Catching Crayfish: A Cheap & Easy Method

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Growing up on the NW coast of Oregon familiarized me with crayfish at an early age. These orange-brown, fresh water crustaceans were plentiful in the winding creek that ran through our farm. Back then, summer days and crawdads went together like hand and glove. As farm kids, we discovered a cheap and easy method for catching crayfish!

About the Species

The crayfish is also known as a ‘crawdad’ or ‘crawfish.’ Some even refer to them as a freshwater lobster (which they are)! These creatures vary in size and can be a variety of colors. In North America, they range from orange brown to dark green and even a slate grey.

When to Fish for Crawdads

In cold winter climates, crayfish semi-hibernate by burrowing in mud bottoms. As summer temperatures increase, so does underwater activity. In the NW, mid-late summer is a prime time for crawdad fishing!

Remember that fishing seasons will vary based on your location. You can find the information on your state/province Fish and Wildlife website.

Fishing Regulations

Before you embark on a crawdad fishing trip, be sure to check your state/province regulations! Some require a fishing license and may also have a size or bag limit.

Are you ready to learn a cheap and easy way of catching crawdads?

Supplies for Catching Crayfish

First off, you need bait! Crawdads have an incredible sense of smell. In fact, 40% of their brain is devoted to this function. A hunk of raw meat will bring them crawling faster than anything! On the farm, we used tough, old cuts for this purpose.

Your bait must be attached to a strong string or several lengths of baling twine. It will serve as both an anchor and a retrieving line.

A long handled fishing net with a tight weave is very helpful. If you can’t find one, replace the net with chicken wire or screen.

Lastly, captured crawdads must be kept alive until cooked. A bucket with fresh creek/river water is a must, not only for food safety, but also for transportation purposes.

How to Catch Crawdads

When catching crayfish, you can’t rush the process. It takes both time and patience! Here’s how to go about it in true farm kid style!

Drop the bait into a slow-moving part of a creek or river. Water should be no more than 3 feet deep. Make sure your retrieving line reaches the shore! Firmly secure it, or the crayfish may drag your bait into deep water where they feel safer.

And then? The waiting game is on! Depending on the crawfish population, it may take as little as 5 minutes or up to half hour for the first to appear.

Regardless of how long it takes, from down and even upstream, crawdads will slowly come crawling to feast on the bait.

Once the meat is covered in crayfish, it’s time to harvest! Slowly begin pulling your bait into shallower waters. Remember: this is a slow process. Crayfish can be flighty!

Once the meat is close to shore but still in (at least) a foot of water, take your fishing net and slowly move it toward the bait.

Gently lift the meat while slipping your net underneath. In one swift motion, scoop up both crawdads and bait, then make a beeline for the shore!

The Right Way to Pick Up a Crayfish

If you’re lucky, you’ll get them all to land! If not, don’t worry. The escapees will be back a few minutes after you return the bait to their underwater world.

Crayfish can move on land. If a few escape when you’re trying to get them in the bucket, they’ll attempt to scuttle back into the water. You can grab these ones by hand.

But be careful! The front pinchers of a crayfish are capable of drawing blood. Once attached, they can have a vise-like grip.

Always grab hold of a crayfish from behind it’s large pinchers, so it can’t get at you. Like this!

Once the crayfish are contained, you can keep fishing until you’ve reached the limit or have enough to satisfy your needs for the day. If catching crayfish for more than a few hours, be sure to refresh the bucket’s water from time to time!

And then? Head for home and a good old fashioned crawdad feast!

Want to know how to cook crawfish? Here’s a reliable article from!

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