How to pump, keep and hook Saltwater Yabbies

On this page, we will go over yabby pumping and how to keep Saltwater Yabbies to use for live bait. Where and when to go, how to identify the location of the yabbies. As well as the technique I use to get them out of their holes and onto a hook.

Saltwater Yabbies are a great bait as they are fun to collect and also are a favourite bait of many species like Whiting, Flathead and Bream.

Where and when to pump Saltwater Yabbies:

When looking for a yabby pumping spot, you want to find an area that has sandy or muddy flats or a gently sloping bank that is easily accessible around low tide.

It is best to pump yabbies is either side of a low tide. Pumping at other times can be done with the use of a sieve that floats. Remember though, the deeper the water, the more difficult pumping is.

Yabby pumping in areas that still have a little water around will keep the yabbies closer to the surface. Making pumping them a little easier (no promises though).

Sand/mudflats where you can find Yabbies to Pump
Sand/mudflats where you can find Yabbies to Pump

Identifying Saltwater Yabby holes:

Yabby holes are small holes around 5 mm to 10 mm in diameter, normally in large groups scattered around the flats/banks. The better holes are in groupings of 3 or more.

Particularly look for evidence of sand/mud that has been disturbed at the entrance of the hole.

Holes showing that Yabbies were here and a great place to pump to keep a few.

How to Pump Saltwater Yabbies:

To pump Yabbies, use a yabby pump (thank you captain obvious there).

A pump is a metal tube with a handle at one end and a washer inside the tube at the other that creates suction when pulling the handle back.

After identifying the Yabby hole, you do not want to go vertically down the hole, but rather a few inches back and at an angle. Place the washer end of the pump into the sand/mud here and push towards the holes as you pull the handle back. This will suck the sand/mud into the pipe and allow the pipe to go deeper as you pull the handle back.

Once you have the handle back as far as you comfortably can, pull the pipe out (holding the handle back still), once fully out of the hole push quickly the sand/mud out onto a flat area of ground nearby. With reasonable force, the sand/mud should spread out enough for you to see if there are any Yabbies in the extraction.

Do the above 3 to 4 times in the same hole, until almost the full length of pipe is down the hole, then collect any of the Yabbies that were sucked out (extracted).

If there is water over the area where you are pumping for Saltwater Yabbies, then you can use a sieve with a float around it, or an assistant holding the sieve to push the sand/mud into. The yabbies will get caught in the screen and you can wash away the excess sand/mud easily.

A short video on the Sieve that I used to help me pump for Yabbies.

Picture of a freshly pumped Saltwater Yabby, perfect to keep and put on a hook to catch some fish.

Putting a Yabby on a hook:

There are three ways to put a Yabby on a hook that I use.

Going from the back of the Yabby go down 2 to 3 groves in its tail, and place the hook through the groove from the back to the front of the Yabby. (By not piercing the upper body of the Yabby, it should last longer)

Like above, place the hook through the 2nd or 3rd groove, then turn the Yabby over, placing the hook back through the yabby twice more. Trying to avoid piercing too close to the head. (This will give a straighter presentation, but more potential to kill the Yabby)

On the underside of the Yabby, feed the hook from the tail, through to the head (like a prawn) and have the hook come out near the head. Half hitch the tail if it needs it. (I like this for those Yabbies that are not live)

Keeping Saltwater Yabbies:

Always check your local regulations for the size and number of bait and fish you can keep. If a Yabby is carrying eggs or too small to use one per hook, I put them back. This helps ensure there will be more in the future.

In Queensland, Australia, the current regulations can be found here. Size and possession limits – tidal waters | Recreation, sport and arts | Queensland Government (www.qld.gov.au)

You can keep Saltwater Yabbies in a bucket with fresh seawater covering them for 2 to 6 hours. It is advisable to refresh the water every few hours. Depending on whether they are in the sun, the size of the bucket and the number of Yabbies in it. If you take care of the Yabbies, they will keep in the bucket overnight quite happily.

Refreshing the water for a bucket of Yabbies to keep them fresh.
Refreshing the water for the Yabbies

By picking the right time and place, you should have no trouble collecting a few Yabbies for a fishing session. Even the kids can get involved, whether it’s by holding the sieve or pumping yabbies themselves. (Just watch out for the claws, they will nip if they can)


Saltwater Yabbies can also be used to catch Bream, check out Bream Fishing – Size, Bait, Rigs for tips to catching more!

Another bait you can have fun catching yourself is Mullet, check out my guide on how to catch Mullet for bait using a rod and reel.