Michigan Crawfish Trapping 101

Discussion in 'Crayfish Trapping' started by Duck-Hunter, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. Duck-Hunter

    Duck-Hunter Staff Member Mods

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    I have been seeing a lot of post of people asking "how to" or not getting good numbers. I figured I would make a thread to shed some light.

    -Location-
    Just like hunting and fishing location is the number one thing to get good numbers of crawfish. This can be tricky at first to any newbie. I struggled at first. I started out trapping the Huron river with little to no luck. After a couple sets I was getting enough for a meal for myself. I wasn't happy with that so I started poking around other areas. I prefer trapping small ponds and gravel pits over rivers. Even though rivers can be extremely good so don't over look them just becuase I don't care for trapping them. The problem I found with trapping rivers is that in the summer they get a lot of attention from fishermen, tubers/canoers and hikers. I like my sets to be discreet so I don't have to worry about someone messing with my sets.

    -Scouting-
    When scouting a new area look for signs of crawfish. On a river check the bank for carcasses and claws. Raccoons love eating crawfish so usually you can find the remains of crawfish on the banks. Also try to place traps in rocky areas or an area with structure. Crawfish hide under rocks and other structure like weed edges, logs, etc to snag their next meal floating down river. They are scavengers so keep that in mind but they also do not go far from structure during the day since they are easy prey. I've also had good luck in slack water pools.

    You will be surprised where you will find crawfish. I have caught a lot out of small ponds on friends property. They are a lot more abundant than you would think. When it comes to small ponds and gravel pits I go out with a handful of traps and just shot gun them around it to see where they are.

    -Bait-
    I have used everything from Purina crawfish bait to hot dogs. My favorite bait is fresh bluegills. I use to save my panfish carcasses and they work great too, fresher the better. Make sure you suspend your bait in your trap so it doesn't float to the top. If your bait floats to the top they will eat the bait from the outside of the trap and have no reason to enter. I run a wire through the center of my traps and attach a treble hook in the middle of the wire and hook bait to it.

    -Traps-
    I build my own. They are simple to make. All you need is a roll of hardware cloth. I use 24" wide rolls and 1/2"x1/2" mesh this allows bait fish to swim through the trap. There are a bunch of different styles of traps. The most effective trap for catching crawfish here in Michigan is the "minnow trap" style. Below is a link that will show you how to build these traps. It's kind of long but it's the video I watched a couple years ago. Basket style traps are used down south for shallow water and used my commercial crawfisherman in rice fields. Here in Michigan most of our trapping is done in deep water. My sets are usually in 15+ foot of water on my honey hole. I attach about a 50' piece of clothes line and toss the traps as far out as possible and tie off to a tree on shore.


    -Crawfish/Crayfish/mud bugs-
    These tasty critters have many nicknames. There are many different species but they are all delicious and have somewhat the same habits. They are more active at night that is why I usually set my traps in the evening and pull them the next morning. You can walk a river or pond at night with a light and I've been on some bodies of water that it looks like the bottom is moving becuase there are so many mud bugs scooting around. They come into the shallows to feed at night. Rusty crayfish are invasive and have decimated most of the native species. Rusty's are also hyper aggressive that is why they have taken over the local populations. Our group on this forum has taken over 70+ lbs of rusties each year for the past 4 years out of the same watershed. We started noticing each year a couple natives in the mix which is a good sign but the Rusty crayfish is still the predominant species.

    -Keeping your catch fresh until your boil-
    There are many different ways to keep your catch fresh. The best thing to do is keep their gills wet. Believe it or not you can drown your crawfish. If you have them in a bucket or small container and they use up all the oxygen in the water they will die. I use to live on a lake and I had a holding pen that I could keep crawfish in for days, I would have to sort out deadloss every other day. You will have some die off from stressing. Keep them in a shaded area out of direct sunlight. Do not feed them any meat. By not feeding them that helps purge them. I came across a video on Facebook that field and stream made. They took a plastic tote and drilled holes in the lid, filled up with a little bit of water and losses in some lettuce which provides more shade and something they can munch on and they recommend changing the water once it gets dirty. I will be trying this method shortly. Some guys are use kiddie pools but keep in mind other critters will eat your catch if it's not covered.

    -Purging-
    I use to purge ever batch before the boil. I haven't noticed a big difference in purging them. The easiest way to purge them is to put them in a cooler, pull the plug and put a hose in the cooler and let cold water flow over them for a little bit. I have also used the salt water method, watch adding to much salt.

    -Cooking your catch-
    Once you have a catch of crawfish make sure you sort your catch. DO NOT cook dead crawfish, they decompose quickly. If you cook a dead crawfish you or someone in your group will get sick!
    Grab a big cooking pot or better yet a turkey burner. Fill it with water, dump in a bag of Louisiana crawfish boil mix(there are a lot of different boil mixes), add your corn, potatoes, sausage, onions, lemons. Remember the corn and potatoes will take longer to cook than your crawfish. Once the water starts boiling I will add everything but the crawfish and let it get back up to a roaring boil for at least 10 minutes or so. While everything else is cooking I start sorting the crawfish and discard all the dead crawfish I wanted to repeat that becuase this is the most crucial part of the boil, like stated above eating dead crawfish will get someone sick. Once you add the crawfish to the boil it will stall for a couple minutes. Once it gets going again I let the crawfish boil for about 4-6 minutes. Once they start floating they are done. Dump the boil on a table and get to crackin'! Crawfish boils are a great gathering and a cheap way to feed an army.

    Feel free to post any questions! There is a lot of knowledge to be had with our group and everyone is willing to help. If you are interested in learning more and witnessing all of this first hand come up to the Michigan Sportsman annual crawfish boil at Reedsburg dam July 9th. Our group is more than friendly and we camp out all weekend. There is a sticky for the outing in this section for more details.
     
  2. waterfowl_warrior09

    waterfowl_warrior09

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    That is awesome!! Being someone who has never trapped but have always wanted to, literally answered all my questions. Screenshot it to look back upon. Thank you!
     
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  3. RippinLipp

    RippinLipp

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    Another thing to remember is trap placement.. When trapping a river make sure the entrance to the trap is facing down stream. Also its better to place the traps in the middle or the upper half of a rocky run.. Crayfish once the catch the scent of your bait will travel some distance to get the bait.. Also if trapping during the day place traps in the deeper darker water..

    Another way to catch them is the spot and stalk.. All you need is a stick about 24", a few feet of mono, jighead,cut bait, small net, and a bucket.. Just drop the bait next to rock or structure. You will see them come out and grab it. Give them a few second to grab ahold and pull them up slowly. Slid the net under them and place in the bucket.. Thats my favorite way to get them in shallow rivers
     
  4. jsbowman

    jsbowman

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    Lots of great information here, thank you!
     
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  5. junkman

    junkman

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    Lots of good advice here.
     
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  6. Anish

    Anish

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    Great post! :D
    Lol, one of us should have done this when the forum first started!
     
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  7. Duck-Hunter

    Duck-Hunter Staff Member Mods

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    I'm glad I could shed some light. It was a lot to type out on my phone (I was bored lol). Ripp thanks for tossing in some more info I didn't cover. Spot and stalk is definitely effective and a blast, especially getting the young ones into it. I will have my go pro with me this year at the boil and I will make some videos.
     
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  8. Duck-Hunter

    Duck-Hunter Staff Member Mods

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    Are you coming out to the boil the weekend after the 4th?
     
  9. Duck-Hunter

    Duck-Hunter Staff Member Mods

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  10. HOSS48604

    HOSS48604

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    Yeah, like your shorts when you're drinking beer, snacking on Duckstrami and Ghost pepper cheese!
     
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  11. Anish

    Anish

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    HAHAHAHA!!!!!!
     
  12. Woodsman27

    Woodsman27

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    That's the video that taught me how to build traps.
     
  13. Duck-Hunter

    Duck-Hunter Staff Member Mods

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  14. dead short

    dead short Mods

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    Rather than sort before cooking just cook them all. When you're cooking them, only eat the ones with a curled tail. A straight tail after cooking indicates they were dead when they hit the water.
     
  15. junkman

    junkman

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    We sort not only to find the dead loss but also to find any natives so we can return them to the river. Unfortunately last year we found no natives.
     
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