EXPERIENCED anglers are adopting alternative ways to catch mud crabs in a bid to prevent their crabs and crab pots from being pilfered.
Johnny Mitchell, a professional fishing guide for 35 years, said that the battle against crab-pot poachers was an "ongoing war".
Mr Mitchell refuses to leave his crab pots unattended, opting instead to remove them from the water when he leaves an area.
"Some of the worst cases are when you lose the whole crab pot," he said.
"You might put four in and then the whole four are gone when you pick them up.
"It's about respecting other water users and human beings in general.
"The fact is that plenty of other people know it's going on and know who is doing it but they are reluctant to pull up their friend and say that's not right."
Lindsay Wassell is another who has fallen foul of the thieves.
"I left them in overnight about 18 months ago and the next day two were gone and the other two were thrown in mangroves," he said.
"That was the first time I'd done that (left them unattended) in a long time and I won't be doing it again."
Mr Wassell, who has fished recreationally in the region for 30 years, said it was frustrating that other crabbers would steal from another angler's crab pots.
"It's just the fact that you pay the registration for the boat, you go to the trouble of putting it in and someone else is getting those crabs for nothing," he said.
"They probably have their own crab pots, they're being thoughtless and greedy."
Signs your crabs have been stolen:
- The door of the pot is open.
- No bait left, or the bait has been destroyed, and no crabs
- If the crab pot is not in the same spot as where it was set
- Four crab pots per person
- People can only take male crabs over 15cm across the shell and can only take four crabs
- Crab pots must be marked by an identifying tag with surname and address of the owner
- If the crab pot is not attached to a tree or high water mark, it must have a surface float with the owner's name clearly marked
- Interfering with crabbing apparatus: $1138-$56,925
- Unmarked and sunken pots: $227-$34,155
- Possession of an undersized crab: $227
- Possession of a female crab: $455
(Offenders will be referred to police for prosecution)