SPRING STORMS STIR UP SUCCULENT CRUSTACEANS
Spring came on suddenly and almost had us thinking that Summer was early even. After a long dry winter in hibernation, a spring storm to stir up the rivers and creeks is just what we need to flush those tasty mud crabs out and into our pots. It is about time they came out of hibernation and gave into the temptation which we have offered in the form of a juicy piece of rotten mullet. Usually the humid summer months are the best for crabs, but Queensland’s storm season is notoriously good for crabbing also.
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 downpour 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 (we have just started the ‘_________ber’ months so bring on those fat crabs).
Local crabbers have recommended we keep our eyes peeled for partially full crabs which tend to have a greenish tinge to their shells and full crabs have a darker more browny-blue colour. These are not worth keeping and should go back in to fatten up! The other way to tell how full a buck is, apart from observing its colour, is to press down on the underside of the crab’s 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.”
Fisheries Officers do enforce this rule and it has been positive to see their presence over the busy school holiday period, not just making sure rules and regulations are being followed, but also spending time with the younger anglers to help educate and encourage.
If you are lucky to hit your bag limit of four crabs, clean your crabs well to have good quality flesh for eating. To clean a mud crab make sure you take the following steps:
1. Clean the outside of the mud crab with a brush under running water.
2. Turn the crab upside down and halve with a knife as pictured above right.
3. Remove the legs and claws from the body.
4. Remove the guts and feathery lungs from the body.
5. Brush out any muck from the inside of the crab.
6. Crack the shells of each portion before cooking to let the flavours in.
Mud crabs may be boiled in salty water or steamed whole for about 15 to 20 minutes. The mud crab can lose its delicate texture and flavour when it is not consumed immediately after cooking.
LOCAL FISHING REPORT
Noosa: Snapper from North Reef. Snapper, coral trout and sweetlip at Sunshine reef. Mangrove jacks around the lakes and Harbour town. Tailor and trevally in Woods Bay. Large numbers of whiting in the Frying Pan.
Maroochydore: Jacks in the upper reaches on live bait. Grunter, jewfish and trevally at the cod hole. Whiting up to 35cm and flathead from Chambers Island through to the river mouth. A few mud crabs in Eudlo and Petrie creek. Diamond scale mullet to 4kg in the lower reaches.
Kawana: Dart and whiting from the northern end of Kawana Beach. Jacks from the weir. Trevally from the moorings. Bream and school mackerel from the rock walls on high tide. Good size bream and a few whiting around McKenzie’s Bridge.
Caloundra: Trevally and queenfish in the Pelican Waters canals. Flathead up to 60cm from the inside of the bar. Whiting and bream in the lower reaches. Sweetlip around Brays Rocks. Mackerel and snapper at Currimundi. Snapper at the 5 mile.
Brad Young was fishing with herring from Chambers Island Bridge when he caught this 1.4kg flathead.
Duncan McMillan was fishing with live worms around the river mouth when he caught a couple of quality whiting.
Solid buck mud crabs like these being held by Mark Planck are in reasonable numbers in the upper reaches of the Maroochy River at the moment and feeding on the lead up to the full moon.