Monthly Archives: Jul 2010

The Paddle Crab Problem

A large Paddle Crab

During the winter months here in HB, and also in other areas around NZ, the absence of Snapper, Lemonfish, and other crab eaters cause what seems like a population explosion of paddle crabs. Its not so much a population explosion as the paddle crabs are always there. Its just that in the absence of their main predators, they rule the sea floor for a month or two.
One of the main problems with surfcasting here in winter is keeping your bait away from the crabs. Its not uncommon for perfectly presented and nicely bound baits to be picked clean in less than five minutes. If you are fishing two rods and the crabs are thick, you can have an endless job of rebaiting one rod, then the other, and back to the first. When the crabs are hungry it doesnt really matter what bait you present, they will clean your hook in minutes. From Pilchards to tough old Squid they’ll take it. I’ve even had them eat the plastic bling (needlefish) I have on my traces as well.
Putting floats on your traces will not stop the paddle crabs, but it may slow them down. Try to use longish traces with a float big enough to lift your bait well off the bottom, (test it in a bucket of water). If your’e fishing in turbulent conditions the crabs will grab your bait as soon as the waves make it swing anywhere near the bottom anyway. But it may get you a couple more minutes of ‘baited hook time’ before you need to wind in and rebait.[singlepic id=54 w=320 h=240 float=right]
This year the HB paddle crabs seem to be in plague proportions, and more ravenous than I’ve ever experienced. Its not uncommon to wind in your gear and find a crab tangled in the trace, or even just hanging on to the remains of your bait and refusing to let go, even when hoisted clear of the water. This season I’ve caught them two at a time on one bait, and even had one hanging on to my sinker!
There is an upside to dragging a few of these ashore though. They make good bait. Chop them up and use them for lemonfish baits. They freeze well and can be kept for quite a while. If you chop one up and send it straight back to where is came from, it will suffer the same fate as your pilchards. Yes paddle crabs are cannibals, and they will quite happily eat each other.