Rottnest Crayfish

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

The heady days of summer are over for another year and so is our time at Rottnest Island. We spend most of the summer here, hiding away in our old wooden boat in one of the northern bays on the island. It’s a relaxing lifestyle. One where every day starts catching crayfish!

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Our summer getaway!


It’s one of the most important tasks of the day…to check the cray pots and see if we’re having fresh crayfish or western rock lobster as they’re officially known, for dinner.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

A good size crayfish


How to catch crayfish

Our crays are caught in pots. Today they are mainly plastic but there are still a few wooden ones around and even the odd cane pot. The pots are baited…we use fish heads…and then the important task of looking for a place to drop the pots commences.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Fish heads in the craypot bait box


Most of the time the water is fairly clear. This helps when you are looking for that tiny hole, preferably with a sandy bottom and surrounded by rock, to put the craypot.

The crayfish love to hide in these rocks and hopefully the lure of the fish heads will bring them to investigate the pots…and fall down the hole at the top of the pot! Sometimes an octopus will visit making the most of a ready caught meal.

The next day you go back to pull the pot. Hopefully the flutter of the crayfish can be heard as the pot is pulled into the boat.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

I can see a few crayfish in this pot!


Once the crays are removed from the pot, the bait is replaced if needed and the pot put back into the water. The process starts again.

You can also dive for crayfish and catch them either using your bare hands or with a hand held snare which is not as easy as it sounds!

A license is required

In our part of the state, the cray season opens on October 15 and closes on June 15. You must obtain a license to catch crayfish….for each license, you are allowed two craypots. You are allowed to catch and hold eight crayfish per day per license.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Crayfish in the holding pot


The carapace must be of a minimum length (76mm) and females with eggs are not allowed to be taken. Any crayfish that are too small or have tar spots (eggs) are thrown back into the water.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Those orange spots are crayfish eggs


If they pass these criteria, they must then have their one of their tail flaps cut so they cannot be sold. This way the local cray fishing industry is protected.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Just out of the pot!


 A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Freshly caught crayfish

How to cook crayfish

The time then comes to cook the crayfish. Every boat owner has their own recipe. Some steam them, others microwave whilst others like my husband, prefer to boil them. They are drowned in fresh water before being popped into the boiling water together with a little sugar and vinegar. A slurp of beer is optional! Crayfish change colour to a bright red when they are cooked.


A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Cooking the crayfish


A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Just out of the pot!


A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Cooked crayfish


There’s nothing better that eating slightly warm crayfish that were swimming a few hours earlier….definitely a taste of Rottnest.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Freshly cooked cray tails


We also like to have them grilled on the barbequeue….


 A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Just add some garlic butter to crayfish on the grill!



or with pasta and a bit of chilli and garlic!

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Crayfish Pasta


But the best way to eat them is in a fresh cray sandwich!
Fresh bread is a must and the Rottnest bakery makes fabulous bread! Just add lemon, a touch of wasabi or my favourite, mango mayonnaise.

A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

Cray sando!


Oh for the long, hot endless days of summer!


How would you like to eat crayfish or lobster?


Other articles you may enjoy:
Our Summer Getaway: Rottnest Island
Everyone loves Quokkas
The Rottnest Channel Swim

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40 Responses to A Taste of Rottnest Island: Crayfish

  1. Rhonda Albom April 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Yummy! This post made me hungry. I am glad there are fishing limits in place. We have them here too.

    • Rhonda Albom April 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

      Forgot to finish before I hit submit. I was glad this was about great crayfish. I was worried that it was a typo and you were going to tell us about rotten or worst, the rottenest crayfish.

      • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

        Ha ha!! Lucky they’re so delicious!

  2. Denise D Hammond April 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    Oh, that lobster looks so good. You’re making me hungry.

    • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

      They are soooo…delicious Denise! We’re very spoilt that we are able to have them as often as we want!

  3. Muza-chan April 14, 2015 at 9:43 pm #


    • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

      They definitely are Lili!

  4. Michela of Rocky Travel Blog April 15, 2015 at 3:22 am #

    This is definitely a highlight of Rottnest Island! It does reminds me of my crabbing day on Yorke Peninsula, but this is even better! Thanks for sharing these jaw-dropping photos!

    • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

      Pleasure Michela. Crabbing in the Yorke Peninsula sounds like great fun.

  5. budget jan April 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Staying on your timber boat at Rottnest sounds a sublime way to spend the summer. I see from your post that there are many common factors between catching and eating crays in W.A. and mud crabs in N.Q.

    We use pots with fish heads as bait too, but mud crabs are mostly a dark green/grey colour before cooking and brilliant orange only after cooking. Mud crabs are cooked in salted water only! We think that a mud-crab sandwich is the best way to eat them and sprinkle ground black pepper and malt vinegar over the crab.

    I would love to try making Singaporean Chilli Crab or Chinese Crab Omelettes, but Marty thinks such an act to be sacrilegious!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could swap our crays and mudfish occasionally?

    • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

      I love mud crabs. That’s a great idea you have to swap your muddies for our crays!! we drown the crays in fresh water and then cook them in salt water. I probably didn’t make this clear! We’ve caught mud crabs in Broome using drop nets though, not pots. Chilli crab would be delicious once or twice but there’s something special about having them freshly boiled!

      • budget jan April 17, 2015 at 5:38 am #

        Ah, I understood the crays were boiled in salt water, but meant that we don’t add sugar and vinegar or (beer) to the water we cook muddies in.

  6. Corinne April 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Jenny, You certainly have me drooling over that sandwich. The way you fish for them sounds like fun and very similar to how lobster fishing is done in the northeast US. There you can go out for a short tour and see what it’s all about as well!

    • Jenny Freedman April 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

      Thank heavens they haven’t started tours here Corinne! I’d love to taste some of the American lobsters. The claws are very different but I wonder if this is the only difference!

  7. Andy @ Travelling Type April 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    I’ve been to ‘Rotto’ so many times over the years, but never once thought about crayfishing! I’ve worked as a chef and my favourite way was to roast them in the oven. I like how you’ve grilled them in garlic butter too. Fresh crayfish scoffing would have made my summers there even better.

    In that shot of them in the pot it appears their little eyes are staring at me…

    • Jenny Freedman April 21, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Oh no Andy….you’ll have to visit again and go for a dive or set a few pots! Fresh crayfish is a taste sensation you can’t miss out on! Roasting them in the oven sounds great too…one way to miss the eyes looking at you!!

  8. Kristen April 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    I’m not sure what I’m more jealous of – life on a boat at Rottnest or fresh crayfish everyday. Both, I can’t even comprehend 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman April 21, 2015 at 9:08 am #

      It’s a pretty good life I must admit. We are definitely spoilt!

  9. Johanna April 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I’ve seen your crayfish pics on Facebook and felt a stab of hunger each time, or is that a stab of the little green monster – perhaps they both provoke the same stab? Lol! Anyway, I so agree … warm fresh crayfish … nothing like it. I’ve only had them with lemon and aioli but your recipes look sublime. I’d love to hear more tales of Rottnest and summer holidays spent moored off an idyllic bay.

    • Jenny Freedman April 21, 2015 at 9:07 am #

      Rottnest is our place for lazy days so there’s not a lot to tell Jo! Checking the cray pots is something we do every day though! it’s the topic of conversation around the bay…”how many did you get!!” You’ll have to visit one day and hopefully we will have caught a cray or two!

  10. Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel) April 21, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    What a life! That photo of the crayfish in pasta is enough to inspire me to pack up, find a boat and move to Rottnest and eat crayfish!

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

      It’s a fabulous life Michele..we’re very spoilt! Having fresh crayfish for lunch and dinner is a added bonus!

  11. Paula McInerney April 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    I want a fresh cray sandwich now Jenny. I think we need to visit you soon

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      Next summer sounds like a good idea Paula!

  12. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru April 21, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    Man, that one fella had some size on him, didn’t he? Yum, yum, so many ways to cook these guys. Truly a must-do in the summer months.

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

      Unfortunately, they’re not all that size Betsy. Infact the smaller ones are often sweeter. I’m always on the look ut as to different ways to cook them but we still come back to the old cray sandwich as our favorite!

  13. Kay Dougherty April 22, 2015 at 12:24 am #

    I shouldn’t have read this post but the bright pictures called out to me! I’m allergic to shellfish and the crayfish on the grill made me feel sorry for myself!

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      Oh no…my son in law is not a seafood eater either Kay. Enjoying the summer and the beach is really the highlight of our time on Rottnest Island which I’m sure you’d love!

  14. The GypsyNesters April 22, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    We called them spiney lobsters in the Caribbean, but no matter the name… delicious!

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      That’s interesting…I must look them up! Any seafood cooked and eaten the same day is always delicious!

  15. Irene S. Levine April 22, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    This reminds me of the summers we spent on the Chesapeake Bay. How yummy!

    • Jenny Freedman April 22, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

      They must have been fabulous too Irene. I’ve seen photos of Chesapeake bay…it looks glorious!

  16. Yasha Langford April 23, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    I’m not a great fan of crayfish, but this sounds like an idyllic way to spend your summer. There is nothing better than fresh seafood. It reminded me of a houseboat trip on the River Murray we took a few years ago during a bumper yabby season. Some similar rules applied to the license but we certainly ate our fill…

    • Jenny Freedman April 25, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

      It is very relaxing Yasha. The Murray is one trip I still have to do! Now i know that we will feed on yabbies, I may have to move it up the list!

  17. Marilyn Jones April 23, 2015 at 4:36 am #

    So interesting and fantastic photos!

    • Jenny Freedman April 25, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

      Thanks Marilyn. It’s our little slice of paradise

  18. Carol Colborn April 23, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Oh I am so green with envy. My favorite seafood are crustaceans…crabs, lobsters, crayfish. What an awesome way to spend your summer. Must have been so thrilling!

    • Jenny Freedman April 25, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

      We are very spoilt Carol. We love our time here and being able to indulge in fresh crayfish for lunch and dinner is a bonus!

  19. Gayla January 4, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Well, those are not the crayfish (crawfish) I’m used to 😉 More like what we call lobsters in the US. Perfect boiled and served with a nice butter sauce or on a bread roll ‘a la Maine’. Congrats on a successful catch and bon appétit.

    • Jenny Freedman February 9, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

      Our crayfish are Western Rock Lobsters but we all call them crayfish! We love them boiled and served fresh on a roll too! When they’re caught and cooked within a couple of hours, they can’t be beaten!

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