Checking a crayfish trap in the field
There are many ways to catch a crayfish ranging from fishing with bait on a line to snorkeling with a hand-net, and everyone seems to swear by their own method. We recommend baited traps.
We have had considerable success using minnow traps. Minnow traps are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and instructions on how to build your own trap can also be found online. Regardless of whether you buy or build your trap, one of the key determinants of your crayfish-catching success is the type of bait used to lure crayfish into the trap. Again, everyone seems to swear by their own preferred bait. We have seen recommendations ranging from cat food to fish heads, but we have tended to have success with a few ounces of beef liver.
We recommend setting traps in water 1-2 meters deep. Crayfish like habitats where there is a lot of shelter to be found, so setting traps in rocky areas can increase your crayfish catches. Because Louisiana crayfish are particularly adept at burrowing in soft sediments, seeking out evidence of burrows in soft sediments can also be a good way to identify areas for successful trapping. Crayfish are most active at night, so we usually set traps in the evening and harvest the next day.
Crayfish are among the easiest invasive species to prepare for human consumption, but while they are alive, watch out for their chelae, or claws. They sure can pinch!
To prepare crayfish, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add live crayfish to the water and continue boiling for 15 minutes. After boiling, allow crayfish to cool before handling. The best meat of the crayfish is in the tail. As with crayfish cousins, crab and lobster, there are many ways to crack the crayfish shell to reach the meat inside. Several helpful guides with pictures can be found online (for example, here). Briefly, start by grasping the crayfish by the head in one hand and tail in the other. Next, use a twisting motion to rip the tail away from the body. Finally, pinch the “fins” at the end of the tail to squeeze the meat out, similar to dispensing a tube of toothpaste. A small fork can also be helpful to pry out more stubborn tail meat. If all else fails, you can also use a fork or knife and brute force to crack the shell away bit by bit.
Once shelled, boiled crayfish meat can be eaten directly or used as ingredients in other recipes such as the crayfish-spinach-artichoke dip described below.
2 x (8oz) boxes cream cheese
1/2 x (10oz) package frozen spinach
1/2 x (14oz) can artichoke hearts
1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 oz Kraft grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lb crayfish tails, cooked, shelled, and coarsely chopped
We have suggested 1/2 lb of crayfish tails here, but other seafood dips vary considerably in their fish-to-cheese ratios, so we encourage you to experiment with different amounts of crayfish to find your preferred taste. Mix all ingredients together and heat on stovetop- do not boil. We recommend serving the dip warm in the center of a scooped-out sourdough bread bowl, but this dip is also tasty enjoyed on your favorite cracker or with tortilla chips.