Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

Father's day and the annual Mud Crab drought

Alas the sad time of the year again when the mud crabs disappear to sea to breed and an annual crab drought starts. Friday the Sydney market price hit $78 a kg as the supply/demand curve ramps up and this morning one of our local commercial crabbers sold me what may well be our last couple of boxes of the year. All our chili crab lovers get in quick. We got about 35 crabs today and that will just about be that till they come back in again, usually in mid-December and just in time for Christmas.

Today being father’s day I am going to have my all-time favourite lunch. Crab sandwiches on fresh crusty white bread, lots of butter, crispy lettuce, cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon. At current Sydney market prices these will run to about $30 a sandwich, but I’m worth it. It was also my old dad’s favourite all time lunch as well so I might even have another one, in his memory on Father’s day.

The muddies disappear at the busiest time of the year, which is a real drag as the quietest time of the year, May/June are just about when they are their most plentiful. Prices go as low as $18 a kg and will peak in October, maybe even as high as $100 a kg this year as high end demand well and truly outstrips the meagre supply. Based on usual restaurant margins this will see them selling in high end Sydney restaurants for upwards of $300 per crab. Makes it hard to justify, particularly when we can still sneak out and get the odd one for the cost of a bit of boat fuel.

Mud crabs only live for 3 years and the big old "bucks" don't go to sea. If you really want to catch a crab in the next few months, try the small creeks out around the islands. You won't get many, but what you do get will be monsters. The photo on the blog is one from Shaw Island in November 2 years ago. It was 2.2kgs. On Sydney prices a $200 crab.

We will substitute mud crabs with some beautiful local bay bugs through till Christmas. These are in great supply as a by catch of the tiger prawn fishery off Bowen which is having a bumper year so all is not lost.