By Pete Rogers
Mudbugs, crayfish, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, crawdads, crawfish, or yabbies, whatever you call them, they are fun to catch and delicious.
As the water temperature begins to warm, crawdads begin to become more active and readily available. These crustaceans found throughout the world are very common across North America and have created several cottage industries around its existence.
Crawfish farms provide a lot of the inventory for restaurants and grocers, but for most people who prefer crawfish, catching their own for dinner is as much fun as eating them.
Crawfish feed on animals or plants, either living or decomposing. This alone makes trapping them fairly simple if in the right location.
Crawfish are found in a variety of water. Many prefer moving streams and rivers. While some species are more adapted to swamps, ditches, puddles, ponds and lakes.
Be sure to check your local rules and regulations on crawfish seasons.
Marshall French of Sumter, SC has been trapping crawfish for decades and loves the backwater of the Santee Cooper lakes for catching them.
Using modified minnow traps, French finds pockets of water around standing timber and drops traps next to these trees. “I’ve found for some reason mudbugs like to stay around the timber. So, I just drop a few baskets near the trees, go fishing for a while, and come back and pick them up,” French says.
In modifying his minnow traps, French explains that the standard minnow trap opening is not big enough for the larger crawfish to get into. Using wire cutters, he snips the opening to enlarge it to “about the size of a ping pong ball.”
As for bait, French likes to use fish heads. “I’ll keep a few heads from fish I’ve caught and use them for bait in the traps. Just throw in a bream head and drop the trap.”
To mark the trap, French uses tough plastic sports drink bottles with a string tied to the neck of the bottle and then to the trap.
The soak, or how long you leave the trap in the water, is important. French explains that you can leave it in the water too long. And that leaving it too long can be worse than not long enough.
“Take it up too soon and you may not catch all of them,” he says, but if your trap is full, and it just sits there, many of the mudbugs could die and you really don’t want that,” he continues.
A normal soak is about two to three hours. French says that he only traps mudbugs when he is fishing the same area. Placing a dozen or so traps out first thing, he then goes fishing for the rest of the day. When finishing up, he circles back around and gathers his traps.
“On a good day, with a dozen traps, I’ll catch about thirty gallons of mudbugs,” he says.
Be careful to throw back the smaller ones, French says, by only keeping the big ones, it ensures that there will be others to catch next time he comes back.
In South Carolina, crawfish get to about three to five inches. Most are three to four inches in size. Anything smaller than three inches is tossed back.
Catching mudbugs is a simple pastime that adds a delicious menu to the table. Trapping mudbugs is something all anglers can do to add to their creel.