Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Mud Crab Adventures

Great Sandy Straits, Queensland

16/11/2105 Crab Adventures

Two craving novices set off in dinghy with 3 new crab nets

While returning through the Great Sandy Straits, We have anchored Easy Tiger at Garry’s Anchorage once more.

This is where I was attacked by sand flies during our trip north. Back then I vowed never to stay at Garry’s anchorage again. Garry could have it all to himself.

Well, you know what happens when you vow never to do something again? You do it again. After leaving Bundaberg there really isn’t another anchorage that will protect us from South East winds. So the weather gods must be rolling around the floor laughing at us, because just as we were about to go past the dreaded Garry’s Anchorage they turned the winds to the south east.    

Fortunately I am prepared. Before I go outdoors I apply with a layer of moisturiser, a layer of baby oil laced with tea tree oil and some antihistamine mild anaesthetic cream, plus a light spray of Aerogard.  This preparation has meant I get strange looks from other humans who question my bathing practices, but has limited sand fly attacks and mosquito bites to about a dozen so far.

During our stay in Bundaberg, we noticed the local boat supplies store had crab nets on sale. We could get 3 Crab nets for $50. It was tempting. We had crab nets on the boat from Mandurah right around to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. We had caught good numbers in Streaky Bay of blue manna (blue swimmers) and a few sand crabs at Kangaroo Island.

But alas, the nets don’t last long, and they were becoming more rust than crab pot and leaving annoying, hard to remove stains wherever they rested on Easy Tiger.

I had enjoyed catching blue swimmer crabs  since I met Leanne. Not being much of a fisherman, mainly through lack of experience and also through a lack of patience and coordination, I found crabbing a lot more enjoyable.

In the early days of our courtship,  I learnt the enjoyment of crabbing by going out with Leanne’s dad, Geoff in his tinnie.

Usually this involved an early morning start. Geoff would back the trailer into the water and then I would wade in till I was waist deep, to release the boat off the trailer. I would then drag the dinghy over to the jetty for Geoff to step in.

Geoff would then drive the dinghy to the secret spot, issuing instructions along about how to handle as  the slimy slippery bait, and how to tie it into the ten or so nets.

Once at the secret spot, along with the ten or so other boats, next task was to drop  the nets into the water. There is a proper way to throw them in. Judging from the exasperated expressions from Geoff,  I threw the nets in the wrong way.  You are supposed to make sure they land away from the dinghy (so that you don’t get the net or the attached rope and float wrapped around the propeller. It’s really hard to get off and usually wrecks the crab net, ask me how I know!). Also you need them to land on the ocean floor flat or you don’t catch too many crabs.

After getting the nets into the water (and repairing 2) we waited a half an hour or so and then Geoff drove the boat over to the first net, issuing instructions on how to pull the nets up. By the time we had pulled all the nets up, I just about had the knack for it. Luckily for the crabs, quite a few good ones got away while I was mastering the art of pulling the nets up and into the boat quickly and in a smooth motion.

Second, third and fourth time around to each net and I was just about good at pulling the nets up and Geoff was getting much better at the instructions which were coming through a lot louder and more descriptive.

Somehow though we managed to catch a dozen or so sized and legal crabs.  Sitting up the front of the boat crashing through the waves all the way back to the jetty, saw me drenched to the bone. Again I  plunged in again up to my nether regions to get the boat on to the trailer.

On arrival back at the Giles residence I washed down the boat while Geoff boiled the crabs.  Then the feeding frenzy began.

The Giles family can mow down a dozen crabs in a matter of minutes. While I fiddle farted around trying to extract teaspoon size portions of meat from the tough shell, the sound like a tree loppers mulching machine echoed around the table, as crab parts were drained of their offerings.

Now, looking at the crab pot sale in Bundaberg, those memories came back to me. However, the hunter in me rose to the surface.  Lets go crabbing.

After arriving in Garry’s anchorage, I got out the nets and we studied them carefully. The Queensland government restrictions and laws regarding crab nets are vastly different form Western Australia. The nets are quite different, but seem quite a lot more robust.  So it took a bit of getting our head around how to put the bait in and then how to get the crabs out should we catch some.

Neville and Amanda had stored the bait on Bossa Nova. It was a Mackerel Tuna that Leanne had caught a few days before. Perfect crab bait. The girls decided that crabbing was mans work, so Neville and I headed out in Easy tiger’s dinghy.

I sort of thought that if I was a crab, I would hang around the mangroves, rather than open water, so that’s where we headed. There are small mangrove “islands” at Garry’s anchorage, so we dropped our pots on the outer side of the first Island.

I am not sure if it just didn’t feel like the right spot, or the fact that the crab pot was only half covered with water, that made us decide to try another spot. Second place seemed the right one and we left the pots there to settle in for the night. Plus, at low tide we could not get back there anyway.

Next morning we set off at high tide full of anticipation. The first pot we pulled up had four crabs in it, two looking like a good size. We then had to tip the pot upside down and shake vigorously to get the crabs into our bucket. Unfortunately for Neville they fell out of the pot OK but landed in the bottom of the dinghy very close to his feet. While the crabs dashed for cover, Neville’s feet dashed for higher ground.   

After much scrambling around I got them into the bucket. Alas only 2 were keepers. One mud crab was just on size and the other was a blue swimmer.

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the third pot, so the report back to the girls was that we had caught an edible crab and lost one crab pot. Not really a successful day.

At low tide we went off again in search of our third pot. We found it tangled in the roots of a mangrove tree. After untying the rope we pulled up the pot and voila…the mother load.

5 good sized mudcrabs were gorging themselves on the little bit of bait left in the bottom of the crab net. Again hysterics were had as we tried to pick up angry mud crabs that were scrambling around in the bottom of the dinghy. After tossing the females back were were left with three good sized crabs.

This mornings harvest yielded another one. So this afternoon the four of us had a mud crab feast.

Neville  commented that $50 for 3 crab pots, the $55 for the bag to keep them in and the bit of fuel and bait was well worth it for entertainment value alone.

But, that was before he ate the fresh, just cooked, melt in your mouth steamed mud crab.

Tip up the net and shake vigorously to get them out of the net.

Then the trick is to get them out of the bottom of the boat and into the bucket.

The ones with only one claw are far easier to handle.

Sitting quietly in the bucket, until they see you.

The claws are a meal in them selves.

Lesson learned. Tongs are not really great tools for wrangling mud crabs.
Who's got who here?
The two crab novices with the results on the board...well the counter

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