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    How To Hunt Crayfish

    February 11, 2021 6 min read

    spearfisher hunting crayfish

    We've previously talked about the basics of hunting fish, but let's not forget about one of our staple diets which is the crayfish. You will see these creatures whether you're on the shore, on shore dives or out on the reef. Hunting crayfish is great fun and very rewarding. However, it's a skill that requires practice and patience before you become skilled at it.

     

    Before we get started, we wanted to run through the different types of crayfish and lobster you can find in Australia... but firstly

    What are the different types of Crayfish or Lobster in Australia? 

    Eastern Rock Lobster (NSW, VIC) - These lobsters are typically found in areas with high kelp and cunjevoi cover. Discarded moults are often a give-away that they're in the area, with many spearos mistaking the moults as dead lobster. 

    Eastern Rock Lobster are very social, preferring to live in large nests. The  presence of one individual is a great indicator that more will be in the area. They are typically found under small overhangs and clinging to the inside of vertical cracks.

    Most Eastern's will be taken in 1m to 10m of water, however it's not uncommon to find good quantities of Eastern's in as little as 20cm of water.

    

    Southern Rock Lobster (NSW, VIC, SA, TAS, WA) - Southern Rock Lobsters are typically found in areas with high kelp and weed cover, wedged into large cracks and caves. Due to the heavy weed and kelp growth, the entrances to these caves will likely be obscured, so it pays to cover the ground slowly allowing the wave action to expose potential hiding holes.

    Southern Rock Lobster are less social than Eastern Rock Lobster and will often be found as solitary individuals. Most Southern's are found at a depth of 1m to 15m,  with Scuba divers like to take deeper specimens where the state laws allow.

     

    Western Rock Lobster (WA) - Western Rock Lobsters are an omnivorous cray, they can be found where their food sources are - the presence of abalone can be a good sign. They are typically found at depths between 1m to 15m and on broken reef, hard limestone or granite reef with kelp and cunjevoi present. Depending on the region you're diving, they can sometimes be found on rock groins and coral reef. 

    They can be a vibrant red to a creamy whitish/red in colour, depending on the season. Each year, between August and January, the Western Rock Lobster goes through its last larval stage which involves a significant increase of lobsters pushing into the sub 30m range. This period is fondly known as “The white run”, as lobsters from deeper regions push into the shallows, these lobsters typically have a whitish/red colouration due to the lack of light in those depths. This time of year, most inshore reefs are teaming with lobster life. Western Rock Lobsters are present all year round and can now be targeted as such but you'll certainly find ‘thicker’ specimen during the white run. 

     

    Tropical Rock Lobsters (QLD, NSW, NT, WA) - Offshore tropical rock lobsters love to hide under large plate corals and mushroom corals. Onshore tropical rock lobsters love to frequent coffee rock ledges and boulder areas off headlands. In these areas they are usually found in 3m to 15m of water and are often accompanied by wobbegong sharks.

     

    Slipper Lobster (All States) - Slipper lobster are found in a variety of different reefs all over Australia and are often caught as by-catch when looking for other species of Lobster. Slipper Lobsters often hang suspended on the roof of caves and overhangs. If you are hunting for Slipper Lobster be sure to check each cave thoroughly, looking at the ceiling - you will not be able to see them from an elevated position.

     

    Step 1. Gear Set Up for Hunting Cray

    When it comes to hunting crayfish, your gear set up will very much depend on what state you’re hunting in, as each state has a different set of laws and regulations. 

    At a minimum you'll just need your freediving gear and a pair of gloves! But depending on where you go, how often, and if you're shore diving, this gear will help.

    Step 2. Shore Dive or Boat Set Up

    Crayfish love shallow ledges so you can find them on a shore dive or with a boat. Regardless of where you’re diving, we always recommend using a high-vis float so that you’re visible to other boats in the area, particularly if you’re diving a lot for crays.

     

    Step 3. Knowing the Regulations for Catching Crayfish

    There are a few different rules and regulations when it comes to catching crayfish - and these will often vary by state.Before you do begin hunting crayfish, it is essential for you to obtain a license first. 

    Some State's allow spearing, some require a loop, and some are hand grab only. Similarly, some will allow you to scuba dive for them, while others allow you to only freedive for them. The time of day, and use of torches, may also be restricted in your State. 

    You can access regulations for each state, via the following apps: 

    Something that is prohibited across all states is taking female crays with eggs (also referred to as berries) attached - it is illegal to take these at anytime. 

     

    Step 4. Knowing Where to Find Crayfish 

    The good news is that crayfish can be found around Australia! Whether it's the humble Painted Crayfish of the northern regions or the sought-after delicacy of the Southern and Western Rock Lobsters - you can't help but love hunting and eating them all.

    The biggest factor with chasing crayfish is time in the water and knowing your spots. Chasing crayfish at first can be quite a frustrating task. But once you find one, you begin to understand where you're going to find them, especially in those areas that you often dive.

    There are few different ways to catch crayfish, whether you're swimming around with a gun and a float line, or you're not swimming around with a gun at all. Make sure that you have a few different things - like drop weights. If you’ve got a float line attached, clip that off, drop it right on that spot you’ve spotted one. If you start seeing crayfish in around that 15 meters of water - that’s a fairly long dive, so you want to make sure that you're dropping straight on top of them. 

    As you keep on diving, just make sure you're getting enough surface time between dives because you'll end up with a headache at the end of the day. But definitely just doing quick 20-second dives, checking every ledge, and keeping an eye for the antenna once you hit the bottom. They can be deep in holes - so once your eyes have started adjusting, when you're inside your cave, give yourself a few seconds just to have a look at where the crays are sitting - or even use a torch. Try looking on the surface of your ledge, because a lot of the time you'll find slipper lobsters in there paired in with Eastern greens and other species.

     

    Step 5. Picking Up The Cray

    Once you've got an idea as to which cray you want to grab, keep your eye on it. 

    If you’re going to grab it by hand, you will need to pin yourself securely with either your legs or your hand on the ledge. You're going straight in trying to grab it at the base of the horns and hold on. You don't want to be grabbing it by the antennae. Instead, grab the really big bases on the nose of the cray. If you get a hold of those you've got a good hold of the cray. 

    If you’re using a noose or cray loop, here’s a video from Taylor explaining how to use a cray loop / noose

     

    Step 6. Preparing your Crayfish

    In this video below, Taylor runs through removing the tail of a cray, and preparing it for eating! 

     

    Looking for the best crayfish recipes?

    Here's our top recommendations: