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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s nothing better that eating slightly warm crayfish that were swimming a few hours earlier….definitely a taste of Rottnest.
We also like to have them grilled on the barbequeue….
or with pasta and a bit of chilli and garlic!
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.
Oh for the long, hot endless days of summer!
How would you like to eat crayfish or lobster?