Saturday, May 13, 2017

Full-moon crabbing

One of the joys of cruising the East Australian coast is the ability to feast on mud-crabs and sand-crabs.

I was taught young; the family used to holiday in South Devon. Mackerel fishing and lobster pots were a daily routine.

We carry crab pots on Nimrod. Four blue foldable ones, with two entrances each. We have tried different ones, but these seem to give the best results. They are 730mm in diameter, and you can fit four in the foredeck locker.

Crabbing is messy. Plenty mud involved with muddies. An asset is the sea-water hose that we have plumbed in to the salt-water pump in the starboard engine compartment. Great for cleaning up after crabs, and also blood from fish, etc. Good for kids having sea-battles when Swallows want to repel Amazons.

We had a good haul last night in The Narrows, north of Gladstone. I put the pots out in the evening, and picked them up at 6 am. Ten muddies in three pots; four of them legal males. Full moon.

George gets the water boiling in a saucepan and then cooks them for 7 minutes. Delicious!

The rules are: 15cm minimum across the shell, males only. Max number in your possession: ten.

There is a legend that crab harvesting in the north of Australia and South East Asia was done according to the phases of the moon. 

The Mud Crabs (Scylla serrata) who inhabit burrows in the inner-tidal mud of the mangrove regions, have a habit of digging deep into the mud just before the full moon illuminates the sky and makes them easy prey for predators like crocodiles.

Before this hiding occurs, the crab eats a lot and becomes heavy with meat. When the full moon turns to the waning gibbous, the crabs come up to feed, having lost condition and their flesh is rendered muddy.

So canny crab gatherers know that the best time to harvest the crabs, when they are full of meat and clean tasting, is on the waxing gibbous, two to three days before the full moon.

Some of the competition.

There's another sort of competition! As I was lifting a pot up the top of Island Head Creek, a big underwater object surged towards my dinghy. A big 'bow-wave'. I didn't actually see what it was, but its movement was aggressive, not away from me. I think it can only have been a crocodile. Fortunately I had the outboard running, and was able to rev away quickly. I won't stop the outboard in future, and keep my eyes skinned.

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