A Guide to Using Crayfish Traps

Using crayfish traps isn’t so much an art as it is a “process”. Once you understand this process, you will find that catching crayfish isn’t nearly as difficult as you thought!

To start off this guide, we are first going to discuss the crayfish lifestyle. –Don’t laugh; this is the key to mapping out the best places to find crayfish, as well as understanding how to tempt them from their hidey-hole. Crayfish live along the shorelines of lakes, rivers, and streams. Their shelter of choice is usually a rock or any alcove they can hang out in. While you may have to set your traps a few times to find just the right spot, your best bet is to trap in the areas of water that have grass sticking up out of it.

The next important tidbit you need to know about the crayfish lifestyle is this: they LOVE fish. You could probably catch a few crayfish using chicken or canned tuna, and some people even swear by using cat food! However, the thing that really gets crayfish going is a fresh, oily fish. Most people mistakenly believe that crayfish favor spoiled or foul-smelling meat, however this is largely untrue. The fresher the fish, the better!

The way you prepare the bait is fairly important if you really want to put your crayfish trap to the test. We’ve established that crayfish love fish. Chop up the head, guts, and skin of the fish and place it into a bait box. Don’t confuse the bait box with the bait jar—they’re different! Bait boxes allow the crayfish access to the bait, which is a good thing because they will spread the fishy scent as they dig around in the bait. Once you’ve placed the bait into a bait box, I recommend that you place it in a freezer bag and freeze it. By freezing the bait, you can extend the “life” of the bait’s scent for up to 24 hours in the water, thus catching loads of crayfish with one box of bait!

Now comes the important part: the crayfish trap. There are hundreds of different kinds of crayfish traps available, and loads more if you count the various styles of homemade traps floating around. Most traps resemble a cylindrical design whose basic frame is made of collapsible wire—most likely in a coiled shape. The frame is encased by sturdy netting and all have a good length of string for casting and retrieving the trap. Some traps have built-in “escape stoppers”, but not all. Traps with escape stoppers can be left out 24 hours if you like, and the crayfish won’t be getting out, but if the trap doesn’t have this nifty device fitted, then it will need to be emptied every three or four hours.

When setting up your trap, all you need to do is attach the bait box, or simply set it inside the trap (away from the entry). If you are using a boat for deep water crayfishing, simply drop the box into the water. If you prefer staying close to dry land, just wade out a bit into the grassy or rocky areas of the water and set your trap in the water. The amount of time your trap should spend in the water depends on whether your trap has an escape stopper or not, as well as the amount of bait you included in the trap. The more bait you use, the more crayfish you can trap. You may want to leave your trap overnight (if it has an escape stopper), or check every four hours or so—it’s up to you! If you’ve never tried the area out before, you might check the trap more frequently to see how well it does.

Although it may take a few tries to find the best spot for your crayfish trap, the outcome is well worth the wait! Take your time in choosing a trap, and read reviews online if you can. Swedish traps have the best reputation, but don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to these traps specifically. Almost any trap will do as long as you’re using the right bait and the right location! Good luck and happy trapping!