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The essential guide to catching and eating Crawfish

Cooking Crawfish

Just about any kid that grew up near a pond or stream has had encounters with the terrifying Crawfish! Also called Crayfish, Crawdad or Mudbug in different parts of the country, this little bugger has given more enjoyment to both kids and adults than even Pokémon Go! And over a much longer period of time. The Crawfish is not only fun to catch but makes for a tasty meal as well.

Where to catch Crawfish
Crawfish can be caught in pretty much any pond, stream or lake that has enough places for them to hide and sufficient food supply. Look for areas that have lots of rocks for them to hide under or around water plants that are rooted beneath the surface such as Cattails. Craw fish are scavengers so they are found on the bottom usually in search of food.

Best Crawfish spots

Crawfish like areas such as this with cattails and rocks for cover

How to catch crawfish
The simplest and usually best method to catch Crawfish is with a small trap that you can buy from your local tackle shop or even on Amazon for under $20. However, as a kid we used merely toss a line with a bit of bacon or other meat tied to the end and when the line moved or felt a bit heavier we would slowly pull it back in. Crawfish will hold on until the very last minute and we would use a dip net to finish the job when we got them to the surface.

For catching enough Crawfish for dinner you need to catch some serious volume so the basic crawfish traps work well. In general, a crawfish trap allows the critter to enter the trap to get to the bait, but has some difficulty getting back out. Crawfish will find ways to leave the trap after the leave the trap once the bait is all gone. Because of this, either use bait boxes to limit the access to the bait but stay because they can still smell it and get at little bits allowing it to last longer. You can also just leave the trap out for a shorter period of time. It’s amazing how many crawfish you can catch in just a few hours!

Crawfish Trap

Noah Van Hochman with a few hours catch of Crawfish!

What bait should I use for Crawfish?
Crawfish, or Mudbugs as I like to call them, have a highly evolved sense of smell and make great use of their long feelers to find their next meal. Some baits work better than others as I have seen everything from bacon to chicken parts to hot dogs work well for catching Crawfish, but fresh dead fish and fish parts are probably the best bait, as this is what Crawfish naturally would feed upon. The key to using dead fish is to make sure that the bait is fresh, as bait that would make you turn and run will probably have a similar effect when catching Crawfish.

When to catch Crawfish
Crawfish actually can be caught year round but if you are looking for sheer numbers of this little crustacean than late spring through early fall seem to be the most active months for them. Kids who are out of school in the summer and catching Crawfish seem to be a natural fit!
The best time of day to catch Crawfish is anytime you can make it out to the pond or lake! Although Crawfish seem to be most active at night, I have also had lots of success tossing a Crawfish Trap out for a few hours during the day as well.

Live Crawfish

Say Hello to my Little Friend! The Crawfish, Crayfish or just call him da Mudbug!

Final Tips for catching Crawfish
Different States may have different laws concerning the catching and transport of Crawfish. Usually a freshwater fishing licensing will suffice but in many areas crawfish are considered an invasive species and must be handled differently. The larger rusty crayfish are being found in more and more areas wreaking havoc on the native species and local environment. Many areas require the Crayfish (Crawfish) to be transported dead to protect against their spread.

Remember that fresh bait securely attached to your trap will more than likely get you larger numbers of crawfish. Night fishing for Crawfish is not only fun but again, will probably get you more mudbugs.

For the kids, if you can’t buy a Crawfish Trap than try the line with a piece of bacon tied to it, adjust your methods to suit your location and ability. And, if all else fails do what most of us have done when we first tried to catch a Crayfish, turn over a rock or two in shallow water and pounce on the little bugger!

And now for the part you’ve all been waiting for…

Cooking Crawfish

Mouthwatering Crawfish, boiled and ready to eat!

How to cook and eat Crawfish!
Crawfish are incredible table fare! Their sweet white meat have been the basis of many incredible recipes and even a few songs! Like in the movie Forrest Gump, when listing the various ways to cook Shrimp, the Crawfish is also up to the task, such as Crawfish bisque, Jambalaya or my favorite, Crawfish etouffee, etc.,. I also use crawfish as a substitute for various other seafood when making chowders and other dishes, but the tried and true mainstay of Crawfish culinary adventures is the Crawfish Boil!

Clean the Crawfish!
Place the Crawfish into a tub of fresh ice water leave them there for a bit and then repeat the process a few more times. Remove any dead Crawfish and anything not a live crawfish. Some people suggest adding some salt to assist in purging the mud, etc., from the intestines of the Crawfish.
Cooking Crawfish
Place the live Crawfish in a pot of boiling water and your favorite Crawfish Boil spices, I prefer Zatarain’s Shrimp and Crab boil, but you can use your own spices as well. In five to seven minutes your Crawfish should turn a bright red color.

Now of course you can add corn on the cob, potatoes and onions as in the traditional Louisiana Crawfish Boil, but sometimes I just want a quick and easy snack of boiled crawfish, sprayed with lemon juice and dipped in a combination of butter and garlic. Of course there tons of other recipes and we hope to post many of them very soon, but you can never go wrong with the quick and easy boiled crawfish and butter!

How to eat a crawfish!
For those who need a bit of extra help, here is how to remove the meat from your cooked crawfish and get the most deliciousness out of it! Skip any parts that gross you out or can do without, but be advised, eating crawfish can get messy!

peeling crawfish

Peeling Crawfish, squeeze the tail and pull out the meat

1. Pinch the head between your fingers and twist the tail, you should be holding the head in one hand and the tail in the other. The head should twist off easily. If it doesn’t, the crawfish may not be fully cooked.
2. Suck the head. This is a favorite Saying in the south referring to sucking the tasty juice from the head of the Crawfish, it may seem weird but it is tasty and tradition but not mandatory.
3. Split or crack the shell of the crawfish with your hands and then squeeze the end of the tail to separate the shell from the tail meat, in other words toss the shell, and keep the white meat.

4. If you see a long thin dark line going down the length of the tail meat, just pull it off and toss it, it is the digestive tract. It usually comes off when you pick off any outer layer of skin that remained when you removed the meat from the tail.
5. Make a little dipping sauce out of lemon juice garlic and butter and use it as a dipping sauce. Place the meat in your mouth and begin to chew. Smile and then start talking like a Cajun for effect!
6. Some people enjoy cracking the claws and sucking the juice from them and whatever meat is in them. For me it’s bit too much like work unless it’s a really big Crawfish!
7. Save some of the Crawfish meat for other dishes you have recipes for or just experiment!

Catching and eating Crawfish (Crayfish, or Mudbugs) is a lot of fun for the entire family and if you get enough of them it can be a great meal for all as well. But anything that can bring family and friends together has got to be a good thing…right?

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3 Responses to The essential guide to catching and eating Crawfish

  1. Noah says:

    What is your favorite crawfish recipe or method of cooking these little buggers?

  2. Jen says:

    This was super helpful, thank you!!!

  3. D says:

    After you purge crawfish and not cook them, can you put them back in the lake , and will they live?

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