How to Pump for Pink Nippers. Gary Brown

There is not a lot about pumping for pink nippers (also known as saltwater yabbies or bass yabbies) over the sand flats. It’s all about getting to know more about pink nippers, getting the timing right and perfecting your pumping technique down pat. Pink nippers are best used when alive, but don’t shy away from the option of freezing them for later use. More on how to go about freezing them later in the article.


Understanding where and how pink nippers live is the first part of catching them. They are a saltwater crustacean that lives beneath the sand in the intertidal estuary zones. An “intertidal zone” is one where during a normal tidal fluctuation water covers it during periods of rising tide but exposes it during falling tides. Nippers live in sand and sometimes mud and travel around in connecting tunnels. Even though they have legs, they actually swim through these water-filled tunnels even at low tide as the water table still exists beneath the exposed sand.

Trevally cannot resist a pink nipper and Frank agrees with that.

Healthy nipper flats will be covered in thousands of holes. During the falling tide the ones that I like to start at first are the ones that are slightly higher than others that are around it. When the tide is rising over the flats I will work the holes that are closest to the edge of the water. A little trick to collecting them over flats that have water covering the holes, is if you see slight puffs of sand coming out of a hole, this is almost a guarantee that there is a nipper at home in that hole.
The only way I know how to extract nippers out of their holes is to use a specialized nipper pump.  The pump is just a tube with a vacuum-sealed plunger that can be tighten or loosed off depending on how hard it is to pull the handle upwards. The key to successful pumping is that the tunnels you are pumping must have water in them. If they don’t, they probably won’t have any nippers in them. More importantly, the pump can’t create a vacuum in sand alone so you won’t be able to draw anything into the pump.

Gary was targeting bream with pink nippers, but this massive dusky flathead took a liking to it.

These pumps can come in different lengths and you will need to make sure that you get one that suits your height. I am about 1.75cm and the perfect pump for me is 75cm long as it doesn’t have me bending down to far while at the same time having my pumping hand way above my head.

Now many other anglers that I watch when pumping for nippers will only have two, maybe three pumps in a hole and then walk away to have another go at some more holes. Others will have one pump and get a nipper and then proceed to go to another hole. I prefer to pump about four to five times pick up the nippers and then do two to three more pumps into the hole as the water is filling it up. The most that I have got using this method is 12 nippers.

Bream and snapper are another favorite of the pink nipper.


There are also many schools of thought on the best time to pump nippers. Basically, you can collect nippers any time provided the tunnels are filled with water. The only time pumping becomes difficult is at the bottom or lower end of the tide, especially big tides, when the flats are drained. This is because the water table is too low and you can’t reach it.

Once you have collected a pump full of watery sand, you need to consider where to pump it out. If the tide is out you can just pump it onto the sand next to you, picking up any nippers you see squirming in the sand slurry. If the sand you are pumping is covered in a bit of water, you can pump it into the water and then keep an eye peeled for nippers trying to swim away, picking them up as you see them. However, this action creates mud, which can make it hard to see them, especially when the water is deeper than a few centimeters. To combat this, some collectors use elaborate floating strainers that they pump their contents into thus trapping anything extracted.