Crabs and lobsters

Responsible crabbing


  • Make sure your crab pot/dilly is heavy enough and has enough rope attached to the float so it’s not lost in strong tidal currents. Lost crabbing gear can harm marine animals and becomes marine litter.
  • It’s best practice to make sure your pots/dillies are in water deep enough at all stages of the tide so marine animals caught in the gear are not exposed to the sun and unwanted crabs can be released alive.
  • Sort your crabs on a pot-by-pot basis to remove any no-take crabs before moving on. If you don’t, any illegal catch in your pot is considered to be in your possession.
  • Check your pots/dillies regularly to ensure any bycatch or no-take crabs can be released unharmed. Ideally, you should not leave gear unattended for more than 7 days. If you’re not sure when you’ll be back, take it with you.


  • Hook crabs: Hooking crabs is illegal.
  • Interfere with another person’s crabbing gear: This is a serious offence that carries heavy penalties. Stealing crabs or crab pots is a criminal offence – if you’re caught you will be reported to the police.
Crabbing gear
© Queensland Government

Crabbing and fishing gear

Crab pots and dillies

In tidal waters, when fishing for blue swimmer crabs, mud crabs and spanner crabs, no more than four crab pots or dillies (or a combination of pots and dillies) may be used per person. Also a person must not possess more than four crab apparatus per person, on a boat on the water.

Crab pots and dillies must be marked by an identifying tag bearing the surname and address of the person using the apparatus.

When not attached to a fixed object (for example tied to a tree above the high water mark), all crab apparatus must have a light coloured surface float attached. The float must not be less than 15 cm in any dimension and must be marked clearly with the user's surname.

When tied to a fixed object, a tag must also be attached to part of the rope that is above the high water mark. The tag must be marked clearly with the user's surname.

The use of inverted dilly apparatus (witches hats) was phased out from 2 April 2010.

When fishing for spanner crabs, the dilly must have an area within its frame of no more than 1m2 with a net drop of no more than 10cm and mesh size of at least 25mm. The dilly must have a tag attached to it with the surname and address of the user and a light coloured float attached to it that is at least 15cm in all its dimensions and with the user’s name written on it.

Ensure you sort your crabs on a pot-by-pot basis to remove any illegal crabs before moving on, or they are deemed in your possession.

Female or undersized crabs must be removed from the trap and returned to the water immediately.

There is no age limit for the recreational use of crab apparatus.

Crab collapsible trap

In tidal waters, a collapsible trap must be made of rigid material with one or more collapsible sides.

Tropical rock lobster fishing apparatus

In tidal waters, when fishing for tropical rock lobster, recreational fishers are permitted to free-dive using a mask and snorkel, and a rubber-powered hand spear or spear gun.

The use of underwater breathing apparatus other than a snorkel is not permitted, whether by spear, spear gun, hand or any other means.

ID and measurement

Crab gender identification

Determine crab gender from the underside of the crab.

Female mud crabs and blue swimmer crabs, and egg- bearing spanner crabs and three-spotted crabs, are protected throughout Queensland. This means you cannot possess them at any time without a permit.


The size of a blue swimmer crab is determined by measuring the distance between the notch immediately forward of the base of the large lateral spine of the crab on one side of the crab, and the notch immediately forward of the base of the large lateral spine of the crab on the other side of the crab. Blue swimmer crabs must be a minimum of 11.5 cm from notch to notch.

The size of a mud crab and three-spotted crab is determined by measuring the widest part of its carapace. Mud crabs must be a minimum size of 15 cm across the widest point of its carapace. Three-spotted crabs must measure a minimum of 10 cm across the widest point of its carapace.

The size of a spanner crab is determined by measuring the shortest distance between the tip of the spike at the middle of the front edge of its carapace and the mid-point of the rear edge of its carapace. If the carapace is damaged or separated from the crab's body, the size must be decided by measuring its sternite at the widest part of the front of its breastplate, located directly in front of the bases of the main claws.

Crab gender identification (top) and measurement of male blue swimmer and male mud crabs
© Queensland Government
Tropical rocklobster and spanner crab
© Queensland Government

Possessing crustaceans and crabmeat

A person must not possess:

  • mud or blue swimmer crabs with the carapace (shell) missing (this includes possessing claws without the rest of the crab)
  • live tropical rock lobsters
  • crabmeat - unless the crab with a missing shell or the crabmeat is for immediate consumption.

Closed seasons

Spanner crabs

Throughout Queensland a closed season (regulated period) applies to spanner crabs from midnight 1 November until midnight 15 December inclusive.

Tropical rock lobster (tropical spiny rock lobster)

A closed season applies to all species of tropical rocklobster (family Panuliridae) from midnight 1 October to midnight 31 December in Queensland tidal waters:

  1. north of latitude 14º S, south of Cape York and east of longitude 142º31'49" E
  2. in the Gulf of Carpentaria, shoreward of the 25 n mile line and south of latitude 10°48' S.

Note: A size limit (11.5cm tail minimum, 9cm carapace minimum) applies to painted crayfish (Panulirus ornatus).

Protected species

The following species are protected throughout Queensland and are therefore prohibited from being in anyone's possession without a permit:

  • female mud and blue swimmer crabs
  • egg-bearing spanner crabs, slipper lobsters, and tropical rocklobsters (tropical spiny rock lobsters)
  • tar-spot tropical rocklobsters (tar-spot tropical spiny rock lobsters).

Further information