The mud crab has a variety of names, muddie, punga, black crab, mangrove crab, and many others if you are unfortunate to be grabbed by its powerful claws. Mainly confined to the northern half of the continent the mud crab can generally be found where mangrove trees grow.
With a life span of around four years the crab has a fascinating life cycle that sees the female, once mated, leave the estuary system and head for the open ocean where she can migrate from ten to thirty kms off shore into water twenty to forty metres deep. The tiny crabs then re-enter the estuaries to grow and develop in the mangrove forests and so the cycle recommences.
In Port Stephens the muddies grow to an enormous size, up to 3kg, which is unheard of in most similar habitat regions.
Local crabbing rules do apply that are unique to Port Stephens. “Witches hats” styled crab nets are banned as are traps with an entry wider than 36cm. These rules were implemented to limit by-catch, particularly turtles. Since being enforced by NSW Fisheries, around five years ago, no turtle deaths have been recorded as a result of entanglement.
Great news all round.
Stinker’s Recipe For Muddies ; Boil, bash, and add butter. Beaudy.
Fishing writer, author and radio presenter John “Stinker” Clarke can be heard weekly, throughout NSW, on popular ABC Regional Radio fishing program “The Big Fish”. Check him out on www.stinker.com.au or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your information and questions.