Commonly referred to as muddies!
The tasty mud crab is a highly sort after northern delicacy that not only provide an interesting alternative to chasing northern estuary sport fish such as the mighty barramundi but also offer a cool, relaxing escape from the relentless forty degree heat whilst setting traps. They are a bulky and robust species of crab with large, powerful claws capable of crushing wooden broom handles in half as well as fingers, fishing rods and toes, beware! Still haven’t managed to work out which one hurts more?
Mud crabs are typically encountered from shark bay in Western Australia right up through the magnificent Kimberley region and around the top end of Australia into Queensland. Although there have been recorded captures as far south as the Peel inlet, Mandurah W.A over recent years possibly due to a stronger than normal Leeuwin current pushing them further south than normal. Mud crabs are also swimming crabs and prefer to spawn well off shore hence the reason berried females are rarely seen close to shore.
Green mud crabs mature at a carapace size of 130mm and grow to around 300mm weighing as much as 2.5kg. Brown mud crabs mature at around 110mm carapace length growing to a maximum size of 250mm and weighing around 2kg. Both species of mud crab can live for up to three years of age.
Brown mud crabs prefer areas such as warm, shallow, bays with low salinity for extended periods of time such as King sound, Derby, W.A. Green mud crabs prefer estuary systems full of healthy mangroves.
The brown mud crab is distinguished by not only its colouration but also its frontal lobe spines being lower and rounded compared to the green muddies which have higher, more pointed frontal lobes. Green mud crabs also have two large, very distinct spines behind each claw and another set on each wrist compared to the brown mud crabs which have blunt prominences rather than sharp spines on their claws. Green mud crabs are generally larger in size than browns depending on location. Female mud crabs have a rounded anal flap which can sometimes be covered in eggs or berries, these crabs should be released immediately upon capture. Male or buck crabs have pointed anal flaps and are generally larger in size.
Mud crabs are highly sought after for their fine eating qualities and although are not quite as sweet as blue manna’s certainly make up for it with their sheer size. Chilli and ginger mud crab still proves to be a hard dish to beat anywhere!
Both green and brown mud crabs are sought after for their fine eating qualities rather than their sporting abilities although walking and hooking them from their holes at low tide is not only great fun but also quite a challenging and terrifying sport in itself!
No rods, reels, lines and leaders necessary for targeting muddies although they can sometimes be landed by anglers targeting other estuary species on rod and reel they are generally targeted using drop nets, the only legal method of trapping crabs allowed by recreational anglers in Australia. At the time of writing 10 drop nets are legally permitted to target mud crabs. Please check with local fisheries departments in your area for up to date size, licence and bag limit information before attempting any crabbing/fishing. Larger sized drop nets are generally used for targeting large mud crabs. A crab size gauge is also very important to measure the legal size of all crabs! Again please see local fisheries for size and bag limits relevant to your state.
Many baits can be placed into drop nets to entice crabs aboard with some of the all time classics proving to be spleen, mullet, chicken necks and whole fish heads. Spray on Chum Line and fish oils are also handy to bring crabs to your baits from a distance or in current. Drop net baits may need to be enclosed in a wire bait wallet in some estuary systems to prevent bait fish and other nuisance species from devouring trap baits and floats need to be thrown high into mangrove branches to prevent crocodiles from chewing on them when crabbing up north.
Try not to handle mud crabs with bare hands if you are not experienced as they have large, powerful claws capable of inflicting some serious damage to human fingers and toes etc. Welding gloves are handy for beginners handling larger crabs. Always place the crabs you intend to keep into an iced slurry immediately upon capture as this sends the crabs into an unconscious state and apart from keeping them cool and fresh also prevents them from throwing their claws and legs during the cooking process. This process is also considered to be the most humane! Placing fresh mangrove leaves over the crabs will also prevent them from tearing each other apart if no ice is handy. Always try to take some clean sea water home with you to cook your crabs in as this improves the taste remarkably.
Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting mud crabs with drop nets although hooking muddy holes at low tide will also produce good numbers of larger crabs.