Crayfish. They look prehistoric, but taste delicious – and they live in Paul Miller’s backyard on the Northern Beaches. Now, if Paul has one weakness it’s fresh Eden mussels. So we bribed him with a couple of dozen plump ones to reveal his 10 Commandments for cray diving.
- HAVE FUN WITH FRIENDS
Cray diving is great fun with mates. Unlike offshore spearfishing, which is a solitary adventure, cray diving is a great social occasion. I’ve had my best laughs cray diving with mates – climbing on top of each other to pull out a big one or working as a team to block all exits.
- LOOK TO THE LEDGES
The best places to find crays are on rocky headlands, kelp-covered reefs and offshore bombies. Look in the cracks and on ledges in less than five metres of water, particularly when you see cunjevoi (sea squirt). Think of crays as cockroaches of the sea, only better tasting. If you stumble across octopus, cuttlefish and bottom-dwelling sharks it’s normally a good sign that crayfish are around.
- NIGHT CRAWLING
The big ones tend to be more adventurous at night, so grab a torch and give it a go. Fear of the dark generally dissipates in the magic of bright colours and new species.
- DANGER, DANGER!
Be mindful of the seasons, sizes and catch limits for each state. Penalties are harsh for not obeying the rules. Be even more mindful of moray eels and wobbegongs – and getting stuck. Elbows can get caught in cracks and weight belts hooked up in crevices if you’re not careful.
- BASIC TOOLKIT
Tools you need for cray diving are pretty simple: a small dive torch to inspect cavities, gloves, weight belt, short fins and a catch bag that’s easy to open (and close).
- TUNE IN TO THE ANTENNAS
Usually the first indicators of cray are the antennas. To extract your cray, grab the base of the antenna and tug. They are incredibly strong and when threatened will wedge themselves in the tightest of corners. Baiting can also work, enticing them out to play with a bit of cunjevoi, fish scraps or mollusc. When they’re out, hang on bloody tight and get them into the catch bag ASAP!
- NEED FOR SPEED
Speed is your friend. As soon as you see a cray, go hard at it. Most people miss them because they procrastinate, taking a second breath or spending too much time manoeuvring into position.
- PERSISTENCE PAYS
Work the ground around every headland and bommie. Cray typically hold together and once you find an area, it will keep producing, dive after dive.
- LOBSTER SALAD, ANYONE?
Freeze the cray for 20 minutes to put it to sleep. Boil for five minutes per 500g, then pull the cooked meat out of the shell. Toss in a leafy green salad with fresh sliced mango and the juice from the pulp. Fresh mango and lobster go together like ham and pineapple. Crays also freeze well for the next meal.
- BETTER THAN A SLAB OF BEER
Crays make a great gift. Turn up at your mate’s place with a fresh crayfish and it’s the equivalent of a slab of good German beer – or 10 slabs of Crown Lager.
See you on the ledge!