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How to Catch and Bait Crawfish (Aka: Crawdad or Crayfish)

Melissa enjoys sharing recipes, writing about cats, playing video games, and sharing tips on fishing she learned while growing up.


Crawdad Fishing

Some people call them crawdads, some call them crawfish or crayfish. I grew up in Arkansas and we always referred to them as crawdads, and I will refer to them from now on as such.

I lived with my grandparents most of my life, and they had some property in the country. Most of the property consisted of forest, but there was about an acre towards the front that had a large creek running along the side. The creek ran a total of about 3-5 miles before it met the Spring River.

Around the age of 9, I would spend nearly the entire summer playing in that creek. I would swim, skip rocks, and catch crawdads. I had so much fun catching those crawdads, but all my friends and neighbors were too scared to join me. They were afraid that the crawdads would pinch them and hurt really bad. Well, the truth is… if you don't know how to handle them, they will in fact pinch you. For those people with low pain tolerances, you’d probably want to avoid this. I have a high pain tolerance so I was never bothered when they pinched me- unless it was a really big one!

What I think every time a crawdad raises his claws up.

What I think every time a crawdad raises his claws up.

Catching Crawdads One by One

The strategy that I used to catch crawdads wasn’t the strategy you would use to catch a large number of them. If you wanted to catch a lot so that you could cook them, this is NOT the strategy to go by. This one is purely for fun!

As a child, I would walk up and down the creek every day looking for crawdads to catch. They would tend to hide in cool, dark areas such as under rocks or in a small cove. You always have to be very careful when hunting for crawdads because if you moved too quickly you would startle them and they would swim off.

I would always start off by looking under rocks. As I slowly walked up to a rock, I would bend over and carefully pick the rock straight up and out of the water. If I found a crawdad I would place the rock either on the creekside, or back into the water but away from the crawdad. When you look for a crawdad just remember that you have to pick the rock up very slow.

So, now that you’ve found a crawdad what do you do? Well, you catch it, but you need to know how to do it. My way of catching crawdads may not be the ‘recommended’ way but it always worked for me. You never, ever want to just blindly throw your hand into the water and just start grabbing, that is very bad! For one, you could hurt yourself and the crawdad, too.

First, you’ll want to acknowledge the size of the crawdad. If it’s a baby or has really small pinchers, you can attempt to just scoop it up in your hands by closing in on him from both sides. If it is much larger with bigger pinchers you might want to go with the other strategy: Quickly, but carefully take your index finger and thumb and grab him behind his pinchers with just enough pressure to not hurt him, but still be able to pick him up out of the water. After a bit of practice, you should have no issues with doing this! Just remember that some will be much faster than you expected and will get away from you. But just keep trying and you’ll catch one!

Fresh catch

Fresh catch

What the smaller traps look like

What the smaller traps look like

Catching Crawdads using a Trap

A common way to catch crawdads is to use a Crawdad trap. It looks like a wire basket with two sides that cone inwards. It makes it where the crawdad can get inside very easily but have a really hard time trying to get out.

My grandfather would use this strategy to catch his crawdads, but he had a really small trap. He didn’t need a really big one because he only used his crawdad for fishing bait.

My grandfather and I would normally put a little bit of food inside the basket, such as bread or bits of hot dogs, and place it in the water, leaving it there overnight. When we would check on it the next day there would be all sorts of things inside! Including, but not limited to crawdads and small fish.

These crawdad traps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are essential for catching crawdads in large quantities.

Whether you plan to catch crawdads for fun or to cook, I hope these tips were able to help you out!

Kitty meeting crawdad :3

Kitty meeting crawdad :3

Some Fun and Interesting Facts About Crawdads

  • Even though they walk forwards with their legs, they swim backwards a lot faster to escape danger.
  • In Kenya, crawdads are used to control snail populations to fight a parasitic disease.
  • Some types of crawdads have gills to breathe on the inside of their bodies and can survive outside of water for a while before needing to be put back into the water.
  • Another type of crawdad will suffocate if kept inside water at all times.
  • There are different colors of crawdads, such as blue, red and white, red being the most common and white being the least common.


Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on January 25, 2020:

I enjoyed your article and story. It reminded me of my late brother and I playing in the creek and catching crawdads as kids. I noticed in recent years there are no crawdads in the waterways. Actually, in Mission, Johnson County, Kansas at that time a couple or so years ago I repeatedly observed and saw no live in the waterways at all. It is a shame as that is abnormal in this area in my experience.

Naomi on May 31, 2018:

Can I use salt pork to bait crayfish?

red mermaid on February 06, 2013:

Ah! so that's what they look like....I once spent the day with my partner sitting by the edge of a lake waiting for one to appear, so he could show me his catching skills. Nothing ever appeared.... so I thank you for finally showing me what we should have seen lol. Good hub!

Derdriu on August 29, 2012:

Missa, I voted "fun" but actually it's part of water quality monitoring through the Virginia Save Our Streams chapter of Izaak Walton. For monitoring, I usually get one every three months when I monitor a stream. I count it and put it back where I find it. The only crawdads I've come across in monitoring are grayish (and they certainly look feisty and tasty!).

Respectfully, and with a big welcome to HubPages and with many thanks for sharing, Derdriu

Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on August 20, 2012:

lol yeah, my sister and I are the only children from our parents and she was always the girly type, while I was more of a tomboy. She would always make fun of me for stuff like this lol.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on August 20, 2012:

Well, that was everything I wanted to know about crawdads, but was afraid to ask! lol I'm a fisherman and bait my own hook, being a woman - that always seems to fascinate my family for some reason - but crawdads are the one thing I will not bait on my own hook. My dad always did it for me!

Well done and voted up.

Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on August 16, 2012:

They are really fun to catch, but I haven't done so in years. They also taste really good. I plan to post a hub either tomorrow or monday about cooking them.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 16, 2012:

I've never seen one so obviously I have never caught one. I've never been to the deep South; we don't have anything like this where I live. Thanks for the information.