We were heading up the western side of the Eyre Peninsula towards Ceduna when we got word that the crabs had arrived.
Every year during the warmer months, Blue Swimmer Crabs exit semi-hibernation and come to warmer inland waters to molt and mate. They live along the southern coast of Australia, but not in Victoria and Tasmania. If you want to catch some blue swimmer crabs, make sure they’re at least 11cm long from the base of the largest spines on the carapace, and your limit is 40 per person. If it’s a lady with eggs, please throw her back and think about future generations.
To catch them, you can use a variety of nets. Lucky for us, we crossed paths with our mates Peter and Jo in the Barossa, as they were heading back to Melbourne after 6 months on the road. They wouldn’t need their drop nets once they got home so they were awesome and gave them to us.
Drop nets are the simplest of traps – two rings, a big one and a small one, are joined together to make a basket. To use it, secure your bait in the middle, lower the net into the water (preferably off a jetty) and once it reaches the sea floor, it flattens to allow for crabs to crawl towards the bait. Leave the net alone for a few minutes and when you pull on the rope to retrieve, the big ring lifts first to create a basket and trap the crab in the net. The hardest part about using drop nets is prying the crab claws from the wire.
The most common tip we came across when it came to baiting your drop net was to pierce a tin of cat food and secure it to the bottom of the net. Apparently, the stink is irresistible to crabs. This was our method, while the blokes next to us used hunks of old meat. They were just as successful at pulling crabs from the water as us.
Once you have captured your blue swimmer crab, make sure it’s the right size and isn’t carrying eggs.
To cook your crab, boil up a big pot of water and be generous with the salt. Some people like to put in lemongrass, chilli or whatever else to give the flesh a tint of flavour. Cook for around 8-10 minutes or until the crab starts floating.
Cleaning the crab is the messiest part – peel the little V flap back with your thumb to reveal it’s ‘arse-cheeks’, then follow its bum crack to lift the top shell off. Rinse the poop and guts out, discard the cone-shaped gills and get stuck into that delicious white meat.