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Crabs and lobsters

Line drawing of crabbing gear including dillies and crab pots

Crabbing gear

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 owner.

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 owner's name.

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 owner's name.

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 full name and address of the owner and a light coloured float attached to it that is at least 15cm in all its dimensions and with the owner’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.

Note: The age limit for the recreational use of crab apparatus has been removed.

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
    Crab gender identification (top) and measurement of male blue swimmer and male mud crabs

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 - fishers who catch tropical rock lobster are required to remove the central flap of the tail or puncture the flap with a hole at least 10mm in diameter
  • crabmeat - unless the crab with a missing shell or the crabmeat is for immediate consumption.

Line drawings of spanner crab and painted crayfish

Tropical rocklobster and spanner crab.

Closed seasons

Spanner crabs

Throughout Queensland a closed season (regulated period) applies to spanner crabs from midnight 20 November to midnight 20 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 (11.5 cm tail minimum, 9 cm 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

Last updated 28 August 2017