With February upon us it is usually the time mudcrabs are out of hibernation and have a hankering for a juicy piece of rotten mullet. Often the humidity in February leads to rain which flushes out food, silt and brackish water from the upper reaches, and with this comes the muddies!
The rain will bring jew, jacks, cod, catfish and even some of the bigger flathead out of hiding as well. Similarly to the king tides we had shortly after Christmas, a big wet period means many anglers will be avoiding the upper parts of the river, choosing to fish the dirty water mark instead. Remember, crabs caught during months with the letter ‘r’ tend to be much fuller than those caught during the winter months.
Partially full crabs tend to have a greenish tinge to their shells and full crabs have a darker more browny-blue colour. The best way to tell how full a buck is, apart from observing its colour, is to press down on the underside of the crabs carapace, beneath the point. If the shell indents then the crab is only partly full, and if it does not, then it should be full of meat.
The trick with crabbing is to be observant and pedantic about checking your pots – this way you can get every crab which sneaks in and out of your pot. Of course there is always the chance that a crab may still be in your pot if you leave it without checking on it for hours on end. But the greater the frequency of checking and rebaiting, usually means the greater number of crabs for you to take home. Reports at present is that the ratio of males:females is close to 50:50. If you have a pot with a dominant female trapped inside, most male crabs will stay clear from fear of losing an arm or leg. Wise move that perhaps we humans should consider occasionally…. So removing the female and throwing her back in the water means a hungry male will then enter the pot to feed on the delicacy of mullet frames or rotting chicken carcass that you have on offer.
Being able to distinguish between male and female crabs is a very important way for anglers to play a role in sustainable fisheries. The mud and sand crabs though very different in appearance, both have the same protective cover on their under body. On male crabs this cover is in the shape of a long narrow, pointed flap. The females have a broad, more rounded flap that covers more than half of their underside. All female crabs must be returned to the water after capture. Male mud crabs must measure 15cm from spine to spine on the spines closest to the back swimmer legs. Male sand crabs have to measure 11.5cm from notch to notch on the notch closest to the spines. Currently each angler can keep 10 male mud crabs and unlimited male sand crabs, but it is important to stress the need to only take enough for your own immediate use and leave some there for the future.
According to the DPI Fishweb, “In tidal waters, when fishing for blue swimmer crabs, mud crabs and spanner crabs, no more than four crab pots or dillies (or a combination of pots and dillies) may be used per person. Also a person must not possess more than four crab apparatus per person, on a boat on the water. The use of inverted dilly apparatus (witches hats) is to be phased out. The use of this apparatus will be prohibited from 2 April 2010.”
Once this date has passed be very sure to follow the regulations as Fisheries Officers will enforce this rule. Anyone who catches four nice muddies should relish in the fact that they have done well and don’t be tempted to abuse these rules.
Once you have your maximum bag limit, clean your crab well to have good quality flesh for eating. To clean a mud crab make sure you take the following steps:
Clean the outside of the mud crab with a brush under running water.
Turn the crab upside down and halve with a knife as pictured above right.
Remove the legs and claws from the body.
Remove the guts and feathery lungs from the body.
Brush out any muck from the inside of the crab.
Crack the shells of each portion before cooking to let the flavors in.
Mud crabs may be boiled in salty water or steamed whole for about 15 to 20 minutes. The mud crab loses its delicate texture and flavour when it is not consumed immediately after cooking.
LOCAL FISHING REPORT
NOOSA: Plenty of spanish mackerel at Sunshine Reefs. Spotties and spanish mackerel from Jew Shoal. Bream and whiting in the lower river. Trevally and tailor inside Woods Bay areas. Mangrove jacks on poppers in between the lakes.
MAROOCHYDORE: Trevally on the morning tide in Twin Waters Canal. Mangrove jack in the creeks. Trevally, flathead and grunter above bli bli bridge. Mud crabs in upper river and blue swimmers in the southern channel. Whiting to 42cm around Goat Island at dawn.
KAWANA: Wahoo, spanish mackerel and dolphin fish from the 50 meter mark and the banks. Spotty mackerel on wide Currimundi. Big cod to 12kg on the outside of Murphy's Reef. Plenty of good quality mixed reef fish caught this week at the Barwon Banks. Whiting to 40cm and dart between Point Cartwright and the Surf Club. Trevally and bream off the Kawana pontoon. Whiting and flathead around the McKenzies stretch.
CALOUNDRA: Spotty and spanish mackerel from the 5 mile. Bream and flathead off the boardwalk. Flathead inside the bar. Queenfish and trevally in Pelican Waters. Jacks at night in Coochin Creek.
Caleb and Corey love fishing with their dad Sharky and on a recent over night trip in the Maroochy River had a ball catching chopper tailor.
Kye and Jay caught a mixed tray of fish with dad stewart at dawn on Tuesday. The mud crabs were potted at Bli Bli and whiting were caught around Goat Island.
Telling the difference in the age in a mud crab: from egg to juvenile to adult.
Male and Female Mudcrab identification - see the difference in the carapace.