Also known as Blue Manna Crabs, these crustaceans have 2 long front claws, 3 sets of smaller legs and a rear set of paddlers. They swim and scuttle sideways and are very quick movers.
Males & Females
Male and female Blue Swimmer Crabs are distinguishably different in appearance. The males have a blue shell, longer claws and on the underside of the body their flap is long and narrow. Females have a brown/green shell and a much broader and rounded underside flap than the males. When a female has eggs, the flap will hold a sponge-like cluster of yellow eggs. “Berried” females and undersized crabs must be returned to the water immediately in all states.
Approved baits differ from state to state. In WA there are no restrictions on bait. Fish, bones, offal, spleen (pictured below) and other meats are all permitted. In QLD noxious fish (poisonous or pests) such as Carp, Tilapia and Gambusia are prohibited to use as bait dead or alive and cannot be returned to waterways if caught. In NSW abalone gut is prohibited as bait or burley due to the threat of virus spreading amongst abalone stocks. In SA only fish or fish based products are permitted.
Measuring a Blue Swimmer Crab correctly is very important and should not be taken lightly as hefty fines can be imposed on those caught with any undersized crabs in possession. You are required to be in possession of an approved gauge which is available at local tackle shops, each state varies in size. Measure the crab horizontally across the widest part of its top shell (carapace), along the widest protruding rear spikes. If each spike touches the gauge you have yourself a sized and legal crab. Note measuring procedures differ in NSW, crabs are measured vertically from the notch central to the eyes at the front across to the centre of the rear of the carapace.
Size & Bag Limits / State Fisheries
In Western Australia, the minimum legal size limit is 127mm across the carapace (back shell), personal daily bag limit is 10 crabs and the boat limit is 20 crabs. (Take note that 2 licenced fishermen are required on the vessel to catch the boat limit of 20 crabs). A recreational fishing licence is required for all crabbing methods in WA and the legal apparatus is 1 hand-held blunt wire hook per person, 1 wire scoop net per person or 10 drop nets per person or boat. Further information can be obtained from the WA Fisheries.
In Queensland, the minimum legal size limit is 115mm across the carapace and there are no personal daily bag limits or boat limits. A recreational fishing licence is not required in QLD and the legal apparatus is 4 crab pots or dillies (or combination) per person or boat. All females, “berried” or not, must be returned to the water immediately. Further information can be obtained from the QLD Fisheries.
In New South Wales, the minimum legal size limit is 60mm across the carapace and the personal daily bag limit is 20 crabs. A recreational fishing licence is required in NSW and the legal apparatus is 1 wire scoop net per person or 1crab trap per person. Further information can be obtained from the NSW Fisheries.
In South Australia, the minimum legal size limit is 110mm across the carapace, personal daily bag limit is 40 crabs and the boat limit is 120 crabs. A recreational fishing licence is not required in SA and the legal apparatus is 1 crab rake per person or 3 drop nets per person. Further information can be obtained from the SA Fisheries.
Fishing apparatus varies substantially in each state. Some states allow certain apparatus and others prohibit them. Nets, pots, dillies and traps differ in required dimensions and features. Floats, ropes, weights and name tagged apparatus also need to be taken into consideration.
Scooping for blue swimmer crabs is very popular in shallow estuaries. Fishermen can walk in the water with a wire scoop net attached to a long handle and when you see a crab start to scuttle, do your best to scoop it up in the net. Catching them sideways is easiest, but they can be very quick so you need to be too. No bait is required, just your focus and quick hand and eye coordination.
You'll need something to place your crabs into whilst crabbing and the best way we've found is a deep tub tied around the fisherman's waist with rope, so you have both hands free to catch and handle/measure the crabs.
A great way to keep your tub afloat is by using one of those floatation foam noodles (kids use in pools), cutting one in half and attaching it with cable ties to each side of your tub. There you have it, the perfect tub to tow and crab.
Rules & Regulations
State recreational fishing rules and regulations are subject to change. Season closures and licences can be enforced, size and bag limits can change, as can permitted and prohibited fishing apparatus. It all has to do with protecting breeding stocks in the applicable areas. Ensure you keep up to date with current fisheries regulations and research online (links above) prior to fishing in unfamiliar territory.
Cooking and eating these delicious Blue Swimmer Crabs is your reward for all the effort, which is fun in itself. Boil a large pot of boiling water, add a handful of rock salt or sea salt, place as many crabs as you can fit in the pot and boil until they start to float. Cooking usually takes about 8 minutes or so.
Cleaning the cooked crabs is the messy part. When they have cooled down pull the underside flap right back and continue pulling it around to remove the shell from its back. Break the shell-less body in half and remove the bodily organs and fluids and then rinse the meat thoroughly. Enjoy!
Check out some different ways of cooking and eating crabs. Share your own recipes if you have some delicious ones! Click here.