No need to pray for a cray, just drop your pot in the right spot

No need to pray for a cray, just drop your pot in the right spot!

Not many things excite fishers like the annual rock lobster ‘whites run’. It’s a time when metro cray fishing fires up to an outstanding level and dropping pots truly comes into its own! Pulling in a heavy pot loaded with a feed of crays is the ultimate goal for many cray fishers and the whites run is your best opportunity to experience this. The annual whites run is the main reason 80% of all recreationally crays are caught using pots.

The whites run often occurs around late November and early December each year. As the crays begin their annual migration to offshore waters, they provide unmatched fishing opportunities for potters. The proximity to shore means people can head out early bag themselves some crays and be back in time for work. The summer months are where more than half of the total recreational crays are caught! In this article, we will provide you with a forecast ahead of the season from the puerulus settlement index the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) collects, provide answers to commonly asked questions and point you in the right direction to catching some of these super-tasty crustaceans in time for Christmas.

What is the 2019/20 season forecast looking like and what is the puerulus settlement index?

It appears a great season is ahead of us, the puerulus settlement for the 2015 and 2016 season is well above average. Now what’s this puerulus settlement have to do with the cray season four years on? Well, DPIRD developed a method to collect the puerulus which is a juvenile stage of a cray by using a specialised buoy that mimics natural algae habitat on which the juvenile crayfish like to settle. DPIRD scientists work out the concentration for each new moon period of these settled puerulus and can then work out trends and patterns in recruitment. This settlement information has a strong correlation with catches of crays in three to four years, once the crays have matured to a legal size. You can read more about the puerulus settlement index here.

Why are they called ‘whites’ and where are they ‘running’ to?

Check out the distance’s crayfish can cover. These crays were tagged at the yellow marks and recaptured at the red dots some 450 – 550km’s away!

Good questions! A ‘white’ cray is a colloquial term applied to crays that are freshly moulted with their new soft, pale shell showing. This is in comparison to pre-moulted crays which have a hard, dark red shell. Juvenile crays settle along seagrass beds and rocky habitat close to shore. Once they reach sexual maturity at about three to four years, they migrate en masse from this inshore habitat to the deeper offshore reef platforms in a north-westerly direction. DPIRD research shows that crays can walk up to 5km a day with crays tagged at Rottnest showing up recaptured later at the Abrolhos! That would definitely have the researchers double-checking the tag numbers! Check out the fascinating migration maps provided by DPIRD Offshore Crustacean Principal Research Scientist Simon de Lestang showing huge distances the tagged cray cover.

Averaging 5km a day these offshore crays sure do move around!

OK, so it’s forecast to be a great season but the six million dollar question: when will the run actually 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. The run is believed to be triggered by warming water temperatures and good catches usually continue until about Christmas time. Cooler water temps tend to delay the start of the migration. Though this year, unlike the last, the warm water seems to have come early and crays were moulting as early as the first week of November.

How do I go about catching them?

The whites run is when potters do best. Divers tend to be more consistent than those dropping pots across the year, 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 well-set cray pot provides both of these needs. 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. Even though potters do best during the whites run there are also still plenty of divers in the water at this time so common sense needs to be used, keep a lookout for dive flags and don’t throw your old bait in the water if divers are nearby.  There are plenty of crays for everyone to enjoy during the whites run.

After crayfish hatch, they live offshore as planktonic Phyllosoma later growing to the Puerulus stage that settles in inshore waters.

What is a well-set pot?

Cray pots that are well-weighted are much harder to pull up but sit steadily on the seafloor while the swell and surge rolls back and forth. Heavy pots are also much more likely to stay put during a storm so they don’t end up tangled in the reef where they can become stuck and even detached from their ropes when the ropes rub against the reef overnight and fray. Crays are much more likely to enter if the pot is still, any movement will mean no crays in the morning. Pots should be set on the sand on the western side of natural habitats such as reef or weed, this way, as they migrate to the north-west, they will walk off the reef, onto the sand and find your pot sitting there ready for them. Make sure the baits are fresh, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket, change it every few days at the very least. Use something oily to get the best results, blue mackerel and orange roughy heads or the new burley bricks that are a great plastic-free alternative that are packed in cardboard ready to go in your bait basket. You can check them out here: https://recfishwest.org.au/media-release/innovative-steps-to-plastic-free-fishing/.

A few more tips include clipping the tail of your crays as soon as possible, marking your floats clearly with your gear ID and it’s also worth marking your pots too. You should also soak your pots before you deploy them as they’re known to bubble for at least 24 hours as the dry wood soaks up the saltwater, something that crays hate and you are unlikely to catch while they’re bubbling. Catch these and even more tips here: https://ilovefishing.com.au/2017/10/12/top-tips-potting-crayfish/

Thanks to Simon de Lestang from DPIRD for presenting this great information at the cray fishing night that was held at the Cockburn Powerboats Club. There was a great turn-out from club members and non-members, with a huge amount of information shared over the course of the night. Keep an eye out for club nights like these, they’re a great opportunity to meet like-minded fishers and advance your fishing knowledge. We expect this whites run, and the next, to be excellent and wish all fishers the best of luck chasing a feed of delicious WA crays for Christmas.

DPIRD guide to rock lobster fishing: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/documents/recreational_fishing/licences/rec_licence_rock_lobster.pdf

The huge turnout at the Cockburn Powerboats Club’s cray fishing night

 

 

 

 

 

Get geared up and ready for the whites’ run

It’s coming up to that time of year, when many fishers will be dusting off their cray pots and loops in readiness for the annual ‘whites run’, a time when hauls of tasty crays (WA rock lobster) are pulled freshly from the inshore reefs, not far from the local boat ramp.

There’s a real sense of anticipation as fishers launch their boats, park the trailers and get ready to head out to their pots or gear up for a dive.

Catching crayfish is a big part of our WA lifestyle with thousands of families sharing the experiences of catching and enjoying this fantastic seafood each year.

It’s not just potters that do well on the crays, divers get in on the action too.

The quality of recreational fishing for this highly popular crustacean has gone from strength to strength since changes were made to the management of the fishery in 2013. Now there are more than 52,000 licensed cray fishers who contribute millions of dollars each year to the WA economy through spending money on licences, boats, bait, gear, fuel and ice.

Cray fishers’ activity goes up another level at this time of year with the hotly anticipated whites run whetting the appetite for soaking pots and dive-suits.

“The much-anticipated whites run allow fishers to get out there and catch their own seafood for the Christmas table. It’s not uncommon to see boats lined up at the boat ramp,” said Leyland Campbell, Recfishwest Operations Manager.

”Seagrass seeds popping, Christmas trees flowering – according to fishers, these are signs the whites run is not too far away,” he said.

The whites run, a potter’s dream!

The annual whites run also coincides with boat-ramp-chaos, as thousands of recfishers hit the boat ramps each day during the run, presenting the best chance to bag themselves a feed of crays.

Crays can be caught on inshore reefs, no need to head out deep!

During November and December, crayfish embark on a migration that fishers can target to land a good feed. The specific time of the migration varies each year, although generally it’s around late November to early December. The migration is usually triggered by environmental factors like tides and the moon-phase kicking off the crayfishes’ movements.

Crays shed their shell to grow into a larger one that’s often initially pale, and walk out to deeper waters, hence their description as white crays. During these times, the best option is usually to position your cray pots on the back side of the reefs on the sand. The position is crucially important, if you place your pot on the reef it’s prone to becoming stuck in the cracks and crevices or the crayfish will simply choose the more natural caves in which to hide. But if you drop your pot on the sand west of the reef, it’s likely to attract any crayfish walking out to deeper water. Remember to bait them as often as possible and weigh your pot down so it doesn’t rock or shift in the surge, as crayfish are unlikely to enter pots that are moving around.

Given the high abundance of crays on inshore reefs resulting from a well-managed fishery, the prospect for cray fishing in the run-up to Christmas is very good.

Going ‘loop-y’ for a feed of crays

Using a loop to catch your crays can create a whole lot of fishing fun!

Dropping pots may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so for those that prefer or enjoy life under the water, there’s always the option of diving for your crays. Sometimes the best places are in less than 5m of water! Yep, during the whites run, many of the inshore reefs, particularly the shallow ones, become loaded with crays! All you’ll need to get started is a licence, cray loop, some snorkelling gear, gloves, a wettie and a mate!

It doesn’t matter if it’s only shallow, or how experienced you may be, you should always have someone there to watch your back.

Learning to loop can be difficult at first, but practice makes perfect. Give it a shot laying on the ground at home and looping a water bottle and you’ll pick it up in no time – just let your housemates/partner/family know in advance what you’re doing – or they may question your mental well-being! A tip is not to mess around slowly positioning the loop behind the crayfish, get it in there quickly and calmly. Avoid opening the loop too much as they might just shoot straight through it and try to remain calm when you spot one.

Remember that not every cray you see is worth pursuing and sometimes its best to ignore the crays that are in a difficult-to-reach location and find one that is more out in the open. It’s known that jumbo crays can be found in six metres of water, so don’t feel like you have to dive deep to catch them. Often you’ll find them in ledges that border sand, ledges that are protected from surge, or in the same places you find baitfish and small reef fish relaxing in the calm water.

Want to find out more about cray fishing techniques?

Click here to find out about a fishing information evening being hosted at the Cockburn Power Boats Association club in Coogee on Friday 1 November.

Evolving rules with an evolving fishery

Over the past few years, cray fishing rules have evolved to ensure rules are simplified, practical and people’s fishing experiences are maximised.

A cray which has recently moulted.

In May 2018, the recreational crayfishing season was opened year-round allowing fishers the chance to chase a feed of crays through winter, something that was much to the delight of Mid-West fishers who enjoy cray fishing during what is considered to be some of the best weather during the year.

The latest change in rules came into effect in November 2018, which dictates the rigging of recreational cray pots to be similar to commercial pots, to mitigate the potential risk of interaction with migrating whales when the ropes are over 20m in length. The top half of the rope must hang vertically in the water column when the rope is over the length of 20m.  This can be achieved by using sinking rope on the top half of the pot rope, or by simply attaching a weight such as a fishing sinker half way down the rope.  Additionally, a maximum of two floats can be attached to a recreational pot meaning greater participation and enjoyment for everyone.

Make sure you’ve rigged your pots right by watching our video below.

Stay up to date on all the rules here.

Get out there and into ‘em!

Good luck to all cray fishers headed out in search of a tasty feed, may your pots be full and ledges packed! There’s no better time to get out and chase down a feed of crays with the loop or drop a pot. Start slow and give it a go, like all types of fishing you will pick it up the more you do it and there’s nothing better than bringing home a feed of crays that you caught yourself for a beautiful family Christmas lunch.

We’ll keep you posted as the cray season unfolds and when the whites make their run. Keep in touch via our weekly fishing reports, monthly newsletter, social media or website.

Things are about to get CRAY-ZY! *Video explaining new rules*

Cray pots are being dusted off from the shed, ropes are being prepared, the freezers  are stocked with bait and safety equipment is being updated, as the warmer weather brings with it what’s known as the annual ‘whites run’.

Cray fishers are well prepared this year, with knowledge in their back pocket of the season to come with healthy stocks of crayfish announced earlier in the year resulting in the opening of a 12 month season and updated rules that are simplified and practical, ensuring people’s fishing experiences are maximised.

What is the white’s run?

Late November is when it all kicks off with crays making their annual migration to offshore waters, providing excellent fishing in nearshore waters. Once it cranks up, the fishing will be superb, with many boats traditionally reporting catching their boat limit most days during this migration period and good catches usually continue until about Christmas time.

You can see the difference between the red cray (early and late season) flanked by two whites, which run from about November to January (same species, different stages of migration).

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.

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.

Diving is the other main way of catching crayfish. Most divers search under rock ledges to find the crays and then either use a cray snare or a gloved hand to grab their quarry.

If you’re diving for crays, check out our separate article here.

Read our top tips for potting for crayfish which includes what bait to use and other handy tips to help you catch more crays this year.

Top Tips for Potting for Crayfish

How do I rig my pots to ensure they comply with the new rules?

Recreational lobster pots will now have to be rigged in a similar fashion to commercial pots to mitigate the potential risk of interaction with migrating whales.

Any pot using more than 20m of rope will be required to hold the top half of the rope vertically in the water column.  This can be achieved by using sinking rope on the top half of the pot rope, or by simply attaching a weight such as a fishing sinker half way down the rope.  Additionally, a maximum of two floats will apply on recreational pots.

 

Check out our video here:

Or view the diagram as part of the Recreational Rock Lobster Fishing Rules Brochure.

 

The Annual ‘Whites Run’ – Time to get Fishing!

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.