Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Minnesota Crayfish (or Crawfish) Trapping

Although formerly and presently from Minnesota, I managed to take a pleasant detour in life, and traveled to New Orleans, where I graduated from the University of New Orleans. During that time my Louisiana friends introduced me to the pleasures of shuckin' crawdads. On the way home after class, one of my top pleasures was to stop by Deanie's SeaFood in Metairie, LA, and and buy 5 lbs of crawfish, some crawfish flavored Zapp's potato chips and two bottles of Dixie beer. Yumm, what a great meal for a college student!

Of course, in Minnesota you don't eat crawfish (or crayfish as they're called here). Or do you? I am determined to find out.

I just bought my 2008 Minnesota fishing license, and in the license guide is a very, very brief mention of crayfishing. I've decided to drop a few traps in some local streams and see what I can catch. Here's what I've come to understand about crayfishing in Minnesota:

  • The open season for taking crayfish is April 1 through November 30.
    Crayfish less than one inch in length from tip of rostrum to tip of tail must be returned unharmed to the water.
  • Crayfish may be harvested with gear allowed for rough fish and minnows in addition to gear specified in this part.
  • Crayfish traps must be tagged with a plastic or metal tag not smaller than one inch by three inches bearing the user's name and address.
  • The mesh size for crayfish traps may not be less than one-half inch, stretch measure.
  • Floats used to mark traps may not be larger than four inches square or four inches in diameter.
  • Rough fish parts may be used within a crayfish trap as bait. So go catch some carp for bait!
  • Crayfish traps may be lifted from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset.
  • Crayfish traps must be lifted at least once in each 24 hour period weather permitting.
  • All trapped fish must be returned to the water.
  • Dead crayfish or the shells or meats of crayfish may not be returned to the water or deposited on any shoreline or adjacent area.
  • The transportation of any crayfish in Minnesta from one body of water to another is prohibited.
  • You must have a valid Minnesota angling license
  • You may take and possess up to 25 pounds of live, whole freshwater crayfish.
  • If you take live crayfish for bait, you can only fish with them the same body of water where they were caught.
  • Crayfish may be harvested for personal use in any Minnesota waters of the state where fish may be taken by angling, and to which the harvester has legal access, unless otherwise posted.
  • Crayfish taken for personal use may not be sold
  • If you're a Minnesota resident under the age of 16, you can fish for crayfish without a license.

Here's where I found most of the crayfish rules. https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/rules/?id=6259

Some Minnesota crayfish, like the Rusty Crayfish, are considered invaders. More about Rusty Crayfish at the DNR site.

Here's another article about eating crayfish in Minnesota, and a page listing species of crayfish found in Minesota.

StarTribune has this article on eating Minnesota Crayfish. And be sure to watch this video about cooking Minnesota crayfish by the cute and woodsy Amy Thielen. Here's another article about eatin' da Minnesota mudbugs.

This is a good site for beginners to crayfishing.

My goal for this season is to catch enough crayfish to boil up with some Zatairan's crab boil, and try to make a meal out of them. I'll need at least 10 pounds.

I put in a minnow trap today with some old meat (I know, fish is better) and I'll check it later today. I would be thrilled if the local rivers would generously bear crayfish. I'm sure I'm the only guy in the area, perhaps the state, who would like to eat these mudbugs.

So that's my crayfish story for the day. If I get good at this, I'll invite you over for a crayfish boil. Catching your own is not as easy as popping into Deanie's, but I think will still be a lot of fun. If you're interested in Crayfishing, leaving a comment for me with your best tips.





35 comments:

sewall said...

You're not the only one in Minnesota who does this. I, for one, like to keep it quiet. It's an amazing resource that we happy few have almost to ourselves.

Scott said...

Give me your tips! I've been trapping rivers, mainly, and have not yet caught enough for a meal.

Anonymous said...

Scott i am just getting into this, how are you doing so far? tried any lakes? you said you used a minnow trap, does that work o.k., i plan on heading up north soon to try my luck.Richard.

Scott said...

Hi Richard. I have two traps: One from Tomahawk Live Traps, and the other just a minnow trap from Walmart.

I've been trapping mainly in rivers, only because I live 40 miles from the closest lake. I have not had very good luck. Just a couple at a time, and thats only with using fish bate. I've tried other meats as bate, but have cought nothing off of them.

It's a lot of work: because before crayfishing, I need to have bait, and the best bait is rough fish, so I need to first go fishing for rough fish (in MN you can only use rough rish as bait).

The other problem with crayfishing in rivers is that the traps collect so much crap from current (twigs, weeds, dead stuff, weird things I can't identify).

So if anyone knows of some good crayfish infested lakes in MN, I would like to know. It might worth a special trip if I can catch 5 lbs or more at a time. But so far my crayfis yields from river traps have been really dismal.

Anonymous said...

I have been at it a number of times this summer. I have had no success with traps. I was making trips to the mississippi (in St Paul) and catching rusties by luring them into the open with bait on a wire and scooping them up with a small net. My best trips yeilded 40-50 crayfish. Not great for the amount of time it took, but they were delicious. I'd sure love to get them from a lake instead. Thanks for linking the local information.
-Reed

Scott said...

Hi Reed,
Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you were more productive than me. If you get a chance, give a bit more detail on your baiting technique. What were you using for bait

Anonymous said...

Good job catching dem Crawfish! I'm from Louisiana and now sell Cajun Foods in Minnesota - if you ever have a craving for more of the Crawfish flavored Zapp's potato chips or others - I can help you.... my website is www.cajunpotluck.com Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I'm a louisiana transplant living in minnesota, so i know how you feel. you can email the minnesota dnr, and they will send you a list of lakes confirmed infested with rustys, but wisconsin is completely infested. you might want to plan a weekend road trip. lakes and ponds with low fish population probably have a lot of crawfish. look what happened at leach lake. if you want to trap rivers and streams, you need a round trap so i will set flat on the bottom, look for pools, bends, etc. anywhere were crawfish can hunker down, and not be swept away by the fast moving water.

Scott said...

Just an update. I probably layed my traps about 5 separate times. My best haul was 2 crayfish in the trap.

I primarily fished Little Cormorant Lake in Becker County, laying traps in shallow pools. Results were disappointing, but I will try again this summer.

Those of you who are succesful at this in Minnesota, can you share some secrets? How deep of water do you find them in?

Anonymous said...

i am not trying to be mean but you are going to have a lot of problems getting answers from people. i have been going back and forth. you have two different traps. each trap is going to fish differently, and each bait is going to work differently in each trap. different times of year, crawfish are in different water levels. this last july i saw over 100 crawfish, in 3 inches of water. find a park ranger, and ask them where the crawfish are in the area. they trap crawfish for state surveys every year, and are happy to help. email the dnr, for list on rustys. rustys get bigger than any other in this state.

Scott said...

I took last poster's advice and contacted the Minnesota DNR. Here's the response when I asked about trapping crayfish in Becker/Ottertail counties, which are close to me:

"Thanks for contacting us regarding crayfish trapping. During our typical fisheries surveys, we don't record numbers of crayfish. We have seen large numbers of crayfish on/in our survey nets in Island Lake (Becker County - off Hwy 31), Bad Medicine Lake (Becker County - off Hwy 113), and Sands Pond (a few miles north of Detroit Lakes - junction of Hwys 21 and 32). We have seen Rusty Crayfish in Big Elbow and Little Bemidji lakes, but not for several years."

Guess it doesn't hurt to ask. Nice to know that the DNR is still accessible.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting spring fever and started making traps again. I wrote a detailed description of how I caught mine a few months back, but now I see it didn't post.
I would take a piece of rigid wire about 16-18 in long. I tried threading shrimp, bacon and steak grissle on the end and wrapping the wire around it. I would slip it into the crevices between and under rocks. Crayfish would grab the bait (all the above baits worked equally well) and I'd inch them into the open and scoop them from behind with a minnow net. I caught mine during the day when they are supposed to be shy. They got easier to catch as the water got warmer. It seems to me they move shallower in the warmer water and slide out deeper when it is colder. I caught most of mine in the mississippi river, but in august, I went to the boundary waters and caught them there too. They make a good camp meal. Next time I go to the BWCA, I am devoting more backpack space to butter.
The first time I tried this method was in July. By September, it wasn't effective anymore.
I ran traps a number of times in May and June with no success. The first time I tried, I caught one crayfish who was hanging out on top of the trap. Several times, I found the traps had sunfish inside. One trap was chewed up by a snapping turtle (netting), three were lost/removed (maybe another turtle or strong current). I had given up when a friend suggested I try the method described above. Now, I know more and hope to do better with the traps.
I'll update you once it's working.
Have fun,
Reed

Anonymous said...

may and june are when crawfish molt and hide. july is the best time to catch them.

Scott said...

The May 7 2009 edition of Due North TV (www.duenorthoutdoors.tv) had a great segment on commercial crayfishing on Minnesota's giant Leech Lake, and talked about Rusty Crayfish. Unfortunately its not online yet, but I'll mention it here for reference.

It's early, but I'm going to try for some crayfish in Becker County MN this weekend anyway. I have some new Swedish traps from Trapper Arnie that I want to try.

Scott said...

Minnesota's 2009 fishing regulations seem to be much easier for Crayfisher's. There is less specificity mentioned in the 2009 rule book.

One slight confusing paragraph said you could posses 25 pounds of crayfish, but then seemed to suggest that you couldn't transport them without a DNR license.

I emailed DNR for clarification. Kevin Kyle responded back almost immediately that, "You can transport them home for personal use, (but) you would need a special license to transport for commercial purposes."

TundraKing said...

Alright! I've started trapping this year. I've researched as much as possible, but you guys have provided more info than most other places. I'll definitely share anything that I find out through my experiences.
I started by looking at all of the traps online and found one in particular that seems well-built. http://www.terrybullard.com/ Unfortunitely, he is not in production right now. So I saved the trap pics and built my own. I'm starting with three.
Last weekend was my first attempt on the Mississippi River near Elk River. I tried one in rocky rapids 3.5ft, one near shore in rocks with average current 3ft, and one behind an island with slow current rocks and weed beds(not in the weed bed) 3.5ft. I soaked them for 14 hours with fresh cut carp in the bait boxes. I got nothing.
Now, it makes sense if they are molting right now. I know there are plenty because when I clean catfish from there, they always have crayfish in their systems.

So there are a few things I can think of that aren't in my favor: obviously not enough time spent doing it is obvious, how about too short of soak time, not the correct areas in the river, they could be molting... What are your thoughts?

Scott said...

I laid 4 traps last weekend along the shores of Little Cormorant Lake in Becker county, but caught nothing. I used fresh bullheads as bait. Second time I came up empty there.

I think the trick is to just keep looking for a good hole. Try a bunch of places.

I got some new swedish collapsable traps from Trapper Arne (www.trapperarne.com). I really like the traps. Easy to store and very light, and won't rust. I would have liked to have taken home crayfish, but there just weren't any to trap.

Scott said...

I haven't had much time to Cray Fish this summer. I set some traps yesterday though, and I caught some Northern Clearwater Crayfish in NW Minnesota.
http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/crayfish/NewAstacidea/species.asp?g=Orconectes&s=propinquus&ssp=

So it is possible to catch something in mid October in Minnesota.

Anonymous said...

WCCO News once said that crayfish were being caught for sale but failed to mention from whom of where. I'd like to buy some - write me at mngardener@mail.com

Jim Fruth
Pequot Lakes, MN

Scott said...

Just a reminder that Crayfish season opened in Minnesota on April 1 in 2010. So far in April, I've only trapped 1. Not a great start, but then again my most convenient crayfish hole isn't a very a good one.

Zach said...

I'm a ragin Cajun and have been dying for a good mudbug boil. I was actually trying to trap minnows in the Minnesota river, and it was really really rocky there, i baited my plain jane minnow trap with dry dog food, and the next morning i was amazed to find ten mud bugs in my trap. So i went and bought some really cheap canned cat food, liver patte, and dropped that in there, In the time it took me to set up another trap i pulled my previous trap up and already had 20 crawfish in it! I emptied it and let them sit over night, the next morning i could barely pull my traps in they were heaping full of the delicious crustaceon. I highly recommend looking for a very rocky area to set your traps and canned cat food. GOOD LUCK!!!

Zach said...

I'm a ragin Cajun and have been dying for a good mudbug boil. I was actually trying to trap minnows in the Minnesota river, and it was really really rocky there, i baited my plain jane minnow trap with dry dog food, and the next morning i was amazed to find ten mud bugs in my trap. So i went and bought some really cheap canned cat food, liver patte, and dropped that in there, In the time it took me to set up another trap i pulled my previous trap up and already had 20 crawfish in it! I emptied it and let them sit over night, the next morning i could barely pull my traps in they were heaping full of the delicious crustaceon. I highly recommend looking for a very rocky area to set your traps and canned cat food. GOOD LUCK!!!

schwankgroup said...

Great article

David said...

Hey I've just started crayfish trapping using ten homemade 2ft long traps I'm baiting them with bullheads and other rough fish but all the crayfish I get are very dirty and don't look like the safest thing to eat any suggestions on some way to clean them? I've only tried a fairly large creek with partially fast flowing water should I try a swamp or maybe a lake? any tips would be greatly appreciated! thanks. my email is davyosoma@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
The crays are often that brownish color, but they'll turn a nice appetizing red color after you boil them.

I catch most of mine in a mud bottom lake with a rocky shoreline. I just lay the traps along the shore and am usually not disappointed.

Best way to clean them would be purge. Fill up a cooler with water and dump a liberal amount of salt in there. Leave them overnight and they will barf up the mud. I don't always do this, although its probably a good idea. Purging and a good crab boil will overcome any muddy taste that you might find in crays that dwell in mud-bottom environments.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... Bullhead work really well as bait. I only use cat food when I'm too lazy to pull out a few Bullhead. It also works to freeze bullhead and put them into the traps frozen... its a little less slimy that way.

Anonymous said...

wow you guys are really trying hard, when i was 10 years old and living on leech lake i used to go and catch 4-5 hundred by hand turning over rocks watching where they scooted and chase them down or corner them and then quickly with two fingers push them down to the sand grabbing from behind them and tossing them into a five gallon bucket. i thought that was hard work considering it took all day but the reward was everything. First boil the buggers then shell and deveign just like any shrimp, then lightly sautee in butter with chopped puffball and morrell mushrooms serve as a side to a walleye fillette, venison medallion, or even roasted ruffed grouse....yum
The secret to catching crayfish the easy way is as follows:
1. Use raw cow liver, it doesnt cost alot and isn't cook processed like your cat food. the little guys cant resist the smell of the raw blood.
2. Use round double cone entry minnow traps, buy them make them yourself. Place liver in the bait box and loose in the trap. I've used traps without bait boxes it dosent seem to matter if theres liver in the trap.
3. Use 6-8 traps this will help on your day on the water.
4. Find rocky banks, rock jettys, storm walls, or erosion control areas; this is the crayfish living area and breeding ground. If fishing rivers and streams find man made dams, beaver dams and lodges. Usually below the dam is a largely rocky area that will be teaming with crawdaddys. Another place i have observed giant blue crawfish is in 16'-20' of water under swimming platforms but these guys are really skiddish and you need a trap with bigger entry holes, leave trap overnight.
5. set traps in the morning in the above areas, go fishing, retrieve traps when done for the day. i gaurantee you'll have better luck.

Anonymous said...

So I spoke with a dnr officer today about trapping crawdads in the Mississippi and st. Croix river and he said you have to apply for specific permit to trap them waters because they carry zebra muscles and milfoil.. I see above that many of you have and do trap them waters and is it worth it to get the permit for the Mississippi or st. Croix?.

Anonymous said...

Try Farm Lake in Lake county, Northeastern MN near Ely. Last year, one person trapped 11,000 rusty crayfish in the lake. There is a big project to try to trap enough rusty crayfish to keep them from spreading from the White Iron chain of Lakes into the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Any help is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Below is a link to buy a 17 foot crayfish trap on Ebay.
I'm still waiting for mine.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/400540569671?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

GammaRae said...

We saw some monsters yesterday on Lura, in southern MN...gonna have to go after some.

GammaRae said...

We saw some monsters yesterday on Lura, in southern MN...gonna have to go after some.

janiga2001 said...

Go to leech lake. I can catch about 300 crayfish a day there with fish bait. I usually catch about 40-60 per trap

Linda Adams said...

My son just hits the beaches on Agency Bay, on Leech Lake, where our lake house is, at midnight. He scoops hundreds, literally, off of the beach, Easily weeding out the little guys. Puts them in a huge container with ice and I boil them in salt water for three minutes until they turn red. Melt butter. Enjoy!

Linda Adams said...

My son just hits the beaches on Agency Bay, on Leech Lake, where our lake house is, at midnight. He scoops hundreds, literally, off of the beach, Easily weeding out the little guys. Puts them in a huge container with ice and I boil them in salt water for three minutes until they turn red. Melt butter. Enjoy!