Catching and Preparing Crayfish using Pots and Traps.
Updated: May 2, 2019
In this post I want to tell you a little about how I catch Crayfish. Since moving to Suffolk I now have access to a river that is packed with Crayfish (the Stour) and I am doing my very small bit to try and keep numbers down, one delicious mouthful at a time. I also want to talk about preparing them for the pot and share a couple of quick and easy Crayfish recipes.
Crayfish are relatively easy to catch, I remember fishing for crabs using old butchers bones on a string as a kid and you can pretty much use that technique for Crayfish too. However, to catch enough Crayfish for a satisfying meal you'll need to scale up a little and invest in some Crayfish Pots and Traps. Crayfish pots and traps are relatively inexpensive and can be used time and time again. Consider them a small down payment on the many delicious meals to come.
How to catch Crayfish using pots or traps:
As I said above, since moving to Suffolk I have found that the rivers here are full of the American Signal Crayfish. The river Stour in particular is loaded with these little crustaceans. To catch them I use a series of pots, I own 6 pots, the black wire mesh kind of Crayfish pot. I have replaced the wire that holds the pots together with a strong carabiner and then tie some para cord around the carabiner. I like to have 5m or so of paracord per pot, I then attach this to a tent peg so I can peg the pots overnight. You want your knots to be strong, because sometimes in the summer, when the rivers are starting to fill up with weed, you will have to drag some of this weed with the pot you don't want your clip or knot giving up at this point.
For bait I simply buy tins of cheap cat food. You only need a couple of tablespoons of bait in each pot. When you throw in the pot, you have to make sure that it is on the bottom. Sometimes I weight my pots, but its best to find clear areas of the river, where the water runs fast and you can see the bottom. The pots have to be on the bottom of the river to catch Crayfish.
I like to stake or peg my pots to the river bank (using the paracord) and let them soak overnight. Returning the next day to check them. If you have a number of pots or traps its best to spread them out a little. Say throw in a pot every 10m or so. You can cover more ground this way and you have more chance of catching more Crayfish in each area.
Once you have let the pots soak, hopefully they will be full with Crayfish. Note that it is illegal to put them back once you have caught them. I take along a bucket and empty the Crayfish into the bucket. Usually resetting the traps.
Killing and preparing Crayfish:
Regardless of when you are going to eat the Crayfish it is humane to despatch them quickly after catching them. To hold a Crayfish you pick them up with your thumb and forefinger by pinching them either side of the head. Get up close the pincers and push them forward with the edges of your fingers. This prevents the Crayfish from reaching back and giving you a nasty nip.
You'll need a large sharp knife and a chopping board (put a tea towel under the chopping board to prevent it slipping). I like to rinse my Crayfish with fresh clean water ahead of the next stage.
To despatch the Crayfish point the knife vertically aiming for the back of the head (where the head meets the Thorax). I am right handed so I hold the Crayfish (with the pinching maneuver) with my left hand and the knife in my right hand. Then in a swift but safe movement I push the knife into the back of the head and then bring it down, splitting the head in two. This is the most humane and instant means to dispatch a Crayfish. The first cut severs the spinal cord (killing it instantly), the second makes sure.
Now to clean the Crayfish. There are two ways to do this.
a) Simply split the Thorax down the middle and then remove the gut. The Crayfishes gut is a thin black line, you'll want to take this out.
b) The second technique is to pinch the swimming appendages or tail fin and then snap it upwards. When you hear it release you can gently pull the whole gut out in one go. This technique is perfect for when you want the whole tails.
Despatch all of the Crayfish and then you will have a plate or board of Crayfish to cook up.
Want to know more? Learn more about the American Signal Crayfish here.
Cooking Crayfish and two easy Crayfish recipes:
There are lots and lots of delicious recipes for Crayfish but I'll share just two very simple ones for you to try now.
I usually opt for option one, so I have a plate of Crayfish split into two halves (guts removed). In a wide flat tin I place the Crayfish in neat rows, flesh side up.
Oh, by the way, if you got some big male Crayfish in your pots, some will have substantial claws, using the back of the knife give the biggest claws a crack. The claws are sooo good. This will help them cook and make them easier to open.
Now I call this a recipe but it really isn't it's just so simple. Chop some fresh Thyme, zest a Lemon and sprinkle all over the Crayfish. Follow up with some Chilli Flakes, Salt and Pepper and then a further drizzle of Olive Oil. Make sure that all of the Crayfish are nicely coated and then grill under a very hot grill for 8 to 10 minutes. You'll see when they are cooked as the shells will turn completely red. Grilled Crayfish yummy! Serve immediately with some nice crusty bread.. But keep those shells!
The next recipe is for a Crayfish stock, utilising those shells! In a stock pan, fry the shells of with a little Olive Oil. Throw in some sliced Onions, some chopped Carrots and Celery. Top up the pot with water and boil for an hour or so allowing it to reduce slightly. That's it! Sieve the stock and you can then freeze it or keep the stock in the fridge for a couple of days. Use the stock as you would fish stock. Those shells really deliver a fantastic flavoursome punch!
Hopefully this guide will help you to go out and catch your own Crayfish! Leave any tips that you may have in the comments. Thanks for reading.
Interested In catching your own Crayfish? Check out our shop and get your own Crayfish Pots.