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  • Writer's pictureDante Zuniga-West

Hand-Grabbing Crawdads

It’s a known fact that coastal streams of “The Beaver State” are full of crayfish (also referred to as crawdads). These delicious, lobster-like crustaceans are an amazing way to get started on your journey to achieve food-to-table success. While Oregon only has one native species of crayfish in its waters, the Signal Crayfish, there are several non-native types of crawdads that reside here too. The Louisiana Crayfish and the Ringed Crayfish can be found in Oregon streams and rivers also. Here’s the really great news though, they all taste wonderful!

Catching crawdads is easier than you think if you’re a first timer. Yes, they are fast and can jet backwards from you quicker than a hiccup. But if you stick to a few basics, you’ll soon find yourself with a bucket full of scrumptious table fare that can be cooked in any number of ways. While traps or butterfly nets from your local Dollar Store can land you quite a few mouthwatering mudbugs, one of the simplest ways to go about catching crawdads is with your bare hands. This method is great for when you are in shallow water near the bank and get the drop on a crayfish, or if you are swimming underwater and come upon a crayfish in a position that makes it hard to use the net. It’s also just plain fun to do! Here’s a quick tutorial showing how:

1. Once you identify the crawdad you’re going after, note the type of sediment you are treading on below and determine if it is muddy or rocky. If it is muddy, you may want to reconsider the hand grab and go with the net unless the crawdad is directly under you. This is because your movement will kick up sediment and cloud the water, ruining your perfect strike from above. If it is rocky, game on!

2. Make your approach carefully. Crawdads can hear the sound of your footsteps if you are stomping toward them, and they can hear the splash of the water if your feet are coming up and out of it on your way toward them. Shuffle your feet if you can.

3. Position yourself behind the crawdad, make absolutely sure that your shadow does not cast over it while you are making your grab. Imagine if you were walking along a path in the woods, minding your own business on a nice sunny day, and then the entire world around you quickly grew dark…you’d know something was up, right? Casting your shadow over a crawdad you want to grab will surely send it jetting off. Don’t do it.

Sidenote: This doesn't matter if the crawdad is already overshadowed by a ledge or something, such as in the above picture.

4. Grab directly behind the crawdad’s arms. Imagine if they had armpits, grab there. Don’t worry abut crushing them, they’re pretty durable. Apply enough pressure to pin the crawdad to the ground and raise it on up out of the water.

TIP: The actual striking part of this is something you will have to play with on your own before you master it. The best advice I can give you for that point in time is, don’t hesitate. Don’t overthink the aim, get over your fear of failure, and commit to the strike. Full disclosure, you are going to miss some, and you are likely going to get pinched once or twice. I suggest trying this technique on smaller crayfish first…there are monsters out there that can nip you pretty mean.

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