Perhaps the best known freshwater crayfish in South Australia is the yabbie. The prevalence of yabbies is influenced by a number of factors, particularly water temperature. Yabbies become more active during the warmer months of the year from spring to autumn.
Yabbies are extremely well adapted to the seasonality of arid Australia. Yabbies are found throughout South Australia, living in ponds, rivers and both permanent and temporary water holes. When water holes dry out, the yabbie burrows to moist soil (the water table) and emerge when water refills the catchment area. Yabbies also occur in brackish water near the coast. The best time to find yabbies is on the declining phase of a flood. Yabbies can remain underground for at least five years.
Generally, mating occurs in the spring and early summer and spawning reaches its peak between December and February. However, when conditions are right, yabbies can be in berry (carrying eggs) throughout the year. Following spawning the female carries her eggs under her tail, where they incubate for three weeks. During the first two years of life, the yabbie moults several times reaching a length of approximately ten centimetres. In the third year of life the yabbie moults only twice and reaches a length of about thirteen centimetres. However, when conditions are right, yabbies can grow much larger up to twenty-eight centimetres and above.
The main food consumed by yabbies is dead and decaying animal and plant material known as detritus. Yabbies are also opportunistic feeders, catching and eating small fish and crustaceans, as well as grazing on any aquatic vegetation that might be present. Yabbies also eat their old exoskeletons after moulting, mainly to increase reserves of calcium.
A very common childhood pastime is to catch yabbies with a piece of meat tied to a length of string. Adults generally use nets of various designs, depending upon location and regulation in the particular area. Restrictions on methods of gathering yabbies, especially the prohibition of "opera house" nets and other enclosed nets for the capture of yabbies and other freshwater crayfish in rivers and streams relate more to the protection of other wildlife, such as platypus and water rats, than to any attempt to restrict the take of yabbies. In farm dams, yabbies are usually gathered using drag nets, and this can very quickly harvest a large number.
Yabbies themselves, in the smaller sizes, make excellent bait for the larger native fish, being an important part of the diet of many species.
Yabbies are excellent eating. They can be simply boiled for a few minutes in salted water or prepared in a variety of ways. They have a very sweet meat and the claws of larger specimens are particularly succulent. Compared to spiny freshwater crayfish, yabbies have much more meat for the size of the animal, although yabbies are much smaller than crays. A feed of yabbies is one of the most delicious meals you can try.
Saltwater yabbies ( pink nippers) have proven to be a good bait for golden perch in freshwater inland enpoundments. Many anglers travel from the coast inland taking saltwater yabbies with them, this usualy means collecting bait several days before the trip.
One method of keeping them alive for long periods is to drain away all water and ensure the yabbies are fairly dry. Place a 2 inch layer of untreated wood shaving in an esky and place yabbies evenly spaced on top of the shavings. Place as many layers as needed ensuring the yabbies are not on top of each other and each layer of wood shavings as about 2 inches thick. Put the lid on the esky and keep cool preferabley below 20 deg celsius. Yabbies can be kept alive and kicking for almost a week using this method.
Legal Minimum Length
Size limits do not apply to yabbies.
A personal bag limit of two hundred yabbies per person per day is now in place. It is an offence to take females carrying eggs.
Any dead fish, red meat on the bone, tied with wire to the net/pot.
Not really required. The scent of the bait is enough to attract yabbies to the vicinity of your pot.
Devices except those held in the hand, must have a tag bearing the users name and address. Tags must be made of plastic, metal, wood or some other material durable in water. They should have minimum dimensions of 10 cm x 5 cm, and should show the required markings in lettering, which is at least 2 cm in height. Additionally, yabbie pots require a white buoy if they are not set from the shore.
Buoys used in the River Murray and Lake Alexandrina to mark yabbie pots must be durable in water, have a volume not less then two litres and be white in colour.
- Maximum dimension: 1 metre
- Maximum funnel diameter: 7.5 cm
- Maximum of 3 yabbie pots per person
- Yabbie pots must not have more than two entrance funnels.
- May be a dab net, dip net or shrimp net consisting of a conical shaped netting joined to a hoop which is attached to a rigid handle
- Maximum hoop diameter: 1 metre
- Maximum depth of net: 1 metre
- Maximum of 1 hand net per person.
- Two hoops joined by a cylindrical or cone-shaped net bag. May not be used in a commercial fishing reach.
- Maximum hoop diameter: 107 cm
- Maximum of 3 drop nets per person.
- A net attached to a hoop. May not be used in a commercial fishing reach.
- Maximum hoop diameter: 107 cm
- Maximum depth of net bay: 92 cm
- Maximum of 10 hoop nets per person.
It is illegal for recreational fishers to sell their catch.
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