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Catch, Cook & Eat Yabbies

Yabbies are one of life's delicacies. They are in abundance in Victoria and New South Wales, their traditional home. The yabbie's abundance and the ease within which they can be caught, means the yabbies are just there for the taking. Back to the basics style cooking in a campfire oven, means you can eat while you fish.

 

Blue under water and bright orange when cooked, the yabby is like an inland lobster. They are found in abundance in streams, dams, billabongs, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds. Yabbies are burrowers and leave a network of holes in dams and irrigation canals.

With two large claws for defence, be sure you have your yabbie catching technique down pat before you venture out. Yabbies have four legs for walking and a long thick tail which moves quickly through the water. Yabbies can live up to seven years but tend to live shorter lives. Flip over a yabby and look inspect the base of their walking legs on their underbelly to tell the difference between a female and a male yabby.

Yabbies eat fish and plants, breathe under the water with their gills and lay eggs to reproduce. They mate in spring two to three times with eggs hatching within 40 days to release the young into the water. Eels, turtles, Murray Cod, platypus and birds, all have yabbie on the menu.

Catching yabbies

Catching yabbies is very simple. Just add a piece of meat to a string and lower it into the water using a hoop net. Falling river levels are great yabbie conditions and the warmer months are best, from Summer to early Autumn. March to April provides cooler nights and yabbies slow down, at these times ponds, dams and streams are better yabbying spots.

You can catch yabbies from the shore or by canoe or boat. You can use a fishing line for shallow waters, sweeping the yabby into the net, or drop a net back into deeper waters with a string with raw red meat. Some people use a net, which is pushed down into the under water mud with the stick. These nets are usually checked every 10 minutes, or every five minutes when the yabbies are biting. There are hoop nets to plunge the bait, or funnel nets to trap them from the muddy floors. The choice of net and fishing technique depends on the spot you are fishing in. Funnel nets are also good to put in overnight, so you can even catch yabbies while you are sleeping.

As a rule if you don't get a bite within the first 30 minutes, or a few plunges with the hoop net, you are probably not in an ideal spot and its time to move to somewhere else.

If you are not cooking them on the spot, bring an esky with ice. The cool temperature slows down their nervous systems and calms them down into a sleep like state, until they are ready to cook. Yabbies on ice are much easier to handle, watch out when you remove them, because when they warm up, they get active again. From the net into ice then into boiling water, is the best way to handle a yabbie.

An esky with some ice is all you need to keep the yabbies fresh when caught, although they will stay alive for hours in a bucket with fresh water. If you have large yabbies', there is plenty of meat in their claws, to remove any muddy flavours, try soaking them in lemon juice and water.

Watch "How to Cook Yabbies"

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Cooking yabbies

Take the yabbies off the ice and boil a pot of water with a cup of salt. When the water has reached a full boil, plunge the yabbies' straight into the water, after seven minutes, take the yabbies out, let them cool and they are ready to eat.

Fresh yabbies' taste better than frozen yabbies, you can enhance the flavor with butter, olive oil, cream, parsley, thyme, dill or even chilli and garlic. Yabbies make a great pasta which is a perfect camp oven cooking dish. Yabby sandwiches are also a favourite.

If you are preparing a meal try 6 yabbies for a first course and 12 yabbies for a main. Drop into the Forbes Visitor Information Centre for some local family recipes for cooking campfire yabbies.

Forbes Visitor Information Centre also has a guide to some of the most scenic and prolific spots to go yabbying.

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