Crustacians - Yabbies, or Coonacks

What are Yabbies?

Yabbies are much like a marron only smaller, similar to that of the rock lobster and prawn.  They are a crustacean and have ten jointed legs (arthropods) similar to a scorpion. Their skeleton is actually a hard shell on the outside of their soft body.

It has taken me ages to work out the true name of these crustaceans.  As a kid we used to call them gilgies in Western Australia (Cherax albidus).  Then as we traveled around Australia we found in some parts of the Eastern States they would call them Koonacs or Yabbies.  I believe there are more than thirty species of Yabbies in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Survival adaption

Yabbies can adapt to any type of changeable environment.  Normally they live in dams, creeks, swamps and any pools of water.  When the water dries up during a drought season they survive by burrowing down lower in the mud when the surface water dries up.  Yabbies can survive in the arid outback of Australia in this way for several years.

They normally breed in a burrow late in summer and surface to feed in the spring, which is their growing time. This will depend on the different temperatures of changing seasons. Females produce a large number of eggs and have repeated spawning of these eggs. A female Yabby will reach maturity in its first year.


Shedding their shell

As a Yabbies shell is hard they shed their shell several times as they grow.  Another softer shell forms under the old hard one.  As we outgrow our clothes they outgrow their shells. 

I have watched them in my aquarium as they shed their shells it is quite fascinating.  They lie on their side and just go through a form of contortion of wriggling until it comes right off.   It would have been great to have a movie camera handy when this happened.  The Yabby is now at its most vulnerable time with no hard protective shell to protect it. Therefore more die throughout this process because it can take up to twenty minutes for a mature Yabby to shed its shell which must be an exhausting process.

This discarded shell then becomes a nourishing source of calcium for them.  They also eat decaying animal and plant materials.  They are very clever and will latch onto any small fish as it swims nonchalantly by. 


No one could knock back a feed of these.  Whether you call them Crustacians, Yabbies or Coonacks they all go down the same way and taste real great with a little vinegar and pepper.


How to Catch a Yabby

  • You will need a net similar to that of a crab drop net.  Bait can be any type of raw meat, like a chop, bones, or even a liver. 


  • Make sure you have enough rope tied onto this net to throw out four or five feet into the dam or river where you are camping or picnicking. 
  • Tie a rock to the end so you do not throw the whole lot out and have to swim after it. 
  • Now tie your bait onto the bottom inside of the net.
  • Throw out the net and repeat same with a couple more nets (that is if you really want a feed)
  • Now to the most important part, go to the esky and grab a tinny or stubby of your choice and wait

After your first drink check the nets and make sure they are a decent size.  Throw back any females with eggs.

When you have enough (please, do not  take more than you need) Put a pot of water on to boil and add a tablespoon of salt.


When it boils, throw in the Yabbies.  Cook for twenty minutes, remove from heat drain and eat and most of all enjoy them with a dash of pepper and vinegar.

Companies also make a living from these Crustations  Live Lobsters delivery from ocean to table