I had been saying for a while I wanted to go out on a crayfish boat before I leave Lancelin. When I met Chris, GM of a crayfish exporting company, he said he could hook me up with one of the local fishermen who would be happy to take me and a few of my mates out to sea.
So I found myself barely awake at 4:30 am, sitting outside a fisherman named Pat’s house in the tiny town of Ledgepoint. My friend Elouise was quite perky after downing two Red Bulls while Karol claimed to be still drunk from the bloody marys she had consumed only hours earlier. Pat asked us if we ever get seasick and we proudly told him no, we had never.
The sun began to glow across the horizon as Pat drove the truck onto the beach. There is just something about being near the sea that always makes me feel happy.
As we climbed out of the small tini into the fishing boat “Nebraska”, two friendly dolphins greeted us. We fed them fish and squealed with excitement as the dolphins leapt out of the water as they raced beside the boat.
All sights of land vanished as Nebraska headed further out to sea, not stopping for over two hours. I had never been out so far from shore on a boat before.
I was feeling sleepy so I went downstairs to rest on the couch and watched the morning news. I was amazed by the extreme flooding in Queensland and felt relieved that I had found myself in one of the few sunny and dry places in Australia at the time. I must have dozed off as when I woke up we were no longer moving forward but the boat was swaying wildly from side to side. I instantly felt sick to my stomach and raced upstairs and puked up my brekky over the side of the boat.
I have been on heaps of boats and have sailed on overnight trips as well and never been sea sick before. But this was my first experience being out in the deep sea and the feelings are very different I would learn over the next nine hours. I was told that it is quite normal to get sea sick given the conditions and that it would ease the more time I spent out at sea.
The crew maneuvered easily about the deck in their tall white gumboots while I found it quite difficult to keep my balance!
Pat drove the boat while two 18-year-old boys, Damian and Jaydon, worked hard together to pull in the heavy wooden crates that had been resting 200 meters below the sea waiting to trap the unsuspecting crayfish. Jaydon manned the pulley system until the large crate emerged from the water. Damion heaved it onto the side of the boat, shaking a dozen lobsters into the tank, their long antennas circling the water. He then pulled each one out to inspect, if they were too small or pregnant they would be tossed back into the sea to abide by local fishing laws.
This process continued for about four hours until thirty crates had been pulled from the sea. The crayfish were placed into plastic crates, and the lids securely strapped on top to keep the wiggly guys inside.
I held a large crayfish in my hand and was quite surprised by it’s strength as it almost managed to escape my grasp by flinging its tail back and forth with great force.
The next job was to toss the empty crates back into sea to catch more crayfish that would be picked up the following day. The boys put fish heads into the crate as bait. I found myself feeling sick whenever the boat stopped for long periods of time and the waves rocked the boat in slow deep motions. The only relief I could find was to lay sideways on the upper deck.
From upstairs I could hear Elouise saying that she really needed to pee and I was surprised to learn there was no toilet on the boat! The boys told her they wouldn’t look and she would have to go on the deck. I laughed as I heard her say she tried but couldn’t because she had stage fright! Six hours later she was practically in tears and I felt so sorry for my friend. Karol and I both had to go pretty bad too and all three of us striped down to our bikinis and jumped overboard the minute the boat anchored close to shore feeling relief instantaneously!
Back on land I was feeling back to normal and was curious as to what happened to the lobsters next. Chris took me on a field trip of the crayfish factory. Our first stop was the spot where all the crayfish are unloaded and weighed. The boys caught 300 kilos of crayfish that day, which apparently isn’t much as 900 kilos can be caught on a good day. I learned that the price paid for crayfish was scheduled to increase the following day, so it made sense to wait to collect more when the paying price was higher.
Next, workers separated the lobsters based on size. They showed me a few massive guys that weighed in over 2 kilos and would cost you about $150 USD to purchase.
I was confused about why some call the creatures crayfish and others call them lobsters. They do not have claws like the lobsters I have eaten in the states. Apparently these are a different breed of lobsters – Western Australian spiny lobsters but members of the crayfish family.
The next step was to “purge” the lobsters which involved leaving for 24 hours in continuously filtered salt water allowing the lobsters to take care of their business so they will have empty intestines when they are shipped overseas. Within 48 hours of the purge the crayfish are flown to Japan and China.
The day was long, but I had so much fun learning about crayfish and being out on the water (whenever I wasn’t puking overboard). When I came home I rested my boat legs still feeling the sway of the sea throughout the night.
To see more photos of crayfish fun day CLICK HERE!