Crabbing season is ON! We’ve been planning to give this activity a go since a few weeks back but have, unfortunately, had to put it off a couple of times due to various reasons.
Last Saturday, on a perfect sunny day, about 13 of us + a super cute baby set off around mid morning (10-ish am) to Port Parham which is located towards the North of Adelaide. It took us about 45 minutes from our meet-up point (a friend’s house in Mawson Lakes) to reach the beach. For those of you who are unfamiliar with crabbing, the season in South Australia is officially open from September to April. There are many crabbing locations here but I have been told that Port Parham and Port Gawler are probably two of the more well known spots. The high tide on that day happens around 7-ish am whereas low tide happens around 12-1-ish pm. We arrived about 2 hours before the low tide happens and I found out after the fact that we were there at the best time. There weren’t a lot of people around at the time of our arrival and most, I suspect, are veterans as they don’t come in groups like we did. Another way to tell that they are veterans is the fact that there are no screams coming from their directions.
|Setting off on a fine day|
|Everyone pushing on to where the crabs lie|
|Happy Family =)|
Before I go any further, let me list down crabbing paraphernalia you’ll need for the activity:
1) Rain boots – We spent several days combing shops for cheap and serviceable rain boots in preparation for our outing. Not willing to fork out $30 for a pair if it’s going to be worn only once so in the end decided to go barefoot. Do this at your own risk.
2) Crab rake – The idea is to poke the crabs with it and the crabs would automatically grab onto the rake in attack mode. ßNo fingers allowed! No baits required.
3) Kitchen tongs – This is an ingenious equipment for crabbing. Crab rake doesn’t really work because some of the crabs would let go before we could get them into the bucket. With the tongs, we were able to grab hold of them and chuck them into the bucket.
4) Buckets – for the crabs obviously. We saw some veterans with esky-like boxes tied with a string that is then tied around their midriff. We think it’s really clever as it frees both their hands for the task. Must make sure there’s a lid to it though or I imagine the crabs would crawl free and start to sing ‘The Freedom Song’.
5) Plastic bags – For rubbish and wet slippers and some knick knacks you pick along the way.
It’s a surprisingly long trek from the beach to where the crabs are. I started off wearing rain boots lent by a friend but took them off midway because the boots were chafing against my legs and blisters had started to form. A note of advise for those wearing boots : wear socks even though it’s going to end up getting soaked because sea water and gritty sand would get inside the boots regardless. The sand would then act like an abrasive agent and create blisters. So, wear socks! It’s been a painful lesson to me as my blisters have yet to heal. T^T FYI, I had to trek all the way back to the shore to store the boots and then all the way back out to sea again. All in all it’s been a great workout. The waters generally came up to my knee but in some parts, I’d be soaked up to my mid thighs. So another thing to take note of is to wear really short shorts. Walking barefoot is bearable although some parts would be scattered with broken sea shells and some rather sharp marine weed-like plants. However, the greatest threat of all for the bare footed is still the crabs themselves.
When we entered ‘crab territory’ and heard screams from, I presume, people who had been privileged by attacks from the crabs, I started to hyperventilate and held on tightly to my sister’s arm. She’s wearing boots and as such was, in my eyes, my personal savior. She kept saying to me ‘Don’t worry. I’ll protect you with my boots. You just walk behind me ok?’ Lol. At one point, when I heard a particularly loud scream, I really contemplated climbing onto my sister’s back. XD Anyway, I got used to the adrenalin soon and started to keep my eyes peeled for the little beasts. My first catch of the day happened as soon as I started to relax. I felt a shocking nip to my ankles, let out a loud scream and automatically reached down with my tongs and grabbed the offending crab off the sea. All in all, I grabbed 3 crabs for the day and received about 4 or 5 bites. I have to say that for me personally, the bites weren’t painful at all. However, my mum and bro both shed a bit of blood. One bite was particularly painful for mum that when she screamed and lifted her foot, she separated one unfortunate crab from one of its claw. I guess it depends on where you’re bitten. Just make sure that your toes are safe and you’ll be fine….hopefully.
|Me and baby Lucas - Cute as a button in his boots!|
Another thing to take note of before you start your forage for crabs is to ensure that you refer to PIRSA Fisheries and the Fish SA’s websites for legal sizes of crabs allowed (in our case, for blue swimmers crab, it’s 11cm across the body part) in addition to the number of crabs per bag/person (40 crabs each for blue swimmers).
We based our estimation on sight only and I have been informed that that is actually not acceptable. We were lucky that no enforcers were roaming about on that particular day because if we’d been caught without any physical measuring tools, we would either have been fined, or asked to throw back all the crabs we had caught and get kicked off the beach.
After a light picnic and splitting up the crabs (we caught about 50 crabs), we went back to quickly clean and prepare the crabs.
|Cleaned and Prepared Crabs|
Steps to clean and prepare a crab (this is going to be gruesome so skip if you’re squeamish):-
1) As we’re in a hurry and also because there’s no more space in the freezer to freeze them to death, we had to kill them inhumanely. Use a sharp knife and stab them through the middle. Sayonara baby.
2) Flip them to their back and grab hold of the flap at the back of where the head is (head as in the part the eyes are located) and rip the flap away.
3) Mum suggested scrubbing the crabs with a brush to get rid of the sand but I was lazy so I just rubbed them with my fingers under a running tap. Make sure to rub between the legs…er claws.
4) Slide your thumb between the top part of the shell and the body part and crack the top shell off. The crabs’ intestines will then be exposed. In case you’re wondering, the intestines are the gill like rubbery strips on the body. Peel off the gills as best as you can. Make sure you get them all off as I’ve read that they’re bacteria infested. Then clean the body part again with water and scrub off any residue sand. For big crabs, cut the body in half for ease of handling. Luckily, blue swimmers have much softer shells compared to mud crabs so this was a fairly easy task.
5) Back to the top shell. At the very top of the shell, dig around until you find a black sac and pull them off. Mum called it the shit sac. I know some people would also clean the top shell of the yellowy mush but we actually find it a delicacy so we left that on.
|Wok Tossed Chilli Crabs|
After our bath, we congregate again at Jas and Kevin’s house to cook the crabs. Every household did different versions. We had Singapore Chili Crabs, Black Pepper Crabs, Egg Crabs and mum did a Red Wine and Eggs Crabs. A Crab Feast. We ate till we can eat no more. We also helped a friend celebrate his birthday that night. He was not a fan of crabs and didn’t eat much of it. The cake we bought didn’t come with candles and there were unfortunately no candles available at our host’s home. In the end, we had to improvise with a lighter. =.= I expect it’s one of his worse birthday celebration ever. Sorry Ah Yi. Haha.
|Group photo with the Birthday Boy. No candles so we used our fingers. 22 for 22nd Birthday XD|
Onwards and upwards to other activities! XD All photos are courtesy of Jaslyn and Ah Yi (the birthday boy). Thanks guys!