MANGROVE KAYAK CRABBING FOR MUD CRABS
A fishing kayak is a pretty decent setup if you are looking to go crabbing and you have yourself geared up for the adventure. I’m keen on crabbing deeper in the mangroves because the rewards are so great. You will have to be careful you don’t go over the limit if you have the gumption to try crabbing amongst the mess and the mosquitos you’ll find in and around any mangroves.
Having a kayak means that you can get right up into the structure where mud crabs are hanging about. Here are some of my tips if you are ready to dare.
WHAT TO WEAR AND SELF-PRESERVATION
Before you even think about getting out on the water and under the mangrove canopy, you need to make sure you are protected. Mangroves are infested with mozzies and sandflies. That means you will need full-length clothing and wide-brimmed hat with a full net to cover your face and head. I also wear gloves and shoes. I am not fond of mosquitos in the slightest.
Make sure you cover yourself in mosquito repellent before you get dressed. Mosquito repellent doesn’t work very well by simply spraying on your clothes. It works best on skin. Another tool I’ve added to my mangrove crabbing kit is a stack of mosquito coils. I have one burning right in front of me in a small tin can on my kayak. You’ll be surprised at how much of that repellent smoke stays around you once you are in the canopy. It’s really stuffy in there.
DON’T FORGET THE RULES
There are a few things to consider before entering any mangrove areas. I recommend you make sure you know the local regulations for crabbing, know your bag limits and make sure you are well aware of the tides so that you know when to set them and when to come back to check on your take.
WHEN TO DROP THE POTS
I go crabbing so that I can leave my crabbing pots on the high tide and I have found that I catch more crabs in the warmer months wherever I’ve been out for mud crabs. I’ve also found crabbing on a full moon has brought me some extra luck. Instead of leaving the floats in the water, I use them as markers in the mangrove branches. That way they are much easier to spot. If you like technology, I highly recommend using a portable GPS device when crabbing. Not only do you know where you are, you can use waypoint markers as markers for where you’ve put your pots.
SETTING UP MY FISHING KAYAK FOR CRABBING
Setting up a fishing kayak is more of a job of dressing down than anything else. The idea is to get as much of that kayak as possible because you want to avoid snags at all cost. I recommend a smaller and lightweight kayak because you will really need to manoeuvre that thing around.
I keep my crab traps secured with an octopus strap so I know they won’t slide off when getting around the mangroves or on my way out to them. I stack mine in front of me so I can see them with my bait clips also ready to go. That way I simply pull out my bait clip I’ve already set up and clip it into my crabbing pot. Make sure you get that bait clipped in right at the bottom of your crabbing pot so there isn’t a chance you are giving out a free meal.
Versatile kayak paddles designed for this type of environment are also an advantage. I work both my Watersnake ASP electric motor and use a kayak paddle that I picked up that has extra features including a hook at one end to grab onto mangroves. It’s a kayak paddle that I can use with one hand if I want while still using controlling the kayak. I think it is time for me to upgrade to some foot controls but that’s another story. Another thing to look for in your fishing kayak paddle is the ability to float. It’s all too easy to lose a paddle when fishing or crabbing.
Another way I control my movements is with a simple grab anchor. All you need is some decent cord and a small hooking device, I like to use a lightweight but durable cord, the stuff that is used for tents is perfect. You can hook your grab anchor onto mangroves any time you are looking to stay in position.
FINDING CRABS IN THE MANGROVES
I’ve found a couple of different spots that crabs love to hang out. As always, structure is the key. I often come across crab holes near and around complex root systems. Crab holes are pretty easy to spot because they are large oval-shaped holes about the size of a crab.
Drains running into the mangroves are another great place to look for mud crabs. I look for the smaller drains running off larger drains. I’m pretty sure that crabs move along these drains in their own search for food because the take is so good.
HANDLING MUD CRABS
I warn you mud crabs are not to be taken lightly. These suckers can take a finger off with ease. Because you will want to check your pots for undersized or female crabs before you move out of the mangroves, I think it is worth learning how to handle and tie a mud crab. Here is a video to help you get the hang of it. This guy has bare feet. I personally think he is looking to lose a toe. You would not catch me doing that.
I keep a heavy wet rag I use to throw over mud crabs to calm them down before tying them up. After that, I put them in an esky I’ve setup which sits right behind me. I definitely make sure they are tied up before putting them in the esky, I kid you not.
Other than that, make sure you have plenty of something to drink. I’m big on Powerade or Gatorade because they help me feel better than simply drinking water. Finally, make sure you take a small first aid kit with you into the mangroves just in case you need to deal with a cut in a hurry.
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