Crayfish challenge
  |  First Published: October 2012

Spearfishing during October has been reasonable with continued good catches of squid from Port Philip and Westernport Bay. As I have covered this in last month’s report, I thought I would dedicate this month’s report to one of my favourite pastimes, crayfish diving.

Hunting crayfish is challenging whether freediving or on compressed air. In Victoria we are only allowed to capture these tasty bugs while diving with our hands; no snares, hooks, spears, and such are allowed.

Given that crayfish are almost always found in narrow and dark ledges, caves or in between rocks it is handy to hunt for them with a suitable dive torch to increase the light and your chances of finding them. Be careful as many crayfish will shy away from a direct torch beam in their face. Once you find them do not give them direct torch light, rather only use the torch to give you sufficient light to safely light up the ledge.

Crayfish diving, like all forms of diving, is best done as a pair. This is not only for safety reasons but it also increases your chances of landing them. Many crayfish will have escape holes in their homes and will back away once you approach. This is when your dive partner can move to the crayfish’s escape hole and help secure the catch.

Many of the places that crayfish live are narrow and your dive gear can be accidently knocked off during the process. It is a very satisfying feeling working as a pair to land your crayfish.

Once a crayfish is found quickly evaluate the area. Work out if the crayfish can get away easily or not. If it can’t, a quick ‘snatch and grab’ technique works well. Be sure to grab at the base of the horns and pull firmly. Be prepared for a battle as they do not come out easily. A good firm grip and a quality pair of gloves are essential when ‘cray bashing’.

If it can back away into another hole or tunnel see if you (or your partner) can approach the hole from the rear and grab at its tail. There are a number of different techniques used to try and land crayfish and learning them is all part of the game.

Remember, you will not get every crayfish you find, in fact if you get 50% of the crayfish you find you are doing well. Often, it is much less than that.

Most ocean beaches with solid reef in Victoria hold crayfish. Many of them are close to shore and are easily accessible from the land. The daily bag limit for southern rock lobster is two per licensed diver and strict size limits apply; females need to measure 10.5cm and males 11cm. DPI has a free plastic measuring device that can easily be carried underwater with you.

September 15 saw the total closure of the southern rock lobster (saltwater crayfish) fishery. Females have been closed since June 1 in order to protect the spawning stock. The season is now closed until November 15 for males and females.

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