Feb 16 – Ardrossan

After cooking steak on the bbq and being the only ones in the caravan park not having crab to eat, we decided we better get out there and have a go. The caravan park had rakes we could hire and we headed off not really having a clue what we were doing. We went to the beach near the jetty and walked a fair way along so we had our own space. The tide was low and turning so we had plenty of shallow water with nice sea grass beds to work the rakes around. We went for 20 minutes without anything and started to realise why people took the easy option of throwing a trap off the jetty and waiting for the crabs to do the job for them. Then…bang, a crab objected violently to the rake above it and latched it’s claw onto the metal. Into the bucket and we had a measuring tape to check for the 11cm legal length – and it was good. Buoyed by a catch we continued on although the 80 crabs we were allowed to legally catch between the four of us looked like taking some time. Soon after we got another and before we knew it we had ten legal size crabs in the bucket.

Josh started to get his eye in and could see the slightly dirty sand where a crab had wallowed down into the sand to ambush it’s next feed. The thrill of the crabs attacking the rake is as good as hooking a fish on the end of a line and the trick is to stay calm and let the cloudy sand in the water settle slightly before whipping the rake around to scoop the crab up. We just covered the crabs in a wet cloth which made them go calm and quiet. By the time we had 30 crabs and decided that was enough – we couldn’t take five steps without finding another crab.

We headed back to camp with a total of 33 blue swimmer crabs. Only maybe five were too small and were thrown back and one female with eggs was returned carefully too. As we walked back to the caravan park we started to ponder how we would cook so many crabs – google said they only needed 3 minutes in boiling water but we were only going to fit maybe three in our billy. Lach and Josh went for a walk to see what was available and found some people sitting near one of the crab cooking gas burners eating freshly cooked crab. They spotted us fresh newbees to crabbing from a mile away and were quick to set us up with their big 20 litre crab cooking drum with a basket to make it easy to pull the cooked crabs out of the boiling water. Tom “chef” Evans gave us a crash course in crab cooking (in between mouthfuls of freshly cracked cab meat) and supervised as we went through the cooking process. We ended up doing two batches and then cleaned and washed the cooked crabs before heading back to our camp to shell them. A big thanks to Tom for his hospitality over the few days we were there – we felt like locals being invited along to crab hunting trips and being able to chat to the permanent residents.

The next job was shelling the crabs. Catching them is heaps of fun, cooking them with every man and his dog chipping in their ‘expert’ advice was great. Shelling them….well….it takes patience and tolerance – safety goggles are recommended for the sprays and squirts that occur during the necessary cracking and crunching processes. Josh decided that the best job for him was to keep Amy’s wine glass topped up while she spent the afternoon shelling the crabs. Never, ever, did the wine glass get BELOW the clipsal line! But the result was a good amount of crab meat – a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery around the corner, bread and butter with fresh crab meat – it doesn’t get better. We had plenty left to cook up another meal tomorrow – singapore chilli crab was looking like an option.

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