How To Catch Crawfish: A Guide

Catching crawfish is fun, but it’s also a bit tricky. If you want to catch them at their peak, you need to know where they hide. The crawfish can also be used as bait to catch bass and other forms of aggressive fish.

Therefore, learning how to catch them can be a handy skill for any enthusiastic fisher. This article looks at the crawfish more closely and how to catch crawfish using forms of traps. Let’s dive in.

How To Catch Crawfish

What Is a Crawfish?

Crawfish are small crustaceans that live in the mud of rivers and lakes. They have long legs with claws on both sides of their bodies. The clawed side helps them cling to rocks and other objects while swimming.

They are related to crabs and lobsters and their shells are hardy enough to withstand being boiled or steamed. They can also grow up to two inches long.

A crawfish head is composed of five parts: antennae, eyes, mouth, thorax, and abdomen. Their heads are usually bright red, orange, yellow, or green depending on what kind of crawfish they are.

Their tails are longer than their bodies. When they are not active, crawfish will curl into a ball shape. They have five pairs of legs and sharp pincers. Their exoskeleton is thin, yet still rather tough.

The most common type of crawfish found in the United States is the American lobster (Homarus americanus). It has a dark brown shell and grows about three feet long.

There are many species of crawfish that are native to different geographical regions. For example, there are blue-clawed crawfish in Canada and Louisiana.

Crawfish are also known as yabbies, freshwater lobsters, and crawdad and they feed on fish eggs, small insects, and leaves. However, an interesting fact is that the crustacean is known for cannibalizing its kind as well as human flesh.

When it comes to predators, they are targeted by raccoons, snakes, and humans who catch them in large numbers to boil them.

Where Do Crawfish Live?

Crawfish like warm water. They prefer clear, clean water with a temperature between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperatures higher than 70 degrees cause them to die.

They can climb over obstacles such as logs and stones to reach food sources. In addition, they can swim through grasses and weeds. They can even crawl under fallen trees.

If you see crawfish crawling along the shoreline, you should avoid disturbing them. Otherwise, you may scare them away. 

The largest number of crawfish are found in southeastern North America and these make up 330 species. However, these belong to the same family named the Cabaridae. Many are found in lowlands where the water has high levels of oxygen and calcium.

Crawfish Trapping And Bait

If you want to trap a crawfish, you need to know what they prefer as bait. Crawfish are omnivorous creatures that eat almost everything. Crawfish are attracted by fish, especially oily ones such as sunfish, herring, shiners, pogies, and gizzard shad.

Some fishermen might also prefer to use cut-up salmon heads and any other oily fish they can get their hands on. You can get these pieces of fish from local markets and prepare them yourself.

Never be afraid to experiment with crawfish bait and meat. Fish heads or tails are great for attracting crawfish. Chicken wings and chicken necks are also good for attracting crawfish and these cuts of meat are so cheap, they are great for anyone on a budget.

You can use any kind of meat when catching crayfish as they are omnivores, however, they need to be edible and digestible.

Fresh bait works better than old bait but some fishermen also use cat food. If you use bait that is not fresh, you might end up with an empty trap as you pull it back up again.

The type of bait you use depends on the size of the crawfish you’re trying to catch. For example, if you’re targeting smaller crawfish, then you should use cut bait. Cut bait is made from pieces of raw meat that have been chopped up.

When you cut bait, you should have a lot of chunks of meat. Smaller crawfish prefer this kind of bait over whole ones.

Another thing to consider is how much bait you need. If you’re going after big crawfish, you might need to use whole baits. Whole baits are larger than cut bait and contain all parts of the crawfish. They are often made from shrimp shells, corn, peanut butter, bread crumbs, etc.

Commercial Baits

If you don’t want to get down and dirty and prepare your bait yourself, you can always go with commercial bait that has been formulated for catching crawfish.

Brands such as Purina famously make bait on a large commercial scale for crawfish catchers who need to catch a full bucket of the fish without the extra mess.

Commercial bait such as this is also useful during the summer months when living bait can go bad faster than it can be used.

However, this sort of bait will be no good when the water temperature drops to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Use normal fish bait instead during this time and it won’t go off in the cold weather. Just be prepared for smelly hands.

How To Catch Crawfish in a River?

Catching crawfish in rivers is very similar to catching them in lakes. The only difference is that there is less room to maneuver in rivers. If you want to catch crawfish in rivers, you have to be careful about getting too close to the bank.

This is because the riverbeds are usually covered with rocks and roots which could damage your fishing equipment.

Use a simple and strong reel to catch the crawfish with bait in a river. Attach the bait to the string using a hook and pin. Lower this to the water and move when you feel a pull on the line.

Avoid pulling the crawfish immediately and move the string with the bait and crawfish attached to it towards the shore before placing the catch in a bucket.

You can also use a net to catch crawfish in a river. Make sure you do this at night though. During the day, the sunlight will attract more insects and small animals to the area. These pests will destroy your bait before you even start using it.

Using a net will allow you to catch several crawfish at once and prevent the fish from releasing bait and getting away in the mud.

You can also use a light stick to attract crawfish into your net. Lightsticks work best in shallow waters and areas with lots of vegetation. You should never use one in open bodies of water like oceans or lakes.

When you are ready to set out your bait, try to find a spot that’s near a creek or stream. This way, you’ll have access to clean water to rinse your traps and buckets. It’s important to keep your bait clean as well. Otherwise, you risk contaminating the water and making your crawfish sick.

How To Catch Crawfish in the river

How to Make a Freshwater Crawfish Trap

 A crawfish trap is an easy way to catch lots of crawfish and is a lot easier on your back than the string method. 

1. Two clear plastic bottles should be used to capture crawfish. This is to ensure no pollutants enter the river or lake you are capturing the crawfish from.

2. A box cutter should be used to cut each bottle in half around an inch above the middle point. This should be as clean as you can make it and the edges should be smooth.

3. Cut the second bottle at a point higher than the first cutting and ensure these edges are clean too.

4. Place the smaller cut bottle in the bigger one’s mouth and this creates a funnel for the crawfish to crawl into. Ensure you unscrew the smaller bottle’s cap first as this means the crawfish will be able to get into the bigger bottle but unable to get out.

5. Next you need to drill five holes in the bottom of the bottles and make sure they are aligned. After this, you need to drill five holes above these holes, around a centimeter higher.

6. Zip-tie the bottles together by running tie through the bottom hole and then threading it through the top hole. Repeat on the remaining holes until all of them are tied tightly. Make sure they are tightly tied so that there are no gaps that mud or other debris could enter.

Launching the Trap

Attach some weight to the bottom of the trap to make sure that it sinks to the bottom of the lake or river. Making a hole through the bottom of the trap should help do this by allowing you to tie a weight on it using a zip tie. A 1 to 5-pound weight should work well.

You will also need to add weight to the top of the trap and this keeps it balanced whilst in the water. Use the same weight size as the bottom weight and tie it on the top end of the bottle. Your crawfish trap is now ready to use!

Now you only need to bait it to make your expedition a complete success. To add bait, unscrew the cap of the trap and drop the bait straight into it. 

How To Catch Crawfish With The Trap

Crawfish trapping is not the most difficult thing in the world if the trap is made to our instructions and is not loose. You will need to start by tying a thin rope under the bottle lid. This will stop the trap from floating as the crawfish start to make their way in.

Use the very small rope to tie the trap filled with bait on a tree or something sturdy enough to hold it in place and then throw it in the water. Ensure that it sinks right to the bottom of the water.

Leave the trap in the water through the night and avoid disturbing it before or covering it over with anything. Crawfish are active at night and by leaving your trap overnight, you’ll get more fish caught in it.

Plus, you might frighten the crawfish if you mess with the trap too much. If you try catching the fish in the morning, you will likely only return home with empty boxes.

The fish should be attracted by the bait in the trap and should make their way to it through the small opening of the second bottle. Once they have eaten the bait, the fish will not be unable to get through the small hole and will be caught for you to boil.

Preventing Dead Crawfish

To prevent dead crawfish, ensure that you keep the trap in the water long enough for the crawfish to eat the bait. If you leave the trap too long, however, you may catch fewer crawfish than expected as the fish can only survive on the bait for one day.

The more fish in the trap, the faster they might die as the oxygen level falls.

Check how many crawfish you have caught by pulling the trap out of the water the following day. If it is heavier than when you last checked, it may be full of crawfish.

Empty the trap by unscrewing the lid and then pouring your catch in boxes or a net to take home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Difference Between Crawfish and Crayfish?

The difference between crawfish and crayfish is that the former has five pairs of legs whereas the latter has eight. Both species are edible but the crawfish is much smaller and tastes better to most people.

They are also easier to cook because they don’t require the same amount of time to prepare. However, crawdad, crawfish, and crayfish are all from the same species, they just differ mostly in appearance and living location.

How Long Do Crawfish Live?

Crawfish live up to three years. However, they usually die within two months after being boiled.

Can I Eat Crawfish Raw?

Yes, you can eat raw crawfish. It is best to wash them first though.

Can You Catch Crawfish By Hand?

No, you cannot catch crawfish by hand, yet if you attempt to do so, ensure you stay clear of their sharp claws as their pinch can be painful.

Which Part of the Crawfish is Edible?

Crawfish meat is located in the tail. That doesn’t mean, though, that you should completely neglect the head. 

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article you now know what crawfish look like, where they come from, and how to catch them. We also hope you learned some interesting facts about these delicious crustaceans.

Remember to always use a sturdy trap system and when you place the crawfish in the bucket after capturing, place enough water in it so the crawfish can stand on all their legs. Happy fishing!

Tommy Bull
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