F.A.Q. How Do I Catch A Crayfish?

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F.A.Q. How Do I Catch A Crayfish?

Crayfish are one of the most sought after species by divers and in fact the sole reason why some people actually dive. They are a definitely a tasty delicacy and may very well be the reason why divers seem to have so many friends. Diving for and catching a Crayfish is fantastic fun and very rewarding. It is however a skill that usually requires practice and patience before you are continually successful. The below information makes a great start for those new to catching Crayfish.

Before we start it’s a good idea to point out that there are Fisheries Rules and Regulations for each State and Territory that you will need to follow when you decide to catch Crayfish. It is therefore important to know this information first before you start taking any Cray’s.

Important Information:

  • In most states you will need a Recreational Fishing License first to allow you to take Crayfish
  • Crayfish have a closed and an open season in each state of Australia so make sure you only take them when you are allowed
  • The seasons are also Sex dependent so you will need to be able to clearly identity a Male and a Female Crayfish
  • There are minimum required size limits you will need to abide by
  • There are daily maximum catch limits you will need to abide by
  • There are maximum "possession" limits for Crayfish that you will also need to follow
  • States and Territories have different rules for what equipment you may or may not be allowed to use. In some states it is illegal to use nets, hoops/snares and the method the diver uses to catch their Crayfish also varies state to state. For example in Victoria use of SCUBA to catch Crayfish is legal yet in N.S.W. the use of SCUBA to catch Crayfish is illegal, so always check first.
  • Females 'in berry' or with eggs under their tail may not be taken
  • Cray’s with a soft shell may not be taken
  • The above information is not a complete list of what you will need to know in order to catch Crayfish so please make sure you check your areas rules and regulations first.


  • You should be comfortable with basic snorkeling, free diving and or SCUBA before attempting to dive for Crayfish
  • Never dive alone, and if possible have someone with experience show you the ropes
  • Always dive with a dive flag 


  • Always dive with a buddy for safety
  • Always carry a dive flag to let boat traffic know you are in the water
  • Fishing license
  • Catch Bag - You will need some form of a catch bag in order to carry your crayfish once you have caught them
  • Cray Gauge - You will also need a Crayfish gauge to measure your catch for size, these guides can easily be obtained from your local dive shop or fisheries department
  • Dive Knife/Scissors - To clip the Crayfish tail
  • Torch - To peer under the ledges to look for the cray's, we prefer LED lights as the light appears more natural to the Cray and makes them less likely to run back
  • Wetsuit - To keep you warm and protected from the reef, it is also a great idea to wear a hood to protect your head from reef scratches
  • Gloves - Are ideal to protect your hands from scratches and nicks from the Crayfish. Ideally use a glove that is not too thick or else you may have trouble "feeling" for your Cray’s
  • Booties - Ideal for protecting your feet, especially if you have to shore dive and walk over rocks to get to your favorite Cray reef
  • Weight Belt - So much easier to stay down
  • Fins
  • Mask and Snorkel
  • SCUBA gear (if you are a certified diver)

Crayfish Habitat & Feeding Habits:

Crayfish live on rocky reefs with plenty of cracks and crevasses where they can hide. A nocturnal creature, they live in cracks and holes in large groups during the day and venture out to feed at night. Cray’s are a bottom feeding scavenger that live on shellfish, crabs, small fish or anything else they can find. Generally you can find cray’s in less than 5m of water and you will often have to move the kelp to see into their holes.

Hunting Technique:

Crayfish can be a real challenge to find and to collect. You can rarely spot cray’s from the surface during the day and really need to get down into the weed and under overhangs to find them. A dive light is a real advantage when Cray hunting and you will be surprised how many more cray’s you will see with one. We prefer to use LED lights which produce a white, more natural light environment for the crayfish as compared to Halogen lights which appear as a more golden, darker light that is certainly un-natural for them in their environment. An un-natural light can have a very adverse effect on your Crayfish as they will generally rear back into their hole making it significantly harder if not impossible to catch them.

Once you have found a Cray don't rush straight in but have a good look around as Cray’s are seldom found alone and it is usually the smallest Cray’s that you see first. If necessary leave your gun at the entrance to the hole to go up and have a breath so you can follow your float line straight back to the spot. Once you have decided which Cray you want, try to grab it by the base of its feelers or around its back. There are all sorts of ideas about the best way to sneak up on cray’s but I have found the 'hard and fast method' most successful, particularly when free diving. If you are on SCUBA and you have plenty of air we recommend taking your time and being patient. Cray holes often have a rear entrance so if the Cray is beyond reach have a look around for another way in. If you do find a second entrance it is often possible for your buddy to scare the Cray straight out to you.

Once you have caught the Cray you will need to store it somehow. The most common way is in a catch bag. These are very convenient to use but do add a bit of drag when towed behind your float. The best way to store your Cray’s while spearfishing is with a mono-filament Cray loop attached to your float that securely holds your catch but presents practically no drag when not in use.

It is very important to remember that you will also need to clip the tail on all Cray's that you catch. We recommend doing do before you actually leave the water, but check with your local Fisheries regulations first for the exact requirements in your area.

Please remember that Crayfish are very easily damaged and have little chance of survival if you break legs or antennae off, so you should only try for a Cray if you are sure it is legal. If you do take an illegal Cray it must be placed back exactly where you found it. Cray’s sitting with their tails curled underneath them are most probably in berry and should be left alone. Cray’s who are nearly sitting out in the open and appear dopey are most probably soft-shelled and should be left alone as well.

Now that you have your Crayfish it's time to cook them. For more information on some great recipes check out our recipes page.

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