Mud Crabs - Catching, Preparing & Cooking

Mud Crabs are a fantastic species. You have come to the right place if you want to know how to catch them, handle them, prepare them and cook them.

How To Identify Male from Female Crabs

You need to understand the difference between male and female mud crabs before chasing them.

FEMALE (Jenny) Totally Protected (in Queensland) usually have smaller claws than males of an equal body size. Identified by the large flap on the underside of the body.

MALE (Buck) 15cm Minimum (in Queensland) usually have larger claws than females of an equal body size. Identified by the narrow, cone shaped flap on the underside of the body.

HOW to HANDLE, DANGER - Care Required -Muddies have very powerful claws that can cause extreme pain and serious injuries. Large bucks have enough power to take a finger off at the joint if they hit the right (.... or wrong?) spot. If a crab gets hold of you it will most probably lock on and throw its claw when you start to kick and squeal like a spoiled kid that wants more red cordial (leaving it painfully locked on you). In this situation you may have to break the claw open with whatever you have available. The best way to handle mud crabs is to lock your thumb and pointer finger between the swimmers and next legs forward. This way the crab can’t get at you with its squealers.

HOW to MEASURE - It is important to learn how to effectively handle a muddies so that you can safely identify the sex of crabs and measure them correctly. In a lot of cases you will be able to identify the sex of crabs and get an idea of the size of crabs while they are still in the pot. If none of the crabs in the pot are legal to keep you can tip them out of the pot back into the water without actually touching them.If there is more than one potentially legal crab in a pot let one out at a time so that they can be safely handled and measured. Make sure you have a crab measurer (available from most bait and tackle stores). Measure the bucks from spine to spine.

Photos, left to right: A prime mangrove lined gully to set some crab pots, this round crab pot has been set on a sandy bank near the mouth of a North Queensland estuary (check out the crab trying to get into the pot and at the bait), an affordable style of pot that works well are light weight rectangular pots, a ‘Dilli’ pot as it sits when set, as you lift the ‘Dilli’ pot the outer hoop lifts first to aid in keeping your dinner on the bait and the final photo is of two commonly used methods of holing your bait in the trap. The bag on the left can be secured to the base of the pot and wired or zip tied shut. The clip on the right can be used to secure large frames or fish heads.

How To Catch Mud Crabs - When it comes to catching mud crabs there are a few basic rules you should follow to help your chances of getting a feed. Set your pots close to mangroves and mud. Make sure you have a minimum of 20 m between pots. On large tides put your pots in gullies or on mud flats so they don’t get dragged away or silted up. Check your pots on every tide and keep the bait fresh. If you are using ‘Dilli’ pots (or if the crabs are moving) you can check your pots every half hour and be home with a feed in a few hours.

Tying Mud Crab

Tying Crabs in 7 Easy Steps - Tying muddies is an important part of crabbing, especially if you are keeping more than a couple of crabs. Tying crabs allows them to be stored easily and effectively. It also makes handling them a lot easier and safer. Photographs of tying this crab are courtesy of Johnny Mitchell (Lake Awoonga Guided Barra Fishing Charters). Use your foot to secure crab while tying.

1. Take a piece of string about 110cm long and pull it under the claws.

2. Pull string back at even lengths.

3. Bring both sides of the string forward under the shell and between the nippers.

4. Using the string pull the crab claws tight in against the shell and leave the string on the top side of shell.

5. While keeping the string tight pull both sides of the string under the swimmer legs.

6. While keeping the crab secure with your foot, pull string tight and tie a single knot between the swimmer legs.

7. Flip the crab over, making sure the string is firm and claws are tight against the body of the crab. Tie another couple of knots to make sure the string doesn’t slide loose.

Boiling Green Mud Crabs - A popular method of cooking muddies. The number of crabs you wish to cook at any one time will determine the amount of water you will need. About 5 litres of water per crab gives you something to work off. Use clean sea water or freshwater with 4-5 tablespoons of sea salt per 5 litres of water. As a rough guide bring water to boil, add crab/s, return to boil and cook for 15 - 20 minutes.

Cleaning Mud Crabs

Cleaning Crabs in 5 Easy Steps - A lot of people find cleaning a crab as they are eating it a little bit of a turnoff. To avoid this use the below method to clean your crabs shortly after they have been cooked.Once cooked remove the crab/s from the boiling salt water and turn the cooker off. Allow crab/s to cool enough so that you can handle them (5 - 10 mins) then follow the following steps. Care is required to prevent burning yourself.

1. With the crab on its back use a pair of tongs lift the flap.

2. Roll the crab onto its front while sliding the tongs under the shell towards the claws.

3. Peel the shell forward (using a bit of force) while pulling the base (around the swimmer legs) in the opposite direction. Sit the shell upside down.

4. Using the tongs remove the lungs and other waste from the crab and put it in the empty shell.

5. Dunk the crab in the hot water that was used to cook the crab. This will remove any waste you were unable to remove with the tongs. Drain excess water from crab, cover and refrigerate.

Mud cra before and after cleaning

Preparing Crab for Curry or Sweet Chilli Recipes - Cleaning crabs before cooking is a preferred option when cooking in some form of broth. This type of preparation is relatively simple. Firstly, put the crab in the freezer or an ice slurry for 20 minutes for ease of handling. Raise the flap on the underside of the body and peel the shell forward, remove the lungs, cut the body in half and wash out any remaining waste.

Mud Crab Recipes

These delicacies can be eaten straight from the shell after being boiled and chilled or used as the main ingredient in some beautiful dishes. You can also eat them ‘Cave Man’ style (hooking in as soon as the boiled mud crab is cool enough to handle). This method is not recommended to the faint hearted or those with a weak stomach as it will have your digestive system working overtime. Check out the easy and delicious recipes below.

Sweet Chilli Crab Serves 4

Ingredients: 2 Green (uncooked) Mud Crabs, Tomato Sauce, Sweet Chilli Sauce, Water

Method: Combine equal amounts of water, sweet chilli and tomato sauce in a wok or large pot and bring to boil. Add the halved and cleaned mud crabs. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve as an entree or with rice as a main meal.

Curry Crab Serves 4

Ingredients: 2 Green (uncooked) Mud Crabs, 2 Green Coconuts, or , 2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk, Curry Paste and cooking oil

Method: Lightly fry Curry Paste in a tbsp of oil. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the halved and cleaned muddies. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve as an entree or with rice as a main meal. Left over liquid can be used as a base for a fish curry.

Crab & Corn Soup Serves 4 entrees

Ingredients: 200g cooked mud crab meat, 400ml can creamed corn, Salt and pepper

Method: Bring 1/2 litre of water and a tsp of salt to the boil. Stir in the creamed corn and crab meat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve in small bowls. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Mud Crab Pasta

Creamy Crab Pasta Serves 4

Ingredients: 200g cooked mud crab meat, 200g diced bacon, 1 large diced onion, 250 ml thickened cream, Bag of Pasta

Method: Get the pasta on the boil. Lightly fry onion and bacon in oil until cooked. Stir in cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mud crab meat to the pasta sauce. Drain the pasta and serve as an entree or with salad and garlic bread as a main meal. The crab and sauce can be tossed through the pasta or served on top.

Tomato Mud Crab Pasta

Tomato & Crab Pasta Serves 4

Ingredients: 200g cooked crab meat, 400g tinned or fresh tomato, 1 large diced onion, butter or oil, Fresh basil and/or parsley, Bag of Pasta

Method: Get the pasta on the boil. Lightly fry onion in oil or butter until cooked. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mud crab meat and chopped herbs to the pasta sauce. Drain the pasta and serve as an entree or with salad and garlic bread as a main meal. The crab and sauce can be tossed through the pasta or served on top.

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