Blue swimmer crabs are fun to catch and lovely to eat. Blue swimmer crabs are one of my favorite foods and plentiful in Pittwater and the Hawkesbury river during the warmer months. Crabbing and catching a few Blue swimmer crabs is a very relaxing way to spend a morning and well worth the effort. Here are a few of my tips which may add to your catch of crabs.
Blue swimmer crabs are found in most of the small bays in Pittwater and the Hawkesbury. I have also done very well in Cowan Creek. Around the flats at the end of Jerusalem Bay has always been a good area as Cotton Tree Bay and Stingray Bay. Around the moorings in America Bay have proven reliable also. In Pittwater Careel Bay and around the flats inside Palm Beach produce a fair few crabs also. They can turn up almost anywhere so it pays to try a few different spots and different stages of the tide until you start getting results. I prefer to put my nets in reasonably close to the shore. Not too close mind you as if the nets are placed too close to rocks etc you risk snagging them up as well as the fact that a lot of the rocky and kelp areas in close to the bank hold octopus. Blue Swimmer Crabs do NOT like octopus and steer well clear of areas they live in. Different areas work at different stages of the tide. I suggest starting off crabbing on a rising tide and the best crabbing I have found is generally around high water.
I use witches hats predominately for crabbing but there are a few different types of crab trap on the market. Be warned some of them are designed for mud crabs and are not very effective on Blue Swimmers. Another method of catching crabs is to use an old stocking with bait in it. Weight it so it will sit on the bottom and the crabs will get caught in it by tangling there claws. It pays to have a landing net handy with this method as the crabs are only lightly held by the stocking. Some prefer to use a hand line with a large bait on it and when they feel a crab on it just slowly retrieve it and net the crab when close enough to the boat. As I said I am a witches hat user myself. I understand a maximum of 5 nets per person is the current law but in some areas they are not to be used. Check your area out with NSW Fisheries.
I prefer to use white plastic milk bottles as markers as they are easily visible. A couple of things you can do to make life easier when crabbing is to use bait bags in your nets. This does not prevent but slows down the loss of bait to small fish. They are simple and quick to make as well. I simply get some mosquito netting and cut it into rectangular shapes roughly the width of a standard envelope and twice as long. It is then simply folded once length wise and the sides stapled together in a couple places with a normal paper stapler. I always have spares as fish eat holes in them. When the bait is dropped in I just use a clothes peg to close them. I stick a piece of soft wire through the bag and use that to fasten it to the centre of the net. I find this works very well as baits will get stripped in not time if unprotected. Another thing I do is take a box of Size 30 rubber bands with me. When a crab is removed from the net I wrap a rubber band around each claw and this prevents them from tearing each other apart in my bait tank. It also pays to have a bit of twine about also in case you need to do a quick repair of a net. Bait I prefer oily fish like mullet , mackerel or tuna. Pilchards are fine as well but very soft. I have often heavily salted pilchards over night and have had excellent results as it toughens them up and the juice from the brine they form puts out a good scent trail in the water. Just about anything goes as crabs are not that particular. Method I generally put all my nets in the same area so I can keep an eye on them. If you stray to far you may find someone else has helped them self to your catch and on occasions small sharks and shovelnose will become caught and drag them all over the place. You need to check your nets regularly. I check mine about every 20 minutes. If you leave them too long the crabs become very tangled and are difficult to remove. When you grab the rope to lift them you will often be able to tell if crabs are in it as you will feel them struggling. Even if there are no crabs haul them all the way up and check the bait. Empty nets don't work real well.
Everyone seems to have there own way of cooking and cleaning crabs and its not often 2 people will agree. This is my method and I am happy with the results. I put my crabs in fresh water for 30 mins on arrival home and this generally will cause them to empty there stomachs. After this I kill them by poking a knitting needle straight through the mouthparts into the brain so they are dead before going into hot water and will not throw their claws. Some people prefer to put them in the freezer for 20 mins to kill them. Either way works so long as your crab is terminated that's all that matters. I cook my crabs in fresh water in a large pot and to the water I had approx 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I bring the water to the boil then drop in a couple crabs and place a lid on to speed it up coming back to the boil. When the water has started boiling again I cook them for 4 minutes for normal crabs and 5 for big ones. They start floating when nearly cooked so this is a good indicator. I take them from the pot and drop them in the sink which is filled with COLD water. The heat retained in the shell will continue to cook the meat if this is not done it is IMPORTANT. I leave them in cold water for about ten minutes. I then clean the crabs by lifting the flap underneath them and removing the top shell. I then rinse under cold water briefly and remove the mouth parts and gills. I sit them upside down to drain then its off to the fridge to keep the beer company until they are chilled. Chill them down eat and enjoy.
The legal size on Blue Swimmer crabs is 6cm from front of shell to the back. A crab of this size while legal is so small it is not worth bothering with. Better to put them back and take a feed of good size crabs instead. Before keeping a crab check to see whether it is male or female. Female crabs (Jennies) are brown in colour and have a rounded flap underneath. Put females back always. Also feel the crab's shell by squeezing it between thumb and forefingers at the widest points of the shell. If it is soft it means the crab has just molted and there will be very little meat in it. Put these back also. Good crabbing! For more info or reports check out the links on the home page.
Correct grip on a crab
A mornings catch of crabs