Rock Lobster (Crayfish): How and where to catch them in WA

The Rock lobster (aka Crayfish) are are sought after catch all along the coast of Western Australia. There are a number of different types of crays you can catch depending on both the location you’re fishing and the depth.

Crayfish caught of Mindarie WA
Two white western rock lobsters caught in 10m of water off Mindarie, Western Australia

Types of Rock Lobster

There are a number of different species of rock lobster located within Western Australia.  What type of rock lobster you’re fishing for will depend on where you are located.  Check the content below for more information on different rock lobsters in WA.

1. Western Rock Lobster

A haul of white rock lobster taken scuba diving

The Western Rock Lobster is by far the most abundant lobster which is can be found all along the coast, the the most live between Perth and Geraldton.

For more information check out the Western Rock Lobster page on the Department of Fisheries website.

2. Southern Rock Lobster

For more info check out the Southern Rock Lobster page on the Department of Fisheries website.

3. Tropical – painted Rock lobster

In the warmers waters of the north you’ll come across the painted crayfish, or green rock lobster.

For the rules and regulations on catching painted crays, check out the Painted Rock Lobster page on the Dept of Fisheries site.

4. Tropical – Ornate Rock Lobster

For more info on the Tropical Rock Lobster check out the Tropical Rock Lobster page on the Department of Fisheries website.

How to Catch Rock Lobster (Crayfish)?

There are two main methods of catching crayfish, one using a cray pot and the other is diving for crays.

Method 1: Catching crays with a Cray pot

If you’d rather stay dry and out of the water then the other method of catching crays is using a cray pot. Made of plastic, wood or even cane, cray pots are designed according to regulations and have escape gaps for the undersized crays to return to the water.

A cray fisherman usually baits the pots one day, will leave them over night (or a few nights) and then return to check to see what they have caught.

What are the different types of Cray Pots?

As mentioned there are a number of different cray pots on the market, however these can be broken down into two main types – these being timber and plastic. 

Personally I’ve had great success with timber pots however I’ve also seen other fisherman do well with plastic.

Timber cray pots

Pros of a Timber Cray Pot

  • If you know what you’re doing you can build them yourself;
  • They are easy to repair;
  • They are heavy and are likely to hold the ground better;
  • Due to their weight they don’t roll as ofter as plastic pots; and
  • Some say the timber construction provides a more natural feel for crays to touch and climb over

Cons of a Timber

  • Are heavy to lift – definitely consider a pot lifter;
  • Cost more than timber pots; and
  • They’re hard to repair if they crack or get damaged.
Plastic Cray Pots

Pros of a plastic pot

  • They are often cheaper to buy than wooden pots;
  • They are nice and light and easy to put together.

Cons of a plastic pot

  • Unfortunately, if not weighted properly they can often roll in rough seas.

How to find the best spots to drop your cray Pots?

When laying your cray pot is vital that you find the right ground to maximise the chance of you catching some crays. Check out the below video from a local WA YouTuber for some great tips:

How to find the best spots to drop your lobster pot (Video by Redemption Tackle)

What is the best bait to use in cray pots?

There are a number of different baits used by cray fisherman.  Some of the best baits that I’ve used include:

  • Oily fish heads such as tuna or mackerel (You can often buy bags of heads from tackle shops in the cray season)
  • Salted baits such as Tailor fillets or Mullet (great if you want a bait that will hold for a few days)
  • Fish frames

Other baits I’ve seen work include:

  • Tins of cat or dog food;
  • Whole squid

Note, there are some baits that are illegal to use within cray pots.  Fisheries state that you are not allowed to use:

– any bovine material (apart from tallow or gelatine);
– mammal hide or skin or anything that is attached to hide or skin;
– lobster materials; and
– abalone material.

Method 2: Catching crays with a snare

There is no better thrill then looking under a ledge and seeing it full of cray feelers! Free diving or scuba diving for crays is a popular method of catching crayfish in Western Australia.

Great video of snaring Crays whilst Scuba diving (Video by Mandurah Scuba Crayfish and Spearfishing)

The most common method is using a cray snare to catch them, or alternatively if you’re quick with your hands then some divers choose to grab a feed of crays with their hands.

Method 3: Catching Crays with your hands

For those that are up for it, you can also catch crays using your hands.

Painted cray caught diving at Exmouth
Photo courtesy of Northern Addicts

Due to the speed of crays and their ability to hide this can be quiet a challenge though for those that succeed it can also be very rewarding!

How to cook Crays

There are a number of different methods to cook crays including grilling and boiling. Personally I like to boil my crays in salt water following the below guide.

SizeTime in at boil
<600g10 mins
600 – 800g12 mins
800 – 1000g14 mins
1000 – 1500g16 mins
1500 – 2000g18 mins
Guide for boiling Crays in Salted Water

Once they’re boiled I place them in an ice slurry to cool them down.

Rules and Regulations

When fishing for Rock lobster in Western Australia there are a number of rules and regulations you must follow.  These include:

Fishing licence is required

You require a licence when fishing for Rock Lobster (all types).  You must be able to produce your licence if approached by a fisheries officer.  For more information on fishing licences and where to purchase them from visit our fishing licence page.

There is a minimal legal size for catching crayfish.  This is 76mm for Western Rock Lobster and Tropical Rock Lobster.  For Southern Rock Lobster the minimum size is 98.5mm.

Marking your crays by clipping their tales

Within 5 minutes of catching a lobster you must clip the central tail flap of the lobster.  This can be done by removing half of the flap or you can punch a hole in the central flap instead.  If you do punch a hole in the flap, the hole must be at least 10mm in diameter.

Why must you mark your crays?  Marking your lobster is done so the lobster can be identified as being caught by a recreational fisherman meaning it can not be sold.

Bag limit (applies for the whole of WA)

There is a bag limit of of eight rock lobster per day, per each licenced fisherman.  No more than four of these eight lobsters can be tropical Rock Lobsters.

Once you reach your limit, whether you’re diving of using pots you must release all excess make to the ocean quickly and carefully.

Boat limit

When someone refers to boat limit they are referring to the maximum number of crays that can be present on a boat at any point in time. 

This boat limit is calculated on the number of licensed fisherman on board the vessel.  As the bag limit for each licensed fisherman is 8 then you times 8 by the number of licenced fisherman on board.  For example:

  1. If you only have one licenced fisherman on the boat then it’s 1 x 8 = 8 crays
  2. If you have two licenced fisherman then it’s 2 x 8 = 16 crays
  3. If you have three licenced fisherman then it’s 3 x 8 = 24 crays and so on

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between Crayfish and Rock Lobster?

Although Rock lobster are often called crayfish or Crays in Western Australia – technically they’re not actually crayfish. Crayfish live in freshwater such as rivers and waterways, whilst rock lobster live in the ocean.

2. Can you sell recreational caught lobster?

Recreational Rock Lobster can not be sold for any financial gain or reward.  It’s also not permitted to trade or exchange lobster for any other goods or services.

3. Can you drop your mates cray pot?

No, according to the fisheries website all licence holders of the pots must be on board if the pots are on board.  Dropping a cray pot is considered fishing.

4. Can you pull your mates cray pot if he or she is not on board?

No, similar to dropping cray pots all licence holders of the pots must be onboard as pulling a cray pot to check it, or bait it, is considered fishing.

Land based fishing in massive swells | Spearfishing in sharky waters | Episode 13

Land based fishing in massive swells | Spearfishing in sharky waters | Episode 13

Check out the WCS crew catching Spanish Mackerel on gas balloons. there also go on to spear fish Baldchin Groper and catching Crayfish for a cook up ...
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