Friday, May 31, 2013

Q&A: Catching Crayfish in Minnesota for fun and sport

Of all the posts that I've written over the years, those about catching crayfish in Minnesota and bullhead seem to be the most enduring. Every day people find those posts. There seems to be growing interest in Minnesota in utilizing this great resource we have in our beautiful state.  With so many great places to catch crayfish and with so many people claiming Swedish heritage, I'm surprised that Minnesota is not famous for crayfish.

I'm from Minnesota, and spent three years in New Orleans, where I fell in love with crawfish. Now I'm back in my home state, and I'm trying to do my part to foster interest in crayfishing here.  Today I wanted to clear up some questions that keep appearing in the blog comments.

Where do I catch crayfish?
Just about any river, lake, pond or stream can have crayfish, in urban or rural areas. I live on a fairly weedy lake with a rocky shore. I catch all of my crayfish in shallow water (1 to 3 feet) along the shore. They love to hide in the rocks that line the shore.  Since crayfish are most active at night, I set up  my traps in the evening, and check them in the morning. By putting them in the water in the evening, the bait will be at it's most potent at about the time the crayfish are most active.

Some locations  will be loaded with crayfish, while other places may have lower populations. Part of the fun is finding a good crayfish hole.

I have not had very good luck with muddy rivers.  Some lakes, like Leech Lake, are known to be excellent crayfisheries.

How do I catch crayfish?
There are a lot of ways to capture crayfish. You might be able to net them, or just pick them up in some places.  I like the plastic traps that Trapper Arne imports from Sweden and sells on his website; specifically I use his "Trappy" trap. They perform very well, and are easy to store.  Before the plastic traps, I had used metal traps. I grew to dislike the metal traps for their rusty sharp edges and their propensity to get hung up on the lake bottom. Metal traps really get gross and bent up.

You can also try to make your own trap out of a one liter plastic pop bottle. Just cut off the pouring end, put some bait inside the bottle, and  then invert the top end back into the bottle.  Staple it in, and you're good to go.  If you want to need something larger than a bottle trap, here's a great blog post from a person in Minnesota who shows how to make large crayfish traps from wire.

Want to go crayfishing right now and you're not into DIY? Head to Walmart and pickup a minnow trap.

Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry your traps after each use, especially if you are moving between bodies of water. You do not want to transfer any invasive weeds or zebra mussel larvae.

Can I eat Crayfish?
Yes, of course you can eat any crayfish, you ninny! The invasive Rusty Crayfish is delicious, and you'll be doing the state a favor if you catch and eat them all.  In Minnesota one licensed angler can be in possession of 25 pounds of crayfish, which (believe me) is plenty for you and five of your friends.

What's the difference between Minnesota crayfish and those I ate in New Orleans?
Size, mainly.  The Red Swamp Crayfish love the brackish water around New Orleans. They're bigger than Minnesota's native crayfish, but all crayfish are edible.

Is there a difference between a Crayfish and a Crawfish?
No.   In the Southern USA they call them crawfish, and in the Northern US they call them crayfish. Generally, crawfish are just slightly larger crayfish that live down south.

What do I use for bait to catch crayfish?
I've found that catching bullhead, and then slicing them in half will attract plenty of crayfish. You can freeze them and use them later. I haven't noticed any difference between fresh or frozen bullheads and their ability to attract crayfish.

Cheap canned cat food also works great (thanks for that tip, Trapper Arne!). Whenever I see seafood canned cat food on sale at the grocery store, I stock up.   Just poke some holes into the cat food can with a screw driver, place it into your trap, and put the trap into the water.

How do I prepare and eat Crayfish?
Check on YouTube. There's probably 100 videos about how to eat and prepare crayfish.

What I do is put my crayfish catch into a cooler with fresh water.  I add some salt to the water to force the crayfish to purge (barf), and leave them a few hours.  This makes the water really dirty and you'll have to change the water after awhile.  Purging crayfish make them taste a little better by getting the mud and detrious they consume out of their digestive tract.

When they're clean, boil a large pot of water and add a crab mix. I like Zatarain's crab boil. Add the live crayfish, and put in some small potatoes. Boil them until you think they're done.

Can I use Crayfish as bait?
In Minnesota you can use crayfish as bait, but only in the water that they were taken from. If you want to fish with crayfish in Lake Minnetonka, then you have to catch them in Lake Minnetonka. It's illegal to move them from one lake to another. Don't do that.

Do crayfish bite?
No, they don't bite.  But they will pinch you if given the chance. I've been pinched many times, and it doesn't hurt very much. Being pinched is not pleasant, but it probably won't even draw blood.

What if I have more questions about Minnesota Crayfishing?
Read the regulations, and then post any questions you have in the comments below.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

5-6-15
I have found your blog very informative about crayfish trapping in MN. Coming from Cass/Crow Wing County in N. Central MN I cant wait to get started this year.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I travel to NOLA often for work and LOVE LOVE LOVE a fresh Crawfish boil. So much in fact, that I order them live from Louisiana. I had no idea the crawfish here are similar, and just as tasty. Why pay $60-$80 to have them delivered when I can go fishing myself. I also am in the brainerd/baxter area... trying to figure out the best places to try. I know Lake of the Woods is chuck full of them!