Crabs

 

The bag limit for blue crabs is now 20 per person per day (boat limit of 60 with 3 or more people on board).  

Update - 28/11/2016

This crabs have started early this year and November has seen good numbers across the Adelaide Metropolitan grounds.  Having recently acquired a small boat again, I have managed to get out a couple of times (along with every other boat owner it seems).  We have really only had a couple of good Sundays recently, so I headed out and was surprised by the sheer number of boats out and about.  Anchored just north of St Kilda, I looked back towards Outer Harbour and there were boats everywhere.  Despite this, we managed 20 crabs between 2 of us.  Not a huge number but they were all of good size.  I'm sure most know this already, but a couple of things have stood out during the last couple of trips that might help increase your crab catch. 

Crabs love running water.  Catches are always better on a strong running tide and it's the morning run out tide that fishes best on the metro grounds.  An afternoon run in is a close second.  As the tide slows, you will notice the action slows a bit before picking up again as the tidal flow increases.  

Use those mesh bait cages in the bottom of your nets.  You'll use far less bait.  I have been using just the bait clips, but the crabs eat the bait surprisingly quickly, not to mention the skates, stingrays and Port Jackson Sharks.  

Squid is still the best bait, but fish frames, fish heads or small whole fish are a close second.  (Shitties make excellent crab bait and there is usually no shortage of them on the local grounds).  Fresh bait is best.


Let me first of all say that I'm talking about Blue Crabs here.  They are just another one of South Australia's seafood delicacies, up there with prawns and crayfish.

Generally caught in the warmer months, the old adage of crabs being caught in any month with an "R" in it isn't far off the mark.  Most years, north of Adelaide anyway, there seems to be a couple of major "runs"; one in December and the other in February.  However, this is certainly not a hard and fast rule.

There are two main ways of catching them.  The first is by using hoop nets or witches hat nets.  The other is to wade around the sand flats at low tide and poke them with a crab rake.  Both methods have their time and place.

I used to enjoy travelling to Ardrossan jetty in December or February, when there was a high tide at about 7 or eight in the morning.  I would arrive in the early hours, usually around 3.30 a.m., and throw two crab nets out from the jetty.  If the crabs were around, I would end up with about 20 before the tide turned.  (I would fill in time between pulling nets up by fishing for squid, and this was almost always productive).  20 crabs was my limit, being all that I needed.  I would throw all females back and keep just the big blue males. 

Ardrossan jetty is still good for crabs when they are about in numbers.  It can become crowded at times.

Ardrossan and Port Broughton jetties are both good for crabs during a run in tide, and sometimes on the run out.  If targeting crabs there has to be some tide movement.  A dodge tide does not seem to coincide with good crab catches.  Wallaroo, even Moonta at times, and Stansbury are all worth a try.

Good hoop nets are the type with side netting but wire bottoms.  All that is required is a bait hook/catch/latch/clip thing that enables bait to be skewered onto it and clipped into the middle of the bottom of the net.  This ensures that the crabs (most anyway) will have to enter the net to get at the bait.  Some of the larger ones can sit outside the net and reach in with their claws, which can prove frustrating.

Make sure you have enough rope for the net to sit on the bottom.  If at Wallaroo you'll need a lot of rope due to the deep water. 

My favourite bait for crabs is squid.  It seems to work when they go off fish and meat baits.  Fish heads would be my second choice with meat a distant third. 

Raking for crabs can be good fun, but it is also hard work, especially if starting from shore (some people cheat and motor out in a boat).  At times it is necessary to walk through knee to thigh deep water for quite a while before locating any crabs, if you find any at all.  I have been countless times and caught next to nothing and, on some occasions, I have caught my twenty very quickly. 

A few years ago, a few friends and myself made our way to a beach north of Adelaide.  It was late January, and we had had a thunderstorm the night before.  The road (unsealed) into the beach was very slippery, but we made it and tentatively made our way into the shallows.  After about 45 minutes, all four of us had as many crabs as we needed.  Subsequent trips to the same beach have resulted in next to nothing.  We are all waiting for another thunderstorm in late January.

When raking, the places to look for are the sand patches amongst the weed beds.  Crabs bury  themselves at low tide.  Usually, their presence is revealed by the disturbed area of sand, which appears blue/grey in colour.  It's just a matter of gently raking the spot with the crab rake.  You'll know if a crab is there.  They are aggressive little devils and will attack the rake with gusto.  The trick then is to twist the rake, sort of like scooping the crab up, whilst lifting the rake out of the water.  That's the easy part.  The hard part is getting the crab off of the rake and into the tub.  (Most crabbers have some sort of floating tub behind them to hold the crabs).

The areas suitable for raking are all tidal flats with extensive ribbon weed beds with sand patches.  Beaches north of Adelaide like Port Gawler, Middle Beach, Port Parham, Port Prime and Thompsons Beach are all worth a try.  On upper Yorke Peninsula, areas around Port Clinton and Tiddy Widdy Beach near Ardrossan are good spots. 

Generally the last half of the run out tide is the best, and try and go on a day when there is not much wind.  If windy, the surface of the water is chopped up too much, making it difficult to see the bottom, even in shallow water.

If you are lucky enough to have a boat, then the options open up even more.  I had a small boat up until a couple of years ago, and enjoyed crabbing most of all.  I had a fair bit of success off of St. Kilda, north of Adelaide and at Port Broughton.  Black Point, south of Ardrossan was good too, as was Price.  The best of both worlds can be enjoyed in a boat.  At high tide, you can use nets whilst fishing for garfish or whiting.  At low tide, it's possible to motor over the ribbon weed beds into shallow water and go raking.

Crabs should be cooked in salt water for best results (or freshwater water with salt added.....which would make it salt water).  Bring the water to the boil, place the crabs in and leave them for 7 minutes once the water starts to boil again.  Once out of the pot, either put them into icy water to cool immediately or run them under cold water.  There are heaps of different ways to enjoy crab meat, but the simplest and the best is to eat it straight from the shell, with a bit of salt and pepper.

There are a few rules and regulations in regards to crabs, like minimum size (11cm across the shell), females with eggs have to go back etc etc.  Please check here for current fishing regulations - http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/fisheries