CATCHING SPANNERS: Crabbers use flat dillies with a bait bag attached to nab these delicacies from the sea floor.
CATCHING SPANNERS: Crabbers use flat dillies with a bait bag attached to nab these delicacies from the sea floor. Contributed

Spanner crabs the flavour of the moment, aplenty in region

SPANNER crabs could be coming more regularly to a fisho or restaurant near you, as the tasty morsels are back as the flavour of the moment with a few big-name chefs and restaurants.

The little orange-red devils with the spanner-shaped claws are often dismissed by us Queenslanders - more ready to tuck into a feed of muddies (mud crabs) or sandies (blue swimmer crabs) - but down south they are gaining in popularity and in Asia a real delicacy.

Chefs are favouring the firm, sweet flesh and preparing plenty of the new cuisine with claws in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne's flash eateries.

Seventeen Seventy crabber Greg Williams reckons they are better value too.

"If you know how to get the flesh out properly you can get a kilo of spanner crab meat out of 3kg of crabs,'' Greg said.

"I sell all mine to Ocean Pacific in Bundy and they send a fair bit down south; and the demand in Asia, especially Taiwan, has always been strong.

"But they are trying to develop a bit more of a local market - and down the Sunny Coast too.''

Greg has been spannering for 15 years and during peak season, from August to November, can fill his boat in a couple of days 20-35 nautical miles out from Seventeen Seventy.

He sets strings of 20 dillies with bait bags and pilchards attached and then keeps his catch alive in cool conditions where they go dormant.

"People want them live, the fresher the better,'' he said.

The technique in cleaning cooking and extracting the meat from spanner crabs is the key, with more of the public and now chefs aware of the abundance of meat and the delicate flavour.

From omelettes and crab cakes to fancy versions of chilli or garlic-butter spanner crab, the awareness of this beautiful local produce is awakening a few palettes.

These delicious crabs are favourites in many top international restaurants.
These delicious crabs are favourites in many top international restaurants.