really special way to spend a summer morning or afternoon. It can be really relaxing as you wait for a bite, watch out for a prawn or wade along looking for crabs. Don’t forget to clean up your rubbish afterwards and look after the natural environment so you can come back for a second go.