Crawfish can be caught with your bare hands and just enough bait to get them going, but they’re also fun to catch using crawfish traps and nets as well. Here is a guide on how to catch crawfish, whether you like using traditional equipment or you want to try something new!
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What is Crawfish?
Crawfish, sometimes known as crawdads, crayfish, or mudbugs, are among the most lethal catfish, bass, and big-trout baits available. Additionally, they taste fantastic when cooked with a sprinkle of Cajun flavor.
Both of these are excellent reasons to learn how to catch crawfish alive when you want to use them as bait or as a delicacy. All you need are some quick hands, maybe a few pieces of raw chicken, and a cheap trap.
Tips for Catching Crawfish
Size matters when it comes to crawfish. If you’re planning on catching your own – or if you just want more of them for yourself – you’ll want to know how big they get and how often they molt.
Generally, red swamp crawfish are between three and four inches when you catch them. After each molt, however, their size increases by about two percent. In total, a full-grown red swamp crawfish can measure anywhere from five to six inches.
Similar in size but not as commonly eaten as red swamp crawfish are white river crawfish (crawdads). These guys grow up to seven inches long on average and don’t molt nearly as much as their cousins do.
Pay Attention to Weather Patterns
Crawfish are even more abundant in times of heavy rainfall so pay attention to weather patterns.
Crawfish love a flood plain because it gives them a source of water and food. If you find one, chances are there will be many there so be sure and bring your net!
Capture Crawfish from Below the Rocks
Though inefficient, this is perhaps the most enjoyable way. Simply go into any running, rocky stream and begin lifting stones to uncover craws.
Take a position on the downstream side of the boulder and raise it toward yourself, allowing the water to wash the silt away.
Crawfish swim in reverse, so strike from behind, either with a dip net or with your hands. If the latter, scoop or grip slightly behind the skull with your hands.
Use a Bait Pen
Bait pens are an excellent way to catch crawfish. All you have to do is create a barrier that crawfish can’t climb out of and fill it with bait, and you have yourself a crawfishing hotspot.
Bait pens can be quite simple; just dig a hole in some soft ground and fill it with bait before covering it up with dirt. The only downside is that you’ll have a mess on your hands if any trapped crawfish decide they want out.
Crawfish are nocturnal and are more active at night. That means you’re more likely to catch them in a trap if you set it up at night when they’re roaming around. To be honest, there’s really no wrong time of day to go out fishing for crawfish. Just find what works best for your schedule and enjoy some fresh seafood dinner!
Many fishermen try to catch crawfish with trout lines or by dipping. While effective, these methods can be time-consuming. If you’re after an abundant catch that can be prepared for a party, it may be better to try setting out multiple nets at strategic points near known crawfish haunts.
A simple dip net is best for individual ponds and small lakes; if you’re on a larger body of water, you may want to use a gill net instead. A gill net consists of one large piece of mesh stretched between two boats and can result in catching dozens or even hundreds of pounds in just a few hours.
How to Catch Crawfish Using Bait
One concern many people have is exactly what to bait crawfish traps with. A lot of people try to catch crawfish by tying a chicken neck or a small fish onto their line and dropping it into wherever they think crawfish might be lurking.
However, there’s a better way—simply cut off (or have a friend with you who has) an alligator clip. If you don’t already know what one is, it’s like a big metal clothespin that can hold lots of weight and conduct electricity very well.
Once you’ve found some good-looking spots for crawfish in your area, attach your alligator clip (without touching it) and drop it in using an old fishing rod or cane pole, depending on how deep you want to go.
While crawfish are found in both shallow and deep water, you’ll have a better chance of catching crawfish if you’re fishing in deeper water. There aren’t as many places for them to hide, which means they can’t sneak away from your bait as easily.
If you know how to fish, drop-shotting is a great way to lure crawfish because it allows your bait to sink deep into the water, too. It also mimics a natural food source that crawfish eat: crayfish eggs!
Cast your line where there are logs, weeds, or rocks in deeper water; when you feel some resistance on your line (which means something grabbed it), pull up slowly and set your hook so it catches whatever’s on it.
How to Catch Crawfish in a River
Crawfishing in a river or other body of freshwater isn’t difficult if you have patience and the proper equipment.
If you’re using bait to capture crawfish, you may reel in this creature using a simple yet strong thread. All you have to do is use a hook or a pin to secure the bait, which can be cat food, chicken, fish, or any other homemade crawfish trap, to the string.
Lower this arrangement into the water and wiggle it about a little; do not instantly bring in the crawfish when you feel a tug on the line. After carefully reeling in the crawfish, store them in an empty bucket for later consumption.
Apart from a string and bucket, you may also use a fishnet with a long handle to reel in several crawfish at once. This prevents the crawfish from abandoning the bait and fleeing into the mud, while also allowing you to capture a large number of them.
Crawfish are most active at night, and many of your best opportunities will present themselves after sunset. Use a headlamp so you can see what you’re doing and focus on catching crawfish rather than fumbling with a flashlight.
If there are no street lights where you’re fishing, use a red filter over your flashlight—it doesn’t affect your ability to see crawfish but is great for spooking them. Light-colored clothes also make it easier for crawfish to spot you.
Wear dark clothes, including a hat or bandana (not black), if possible. Whichever method you choose to catch crawfish, just remember to have fun while you’re doing it.