How to Catch Crawfish for Bait or to Eat

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How to Catch Crawfish Feature Image

How to Catch Crawfish for Bait or to Eat

Tackle Village is reader supported. If you buy a product through links on the site we may make a small commission

Updated on:
How to Catch Crawfish Feature Image

Crawfish can go by many names. Some people call them crawdads, many people call them mudbugs, and their more proper term is crayfish.

Whatever you call them, these small lobster-looking crustaceans are not only excellent bait when fishing for largemouth bass, trout, and other fish, but can be delicious for you to eat too!

Catching Crawfish with Bait on a Line or String

One of the easiest methods to catch crayfish, but not the most efficient when it comes to the number of crayfish caught versus the time you spent in the water. Crayfish love hiding out in fast moving streams where the water is clear and there are plenty of rocks for them to hide under.

Crawfish are opportunistic feeders, so they will eagerly feed on a wide range of sick, injured, dead, or decaying meat. Many anglers trying to gather up crayfish will use shad, herring, or minnows. Other anglers might prefer to use raw chicken leg, hot dogs, or oily fish such as salmon.

Whatever you choose, attach your bait to the line using a hook or by tying it tightly and toss it into the water. Next, you want to disturb nearby rocks a slight bit to entice the crawfish to venture out and find your bait. 

Once they find it, they will latch on and start feeding. Once your bait is covered in multiple crawfish, it’s time to slowly pull it closer to shore. In most cases, the crayfish will be too interested in feeding to notice they are being moved through the water.

Get them close to shore, then scoop them up in a dip net. Repeat the process by tossing the baited hook or string back into the water for a second round of crayfish fishing.

Catching Crawfish with a Trap

Traps should be left overnight or for several hours since crawdads are most active in the evening and early morning hours.

Using a funnel or square-shaped traps is much more effective than using the bait on a string method, but also involves a bit more investment up front. Crawfish traps can cost around $10 at most sporting goods stores.

Set traps in the creek or stream where clean water is moving, but not as fast as the main waterway. You can also set traps at the edge of ponds, lakes, or other bodies of whatever where crawfish have been seen.

Since the traps are made with a funnel-shape entrance, you want large quantities of crayfish to be able to climb all over the trap in order to find the opening. You can use rocks to provide cover around the traps, as well as give the crawfish something to grab as they search for the entrance.

Place your best bait inside the trap: this can be fish heads, cut bait, raw chicken leg or neck, or other meat. Don’t be afraid to test out different bait options depending on what you easily and readily have available. 

It’s best to place your bait in a mesh bag, nylon stocking, or bait jars before placing it into the trap. This allows the smell and taste of the bait to get into the water, but does not allow the first trapped crayfish to eat it all, leaving enough bait for the rest of the crawfish to smell.

Traps should be left overnight or for several hours, since crawdads are most active in the evening and early morning hours. This also gives other crayfish plenty of time to find the small opening into the open traps. 

Catching Crawfish by Hand

Since crawfish swim backward, always try to grab for their rear end. If they try to flee, chances are they will move towards your hand instead of away from it.

If you’re a bit more old-fashioned and simply want to catch crawfish by hand, this is very possible as well. Wear some kind of protective gloves such as thin leather, thick nylon, or heavy rubber gloves in order to protect yourself from being pinched by the crayfish you are grabbing.

Wade into the shallow water of freshwater lakes or a river and start moving and overturning rocks to find crayfish. Do this slowly so the silt and sand can be washed away from the current before the crawfish flee.

Once you see a crawfish below the rock, slowly reach into the water and grab them quickly but gently near the midsection of their body. Crawfish caught near the head will thrash their tails and may also injure themselves in the process.

Since crawfish swim backward, always try to grab for their rear end. If they try to flee, chances are they will move towards your hand instead of away from it.

Most crawfish can be found in streams or creeks during the day or night, but if you are gathering them by hand during the night, always be sure you have a good head mounted flashlight so you can see what you are grabbing.

You can use a dip net or any size of collapsible nets to gather up crayfish in slow moving water without having to actually put your hand into the water.

Keeping Crawfish Alive

Once you have gathered up your crawfish by line, net, closed traps, or hand, you want to ensure they are kept alive long enough to be used as bait, or until you are ready to cook them. 

Crawfish don’t need to be kept in large amounts of water, but should always be kept wet. Add a small amount of water to the container you are storing them in.

If you’ll be keeping the crawfish alive for more than a week, they may need to be fed. If you choose to feed your crawfish, offer them some leaf lettuce or raw meat trimmings.

If you notice any dead crawfish in the storage container, remove them immediately and provide fresh water into the bait boxes or other storage container. A single dead crawfish can release ammonia and other toxins into the water which can quickly kill your entire catch.

Tips for Cooking and Eating Crawfish

If you notice any dead crawfish in the storage container, remove them immediately and provide fresh water into the bait boxes or other storage containers.

After your crawfish are home and ready to be cooked, put them on ice to preserve their meat and quality. They will still be alive, but will be in a hibernation state for up to 2 days. This should give you plenty of time to prepare the cookout or crawfish boil for yourself and your family.

Crawfish should be cooked no differently than other shellfish. Soak and boil them in seasoned water with your choice of vegetables and meats. For a more authentic taste, sausage, potatoes, and corn are a very popular addition for a bayou boil.

When eating, bend the crawdad at the midsection to separate the tail from the rest of the body. This is where most of the delicious meat will be located, similar to how it is on lobsters.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.