Catching and Cooking Crab.




Whether it is mud crab or blue swimmers you are catching, you are in for a culinary delight once you have bagged and cooked them. In our opinion there is nothing quite like fresh crab! On "Our Dreamtime" we love catching crab and will at any anchorage try to find a suitable spot to drop our pots. Not always successful but we do pride ourselves on regularly having a good feed of crab.

Mud crabs are certainly one of Australia’s most tasty crabs and while they are found in the northern part of the country, those taking a cruise to the north, should at some point go on a crabbing mission. If your not sure ask someone in the anchorage your staying in. You just might find a crabber willing to take you along and show you some tips.

Like all of the tastiest seafood’s available, it is always a mission to clean, cook and eat them. But at the end of the day, if you’re willing to go through the rigmarole of doing so, you’ll be pleasantly happy with a belly full of yummy crab.

Mud Crabs can be found along the entire Queensland coast in sheltered estuaries, tidal flats and rivers lined with mangroves. They also inhabit tropical to warm temperate waters from Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia to the Bega River in New South Wales.

Photo: Qld Fisheries
As a marine and estuarine animal they're usually found in shallow water, but berried females occur well offshore. They favour a soft muddy bottom, often below tide level.
The colour of Mud Crabs varies, from dark olive-brown to greenish-blue and blue-black. Patterns of lighter coloured dots cover their walking legs.

Officially, Mud Crabs are 'omnivorous' scavengers. But they're also cannibalistic, eating other crabs as well as barnacles, bivalves and dead fish.


There are a variety of crab traps, in different shapes and sizes, including round, square, pyramid, collapsible and net types. Dillys and hooks have been banned for catching Mud Crabs.  We use the traditional round collapsible type. They are easy to store on deck in a purpose made canvas bag.

Crab pots are available from most fishing supplies outlets. Almost every pot is now made of string mesh. Which crab pot you choose is up to you and your budget. The cheap rectangular pots are as good as any, but you must check and repair them constantly, as the old crab will either walk out, or chew his way out. 

Crabs like fresh bait, so some crabbers will change bait twice a day. Fresh fish or frames and heads are excellent, in particular whole mullet (score the flesh down the the bone). Chicken carcass or necks, and kangaroo meat and bones are also good but the secret is: it has to be FRESH.

A mud crab has two very big and strong claws. They are so strong in fact that they can crush your finger, hand or foot should it grab you. Instantly you’ll be in excruciating pain and it is best to break off the top or bottom pincer to release the grip. Should you pull the entire arm off; the grip will still be in place. When ever your catching mud crabs, always be careful you really don’t want to be caught out with one of these nasty critters holding onto your finger.

Rob searching for the right spot
Where you put the pot is the most important part of the mud crab hunt. During heavy rain, or 'the wet' in the tropics, the rivers are high and fresh and crabs, like most other fish, can not survive in fresh-water, so they move out along the shallow coastal flats. That's where you put your pots at that time of the year.

But during the dry as the salt water intrudes way up the rivers and creeks you follow this salt water intrusion.

Also drop your pots in very small creeks and deep gutters as crabs use these as highways into the mangroves.

Queensland law states you are allowed four pots per person, (we carry only four pots and find this is enough) and 10 male crabs PER PERSON IN POSSESSION. It is NOT 10 crabs per day. (it's illegal to take female crabs in Queensland). Minimum 'take' size on male mud crabs is 15cm. For up to date information  https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries


Female Mud Crab NO TAKE


Download the PDF that Qld Fisheries have supplied here

Cleaning and Cooking MUD Crab.

Cooked mud crab are a wonderful Orange/red colour

So now that you have caught them you need to clean them. If you wish to clean them prior to cooking follow the following steps. You can always clean them after cooking. If you prefer this method jump to the cooking steps.

Cleaning Muddy’s is quite easy, if they are still alive try to pin down using a solid item such as a small piece of timber or other item. 









  1. Pin them up against something solid like the back of a bait board to keep the claws away from your fingers.
  2. With a firm grip, pull the tail up and with your thumbs under the tail push forward separating the shell from the carapace.
  3. Keep pushing forward to remove the shell from the carapace.
  4. With both hands, grab either side of the crab holding tight the claws and fold the crab in half downwards to break the underside. 
  5. Place on the edge of something sharp and break the body in half.
  6. Once the crab is in two, clean the inside removing the gills and organs.
  7. After the crab is cleaned it is ready to be cooked and eaten.

Cooking Mud Crabs

Wash the mud crabs thoroughly. If you haven't cleaned the crabs as above because the idea of this is to scary or to inhumane. Place live green mud crabs into ICE SLURRY for 35 Minutes in a container or bin, or in the freezer for 35 minutes. They go to sleep, and die.
  1. Bring pot with a good handful of salt to the boil.
  2. Place Mud crabs in pot.
  3. Bring to BOIL again and then cook for 22 minutes.
  4. In another container or bin add another 3 handfuls of salt to the ice slurry
  5. Once cooked, place mud crabs into this and when cool, clean them in the slurry water. This way the FLAVOUR with salt stays within the mud crab. 
  6. With a firm grip, pull the tail up and with your thumbs under the tail push forward separating the shell from the carapace. 
  7. With both hands, grab either side of the crab holding tight the claws and fold the crab in half downwards to break the underside. 
  8. Once the crab is in two, clean the inside removing the gills and organs.

Eating Mud Crab.


Mud crabs are very delicious. If you haven’t caught mud crabs before, I suggest you get some pots and give it a go, one taste and you’ll want more. Its also a great way to meet new friends, sharing a fresh catch of crab with others in the anchorage is fantastic. Below are a few ways we love to eat crab.

Sharing crab catch with International cruisers. Bundaberg Qld.


A catch of crab in Bundaberg
 
Just on freshly baked bread.

With a lovely cool crisp white.
You can find our favourite recipes on the Seafood Page of Our Galley ... Crab Recipes and in our Ebook Our Galley - Sensational Seafood


Blue Swimmers 


Blue Swimmer Crabs (sand crabs) are highly sought after crabs both commercially and recreationally in the coastal waters around Western Australia, Queensland New South Wales and Victoria. They are much sweeter in taste compared to mud crabs, but many people find them fiddly to shell. Karen is our master sheller onboard so the crabs are cooked and shelled in no time.

Crabbing is a lot of fun!
Also known as Blue Manna Crabs, these crustaceans have 2 long front claws, 3 sets of smaller legs and a rear set of paddlers. They swim and scuttle sideways and are very quick movers along the seabed and as swimmers.


Male and female Blue Swimmer Crabs are distinguishably different in appearance. The males have a blue shell, longer claws and on the underside of the body their flap is long and narrow. Females have a brown/green shell and a much broader and rounded underside flap than the males. When a female has eggs, the flap will hold a sponge-like cluster of yellow eggs. Female and undersized crabs must be returned to the water immediately in all states. 



Measuring a Blue Swimmer Crab correctly is very important and should not be taken lightly as hefty fines can be imposed on those caught with any undersized crabs in possession. You are required to be in possession of an approved gauge which is available at local tackle shops, each state varies in size. Measure the crab horizontally across the widest part of its top shell (carapace), along the widest protruding rear spikes. If each spike touches the gauge you have yourself a sized and legal crab. Note measuring procedures differ in NSW, crabs are measured vertically from the notch central to the eyes at the front across to the centre of the rear of the carapace.

Male and female Blue Swimmer Crabs are distinguishably different in appearance. The males have a blue shell, longer claws and on the underside of the body their flap is long and narrow. Females have a brown/green shell and a much broader and rounded underside flap than the males. When a female has eggs, the flap will hold a sponge-like cluster of yellow eggs. “Berried” females and undersized crabs must be returned to the water immediately in all states.

Sand crabs are a great fun catch for youngsters, be aware they can still give a nasty bite. 

Size & Bag Limits / State Fisheries

In Western Australia, the minimum legal size limit is 127mm across the carapace (back shell), personal daily bag limit is 10 crabs and the boat limit is 20 crabs. (Take note that 2 licenced fishermen are required on the vessel to catch the boat limit of 20 crabs). A recreational fishing licence is required for all crabbing methods in WA and the legal apparatus is 1 hand-held blunt wire hook per person, 1 wire scoop net per person or 10 drop nets per person or boat. Further information can be obtained from www.fish.wa.gov.au/

In Queensland, the minimum legal size limit is 115mm across the carapace and there are no personal daily bag limits or boat limits. A recreational fishing licence is not required in QLD and the legal apparatus is 4 crab pots or dillies (or combination) per person or boat. All females, “berried” or not, must be returned to the water immediately. Further information can be obtained from www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries

In New South Wales, the minimum legal size limit is 60mm across the carapace and the personal daily bag limit is 20 crabs. A recreational fishing licence is required in NSW and the legal apparatus is 1 wire scoop net per person or 1crab trap per person. Further information can be obtained from http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/fishing

In South Australia, the minimum legal size limit is 110mm across the carapace, personal daily bag limit is 40 crabs and the boat limit is 120 crabs. A recreational fishing licence is not required in SA and the legal apparatus is 1 crab rake per person or 3 drop nets per person. Further information can be obtained from http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing

Crab pots varies substantially in each state. Some states allow certain pots and others prohibit them. Nets, pots, dillies and traps differ in required dimensions and features. Floats, ropes, weights and name tagged apparatus also need to be taken into consideration. So check local fishing guidelines prior to placing your pots in the water. Large fines can be applied. We use the same pots for swimmers as we do for mud crabs.

Scooping for blue swimmer crabs is very popular in shallow estuaries. Fishermen can walk in the water with a wire scoop net attached to a long handle and when you see a crab start to scuttle, do your best to scoop it up in the net. Catching them sideways is easiest, but they can be very quick so you need to be too. No bait is required, just your focus and quick hand and eye coordination. 

State recreational fishing rules and regulations are subject to change. Season closures and licences can be enforced, size and bag limits can change, as can permitted and prohibited fishing apparatus. It all has to do with protecting breeding stocks in the applicable areas. Ensure you keep up to date with current fisheries regulations and research online (links above) prior to fishing in unfamiliar territory.

Cooking and Eating Swimmer Crabs

These delicious Blue Swimmer Crabs are your reward for all the effort, which is fun in itself. 

  1. Boil a large pot of boiling water, add a handful of rock salt or sea salt.
  2. Place as many crabs as you can fit in the pot and boil until they start to float. 
  3. Cooking usually takes about 8 minutes for a legal sized crab a little longer if you are lucky enough to bag a larger swimmer.


Cleaning the cooked crabs is the messy part. 

  1. When they have cooled down pull the underside flap right back and continue pulling it around to remove the shell from its back. 
  2. Break the shell-less body in half and remove the bodily organs and fluids and then rinse the meat thoroughly. 


Enjoy!

Fresh Sand crab Omelette is an all time favourite on Our Dreamtime.

Singapore Chilli Crab


Swimmer Crab recipes can be found on Our Galley - Seafood Page or in our Ebook Our Galley - Sensational Seafood

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