There’s a handful of events in society that each year create a state of extreme excitement. For some, it’s Boxing Day sales, the Melbourne Cup or the AFL Grand Final, but for about 55,000 West Aussie fishers, it’s the annual migration of Western Rock Lobster (crays), known locally as the ‘whites run’.
It’s this time in late November and early December that crays begin their annual migration to offshore waters providing excellent fishing in nearshore areas.
In this article, we will provide you with some answers to commonly asked questions as well and help you head in the right direction to catch some of these tasty morsels.
Why are they called ‘white’ crays?
A ‘white’ cray is a colloquial term applied to crays that are freshly moulted and have a soft, pale shell. This is in comparison to pre-moulted crays which have a hard, red shell. The crays are exactly the same but are at different stages of their life cycle.
Where do they ‘run’ to?
Juvenile crays settle along seagrass beds and rocky habitat close to shore. Once they reach sexual maturity at about 4 years, they migrate en masse from this habitat to offshore reef platforms.
When does the ‘run’ happen?
Whilst there are multiple factors that influence exactly when the migration begins, it is generally understood that the migration will start towards the end of November and will reach full swing by the beginning of December. Good catches usually continue until about Christmas time. Water temperature is thought to be the biggest influence on when the migration begins. Cooler water temps tend to delay the start of the migration.
How do I go about catching them?
The white’s run is when potters do best. Diving catches tend to be more consistent than potting catches across the summer, but the period from late November to Christmas is when dropping pots come into its own.
As crays are on the move from under their usual nearshore reef ledges, they will seek food and shelter along their migration path. A cray pot provides both of these needs. Pots should be set on the sand on the western side of natural habitats such as reef or weed. Keep dropping pots further out to sea as the migration continues, and check your pots every day during this period.
Crays can travel many kilometres a day so don’t be afraid to spread your pots out to get an idea of where good numbers of crays are each day. Crays love fresh bait, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket, change it every few days at the very least.
Perhaps the most important aspect to remember when dropping pots is to make them heavy. Any movement on the bottom will result in no crays the next morning, so make sure you use plenty of weight.
This season is forecast to be excellent, with numbers of crays inshore at record levels. We expect the whites run to be excellent again and wish all fishers the best of luck chasing a feed for Christmas.