We get an extra treat on our charter trips now the warm spring weather is here – crabs. The weather change is increasing our yields making an added bonus for those on board.
Spanner crabs are the target species and can be caught from around Coffs Harbour in the south up to Bundaberg and roughly the same latitudes over on the west coast of Australia. You’ll find them in water from 10 metres to 60 metres.
The gear we run out is the same set up as the commercial crab fishermen use. It’s called a trot line and the crab traps are called lay-flats or dillies. Basically, it is a really long rope to which the dillies are clipped. It has a flag or float attached to each end and the traps in between them lay flat on the sand on the bottom of the ocean. We use pilchards for bait but any oily fish will work. Tuna and mullet are also good crab baits.
The commercial fishermen will leave their dillies soak for about 40 mins before hauling and resetting. The reason for this is to cut down the loss to predators such as turtles, sharks and cobia, which love to eat these delicacies.
We usually set ours on the way out, do our fishing and pick them up on the way home. Some catches through spring have seen upwards of 200 legal crabs for our punters to enjoy but an average haul is around 20-30 keepers.
Legal size limit for spanner crabs is 10cm and they are measured front to back not side to side like other crabs. We are allowed to keep male and female crabs as long as the female crabs aren’t bearing any eggs. In Queensland we have a closure from November 20 to December 20 when no crabs can be caught. During this time the crabs are spawning and this is how the stocks are preserved.
If you want to catch spanner crabs recreationally you are allowed four dillies per person and must have a rope and float attached to each one with labels stating your name and address.
We find the deeper you drop your crab traps the less trouble you will have with predators. Hopefully this helps you get a feed or two over the next few months or if you want to come out and have a look flick us an email or give us a call.