Crabbing For Dummies

Crabbing For Dummies

With summer weather starting to knock down the door on the West Coast i thought I would run you through one of my favourite forms of fishing. Crabbing! I was introduced to crabbing at a ripe old age of about six years old. My family had a Holiday house just South of the Old Mandurah Traffic Bridge and we used to venture down to Mandurah on every school holiday and long weekend we had free. My step dad or “Big Olly” as i have referred to him in previous articles has a 4.5m Quintrex bay hunter which is perfect for Mandurah Waters. Nearly 99% of the time our preferred option to get crabs in Mandurah was scooping the shallow flats only 10 minutes south of our Holiday House where the boat at was tied up to its private jetty. As a young fella I was a little hesitant to get around scooping the crabs but i made the role “chief spotter” my own, “Big Olly” used to tie a rope of about 3 meters around his waist and then to the front of the boat as he would tow the boat over the flats. We used to have Corey (My step brother) on the left side walking in the water with a scoop and then Chris (my other step brother) on the right hand side of the boat forming an unstoppable triangle and really the crabs never had a chance! But much to my disappointment the luxury of going to Mandurah most long weekends stopped due to our growing sporting commitments. But like they say one door closes and another one opens.

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I can definitely vouch for that phrase as it was only the next year that we started Crabbing in the Swan River and what a change that is! No scoop nets or shallow flats , pulling up nets in waters ranging from 9 meters to about 19 meters! The “Swan River Crab” is so different to the “Mandurah Crab” not because of its colour , shape , attributes or physical characteristics just purely because of the sheer size of the crab. The Swan River Crab puts the Mandurah crab to shame to be perfectly honest. Over the past 5 years we have had some amazing sessions crabbing in the Swan River by drop netting and I’m going to walk you through bit by bit so you can be successful this season and beyond!


The most important piece of equipment! I personally believe this is certainly the piece of the equipment that is worth spending a little more cash on if you can because the more you spend the better quality net you will get and the longer they will last! Nets come in many shapes and sizes but it seems over the last few years shops seem to be selling cheap and smaller sized nets. So its worth shopping around for the larger sized nets with better quality mesh lining that isn’t too thin! The best quality nets that I have seen around are at Bluewater Tackle stores that retail for a good price. The net pictured below is what we run with and have done for the last 6 years they have a larger ring diameter of 740mm and the smaller ring has a diameter of 600mm , we find this to be the perfect size and the mesh is the perfect width so that the crabs don’t get tangled up and make the smaller ones harder to release. When purchasing new nets it’s very important to re tie all the knots that are on the net especially the four knots that are around the larger ring and then join to the main rope.

Quick Points 



Ropes would be the second most important equipment to have when crabbing and its worth shopping around to get the best quality rope that will last you 3 or 4 seasons. The current rope we are running is the TradeMate Telstra Rope that 6mm thick. This rope is not rough and is very durable and does not hurt the hands while lifting the nets over a long session , the rope has a very strong coil and doesn’t unwrap and then eventually fray. A common theme that I see on nets is that the rope is too thin and makes it very sharp on the hands and can cause cutting , it also makes it very prone to clean cuts , snaps and significant fraying after minimal use. To get maximum life out of your rope its best to give hem a spray with fresh water after use and then store the in a neat coil so there is no strain on the rope. Make sure you always carry some spare rope in your boat just incase!



The most common style of float is the popular sphere styrene float which now retail for nearly $8 a pop but there are plenty of other cost effective options that i have seen used for example Milk Cartons , Juice Bottles and Pool Noodles. Its best nowadays since crabbing is becoming so popular in the Swan and Canning Rivers its nearly essential that you ID your floats with a name , number , colour , pattern or any exclusive mark so you don’t go picking up other people’s nets and eventually taking them without even noticing r even worse someone else picking up your own nets! Floats are pretty durable over a long period of time but it’s still definitely worth washing them down with fresh water. In terms of tying of your main rope to the float , there is always a hole that goes right through the float so its best to thread the rope through and tie it off multiple times. Our knots are secured with a medium sized cable tie to unsure there is no slippage (Remember to cover these up as it can cut the skin).


Bait Hooks or Cages?

Two Hooks for Two different baits!

Well its a question that i get asked 100s of times and for me I always answer with clips but some people swear by the cages to protect their bait from blowies and rays. When asked why we swear by hooks its pretty simple really , would a crab prefer an open bait or a bait that is 75% covered by plastic? If you put yourself in the mind of the crab it’s a pretty simple answer!


Probably the biggest talking point in crabbing , what bait do I use? Again each to their own , the most popular baits are the standard Chicken Wings , Fish Heads , fish fillets , dog food and even liver! These are the stock standard baits and they will be very successful but don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to baits , there are plenty of variations out there that are our go to baits but to find out what they are you may have to check out some of my other crabbing articles to find out! (Tip ;)). The two characteristics that are KEY for crabbing bait is that they are FRESH and OILY.



The location where you will be crabbing will change around what time of the season it is. For the late months of the year you should be more down river closer to East Fremantle , Mosman Bay  , Claremont Waters where it is notoriously deep and holds some very nice crabs in the 10m-19m waters. Once its close to the new year and into the new year you should be hitting the areas from Point Walter all the way up to the Mt Henry and Narrows Bridge in the city. The water surrounding these areas are around the 5m to 14m mark. Most popular spots being in front the brewery and the waters surrounding Canning Bridge. It seems as though the crabs you pull closer to the city are the biggest of the lot as they have been feeding all the way up river. Its important when crabbing around these areas you aren’t in the way of boat traffic like the sail boats running their courses or even the rowers as you get closer to the Canning Bridge. It’s also imperative that you take notice of the Ski zones around the Mt Henry bridge area.

Rules and Regulations

You are allowed 10 crabs per person per day. You must not catch crabs for anyone else.You are allowed a possession limit of 20 crabs per boat when there are 2 or more people on board.If it is a powered boat, 2 or more people on board must each hold an RFBL.Measure each crab from the tips of the spikes across the widest part of the shell (must me 127mm). Measure accurately using a crab gauge available from tackle shops