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Catching crayfish

Catching crayfish

David Royal

David Royal with crayfish, Seymour
David Royal with crayfish, Seymour. Photo: Nick Drayson.

'I'm the little boy who never grew up. I started off with yabbies, and the natural progression was catching crayfish. And we're really lucky in Australia, we've got a really diverse population of crayfish. We've got the biggest selection of crayfish in the world. And we've got the biggest and we've also got the smallest in the world. And a big crayfish is a thrill to catch, it's unlike a fish, it can bite back. It's got massive claws on it - a big crayfish has got spikes all over him, and so just being able to handle them is a bit of an art. Yeah, never grew up, just enjoy catching them.'

Left: David Royal catchiing crayfish, right: a Murray crayfish
Left: David Royal catching crayfish, Seymour. Right: Murray crayfish ( Euastacus armatus). Photos: Nick Drayson.

'You could go to a yabby dam and just about fish it out completely and in the summer months, within six to eight weeks, have eating-size yabbies again. But the situation with Murray crayfish is that they take up to - I believe - nine years to reach breeding age. And I have a little bit of a conscience to think that something that gets to the stage of being over a kilo in weight is probably 20 years old. Me taking him out of the river could have an effect on the river, and I know a lot of people don't think that way but that's just the way I do. I don't enjoy the idea of eating the spiny or Murray crayfish just for that reason. I like to take a photo of him and put him back in the river and go to the fish shop and buy a bit of flake.'

Audio and transcript

audio_w15 Listen to David talk about catching crayfish (MP3 251kb)
Duration: 1 minute, 3 seconds

A big crayfish is a thrill to catch, it's unlike a fish, it can bite back! There's many methods but probably the most usual way people catch them is with hoop nets. They're baited with some smelly sort of material - fish heads or rabbit carcass - if I haven't got those sort of things what I do in [the] short-term is use liver - so it could be lambs' fry, or ox-liver or something like that - and you tie it into the middle of the net and Old Mr Crayfish comes along, and if they're there you'll probably catch one within 10 to 15 minutes and you pull the net up and he's in the net. If we sort of think about the Goulburn River, we've got Murray crayfish which is the second biggest freshwater crayfish in the world and they can grow to in excess of 3 kilos. The biggest ones are actually in Tasmania - Astacopsis gouldi - and they grow to 4, 5, 6 kilos - in fact there's reports of them, in the old scale, of 14 pound. And that's massive - they're almost a metre long. So, in Victoria they don't get to that size but they are still very big.