The Gale boys with a few sandcrabs.
The Gale boys with a few sandcrabs. Contributed

Winner, winner, crab for dinner

I CAN still remember the first time I caught a sand crab.

It was an early morning about September.

The sun was still to break the horizon but there was plenty of pre-dawn light.

The sea was a deep, cool blue.

Clear but dark down below.

As I hauled the crab pot to the surface I hoped my anticipation would be matched by what the sea was willing to give me.

The pot got closer to the surface and to my surprise I saw the now-familiar shapes of the variously named blue swimmer, blue manna or sand crab.

Winner, winner, crabby for dinner.

Columnist Andrew Gale with his catch.
Columnist Andrew Gale with his catch. Contributed

It's a feeling that never gets old. I do love to eat them, don't get me wrong, but nothing matches the feeling I get of having outsmarted the puny-brained crustacean into entrapping itself in my pot.

The look on the faces of my friends and family is pretty special too when you fill the table with a feast of fresh crab.

Just add bread rolls, mashed avo and home-made egg yolk mayonnaise.

Some people "poo-poo” the humble sandy, saying they're not as good as mud crabs.

I don't mind a muddy either but for ease of cooking, cleaning and safe handling the sandy is tops for me.

They can give you a nip still and draw blood if you're not careful.

They probably won't almost tear off a finger though, like a big muddy can.

This week I'm at Bribie Island and the pots are on the soak as I write this.

There's plenty in the bay and passage to share so if you want to get a feed, here's a few tips.

I like to crab the drop-offs along the main channel in 5-8m of water.

I use 12m of rope on each pot in that depth.

You can get big currents around here so shorter ropes will get dragged under.

Use plenty of bait.

I've seen people crab with small baits like a can of cat food or a single pilchard and they never catch as much as a well-baited trap.

POT LUCK: A few crabs are all in a day's work.
POT LUCK: A few crabs are all in a day's work. Contributed

Two or three fish frames is great, a whole mullet or similar.

Be prepared to leave them in overnight.

You may have to sit near them in your boat to watch them so no one else "has a look” in your pots.

I rarely bother. I suppose I've been robbed a few times but I've rarely missed out on a feed.

Best time for a quick crab is before and up to about two hours after dawn.

I use the collapsible pots that you get on special at the big outdoor shops.

There are bigger, stronger and sturdier ones on the market but for a three-times-a-year crabber like I am , they are fine.

If I get five years out of a pot I'd say they do me.

Always crab legally. Don't take females or undersized crabs.

Mark your pots as required and never touch anyone else's pots.

Familiarise yourself with all the rules and make sure you stick to them.

The fines can be huge for illegally taking fish and crabs.

As well as that, we want to leave plenty so our children and grandchildren can enjoy them down the track.

Always wear a life jacket and don't drink alcohol on the water. Save that for the feast back at the camp or holiday house.

I cook the crabs for eight minutes at a rolling boil in well-salted fresh or sea water. Then plunge into ice immediately to cool.

Happy crabbin'.

I'm going to pull those pots.

Writing this has made my mouth water.



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