When you love fishing like I do, but you’re terrible at it like I am, the idea of crabbing is hard to get excited about. If I can’t catch anything with my fancy fishing gear, why would simply throwing a crab net into the water work any better?
We were in Ceduna on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. It’s a remote town that sits roughly halfway between Sydney and Perth. Our host at the Shelly Beach Caravan Park was telling us about Denial Bay – a sure-fire crabbing spot.
‘You can hire a couple of nets and I bet you catch something!’.
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Keeping it simple
His enthusiasm had Nat and the kids convinced it would be a fun and successful activity. Before I could voice my scepticism, the kids had each grabbed a net with great excitement and interest. Their fishing trips with me usually ended without catching anything. Now, armed with new fishing gear, they seemed sure things would be different.
Nat was generally sympathetic towards my lack of fishing talent. Yet, there were times when making fun of my deficiencies was more enjoyable for her. Today was one of those times. Using her best ‘my husband’s an idiot’ voice, she asked the manager to explain as simply as he could how crabbing works. He grinned, apparently picking up on her character-questioning tone.
‘Just attach the bait, drop the net into water and hang on to the rope so you can retrieve it. When you see a crab on the bait pull the net up as fast as you can’. I could feel Nat grinning, as he gave the seemingly idiot-proof directions.
‘That’s about the size of it. We’ll see you back here in a couple of hours with a bucket full of blueys!’
I must admit, his enthusiasm even had me thinking I’d be hauling something out of the water besides an empty net. As we turned to make our way to the car Nat stopped and asked me in a slow, mothering voice, ‘Now, do you need to hear the instructions again?’
Refusing to bite, I reassured her and the park manager that I had understood everything the first time.
Steeled for some wife-quietening success, we took our nets and collected some bait from a nearby fish processor. Half an hour later we arrived at Denial Bay.
follow the instructions
Following the instructions, we made our way to the middle of the jetty. The three or four-metre deep water was crystal clear and the bottom easily visible. I fixed some bait to a net, held onto the rope and tossed it into the water. It slowly sank and settled on the grassy sea floor.
It was immensely satisfying getting this far. Throw in the beauty and isolation of Denial Bay, and I could have headed back to camp feeling like it was already a great outing.
I turned to Nat and nodded at the baited net on the bottom of the bay. I received a qualified ‘well done’.
‘Remember, it’s the next step where things usually go wrong’. The ‘catching something’ step she described it as. I was about to defend my fishing honour but movement near the net distracted me. Something had made its way into the net and attached itself to our bait.
I was so shocked that the plan had gone exactly as described I was momentarily stunned. The sound of yelling kids jolted me back into action.
‘Pull it up, pull it up fast!’ Their yells were urgent and excited. They knew they were on the cusp of a rare event – a successful fishing trip.
Determined not to go off-plan, I pulled the net up so hard it exploded out of the water, landing on the jetty in a shower of water. Amidst shrieks of delight, I had to look twice to believe what I saw. There, in the middle of the net, were two enormous blue swimmer crabs still happily picking at the bait.
Excitement was high, as was the number of ‘I told you so’s’ directed at me for my pessimism. Nat laughed and suggested I’d finally found my calling as a fisherman. All I had been missing was a really big net and a large piece of bait.
As failure was my expected outcome, I was lost for a moment with what to do with our catch. I quickly realised there was only one suitable course of action. I picked up the larger of the two crabs and chased the others around the jetty with it. What else would a dad do! For a short time, I was the only one game enough to pick up the finger crushing crustaceans. When the kids summoned the bravery to give it a try it was crab wars all round.
Good crabby memories
Over the next hour or so we hauled in a dozen big ‘blueys’. We returned most to the water but kept a few for the park manager as a thank you. They were happily accepted although I suspect he took as much pleasure from knowing we’d a successful afternoon as he did his feed.
Crabbing at Denial Bay remains not only one of my all-time fishing highlights, but also one of the best times we’ve had on any of our trips. We had a beautiful spot all to ourselves, succeeded at something we had no idea how to do and we all shared in the fun. Perfect.
Ceduna on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is a remote town that sits roughly halfway between Sydney and Perth. We stayed at Shelly Beach Caravan Park which is just out of town. It’s situated on a great beach, lots of wind protection and great ensuite amenities. Well worth staying for a few days.