Let Trapper Arne answer your crayfish questions, right here !
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - FAQ
Crayfish in general
A: Native crayfish can be found on all continents of the world except Africa and the Antarctic. I can understand why not in the Antarctic, but why not in Africa which has many temperate zones that usually favor crayfish? Some countries in Africa have now imported crayfish, e.g. Kenya.
In Europe crayfish have been eaten for centuries. Countries known for their crayfish cuisine are France, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia. As Trapper Arne grew up in Sweden, he got his taste for crayfish in that country.
A: Crayfish can be found in all of the United States. However, in order to make it easier for you to find lakes and rivers in your state, Trapper Arne has listed by name rivers and lakes in most states where crayfish have been reported. Take a look at this listing and see if your state is listed there with some available crayfish waters.
A: Yes, all US states have some amounts of crayfish. Some have more, some have less. Louisiana is famous for its enormous amounts of the long clawed red crawfish (yes, in the South, crayfish is usually referred to as crawfish) but many other states have large numbers of these crustaceans. Notable states are California, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and, in most other states including my own state, Arizona.
A: To some extent, yes. The US has, they say, 355 different species of crayfish, so naturally you will find different types in different states. The most common species are the Red Swamp crayfish (Procambarus Clarkii) typical in Louisiana, the Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus Leniusculus) common in the Sacramento River area and another famous, maybe infamous, variety called the Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes Rusticus) which is common in the Great Lakes area.
The crayfish I am used to in the Arizona mountains is of another variety, but I don't know which. As long as it is a large clawed crayfish, I really don't care. As there is a total of 355 (?) varieties, each state may have several varieties.
A: Whatever you do, don't keep your crayfish in a bucket of water. They will soon use up all the oxygen in the water and will die from drowning. Instead, keep your catch as cool and moist as possible and they will keep alive for several days. By packing them in ice they will live even longer as long as the temperature is not below freezing.
I used to catch crayfish during a three day vacation at a lake, then travel home and send some of my live catch by air up to Detroit without losing many of them. Some of them would by then have been out of their lake for four or five days.
If you want to keep crayfish live for a much longer period, you may consider a fish sump. A sump is a contraption you keep submerged in the lake where they were caught. This way you can keep crayfish live for weeks or months. However, make sure some of the crayfish don't molt in the meantime. If they do, they will be eaten up by the other cannibalistic crayfish in the sump.
A: Purging of a crayfish refers to making the crayfish empty and clear its intestine. You can do that by keeping the crayfish alive for a few days with no food. That will make the digestive system empty itself, and the otherwise black intestine will be clear before eating the crayfish. Some people think that the cooking water will be less muddy if the intestine is clear. My experience does not verify that idea.
Salt is sometimes suggested to purge crayfish. However, in the articles I have read on the subject, the amount of salt has not been mentioned nor the time the crayfish have to be exposed to it. Nor has the procedure been successful in the cases where I have seen it used.
A: The simple answer to this question is, NO, crayfish don't have to be purged. However, many people would feel better if they know that the crayfish intestine is clear and empty.
As the cooking is not affected by the intestine being full and as it is easy to discard the intestine before eating the cooked crayfish, I personally don't bother to purge a crayfish. The same argument of course pertains to lobsters, crabs and shrimp but most people don't pay much attention to it.
At a recent crawfish festival I was told all the crayfish had been purged before cooking. Yet, when eating some of their cooked crayfish I found that they all had big, fat, black intestines. It didn't seem to bother most people, though.
A: So far I have not found a state with a limit set on crayfish. Certainly not Arizona. Actually, many states encourage you to catch as many crayfish as possible as they are considered detrimental to the ecology of lakes and rivers. There are some states that limit the catch of crayfish to certain months of the year. Check your state to be sure.
A: Crayfish can be transported either cooked or alive. However, in some states, such as Arizona, you are not allowed to transport live crayfish. Hopefully this regulation will prevent further spreading of the crayfish to other waters not yet inhabited.
As cooking crayfish, especially large amounts at high altitudes, may be difficult at a campsite by the lake where they were caught, there is a way to handle it. If you cover the live crayfish with crushed ice, at least Arizona authorities will accept that as being within regulations.
Previous to this regulation I transported large amounts of crayfish from high elevation lakes down to my home several hundred miles away in coolers of different sizes and shapes. To make sure the crayfish would survive the transport, I kept a block or bag of ice in a corner of the cooler. Limiting the amount of crayfish to two or three hundred in each cooler, the survival rate remained higher than 90%.
A: The jury is still out on this question. Personally I have had best luck with almost any type of fish. Especially fish from the lake where the crayfish live. But I also have successfully used salmon trimmings that some supermarkets may give me for free.
But for years I also used the cheap chicken parts such as wings and necks with good results. In Louisiana they often use an artificial bait made out of grain and ingredients that entice the crayfish. Some tales about crayfish bait tell about using squirrel meat. One even suggests using "a stealthily shot neighbor cat". So, take your pick.
A: Crayfish bait should have some odor, or smell to entice crayfish, such as oily fish has, but it should not be stinky because it is rotten. On several occasions I found that rotten bait does not make good bait. During a several day stay at a crayfish lake I noticed that for each day I caught less crayfish although the traps were placed in different places. Too late I realized that the reason was that the bait I was using was getting 'sour' and therefore unattractive to the crayfish. Fresh bait works best. Lately I have found that canned cat food with white fish and tuna makes very good crayfish bait.
A: This depends on a few factors. As a rule I have found that the more bait in the trap, the more crayfish I caught. As a rule of thumb you would want to keep enough bait in a trap to last until you pull the trap again. After all, after the bait is eaten, crayfish try to leave the trap. If you keep a trap in the lake over night you need more bait than when out for only three or four hours.
I never weigh the bait I use, but anywhere from a few ounces to half a pound sounds right. If you set out only a trap or two, put in plenty of bait. If you are dealing with dozens of traps, you may want to be a little more frugal. Consider, also, that if you only catch a few crayfish, the bait will last longer than if your trap fills with hungry crayfish.
A: The Trapper and Jackpot traps have a clip installed in the trap for hanging the bait. In the Trappy and the Cray Shack you can either use a bait box (included) or hang the bait with a string inside the trap. Plastic mesh bags can also be used to hold the bait. Do not just leave bait lying on the bottom of a trap. That way crayfish may try to get to the bait from the outside without even entering the trap. Also, if left loose in the trap, the bait may end up anywhere during the placing of the trap; it may even float out of the trap.
I am convinced that free hanging bait is more productive, but it is eaten up faster. When using compressed artificial bait you may be forced to use a container or to simply hang the bait in its mesh bag cut in half.
A: Crayfish traps are legal in all states for which I have been able to find regulations about crayfish traps. The only restrictions are the size of the traps. In Arizona a crayfish/minnow trap should not be larger than 24" x 12" and you are allowed any number of traps. Most states have the same or similar regulations. Before you use traps, make sure they adhere to the local size regulations.
A: Crayfish traps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The two most common designs are the tubular (round) traps and the square (boxy) traps. Of the two, there is no doubt in my mind that the round traps with funnel entrances at each end are the best. Over the years I have tried them all at least once. The boxy traps have the decided disadvantage of getting stuck in bottom debris. They also need a relatively flat bottom to present their opening(s) correctly.
The first traps I saw and used were of the 'beehive' design. A flat, round bottom with a single opening on top of the trap. They work, sure, but the tubular traps with two entrances soon outproduced the old 'beehives'. In Louisiana's shallow (rice) paddies, the pyramid trap with three bottom openings and a top that sticks out of the water is popular, but even there I believe the tubular trap will outproduce the pyramid pots.
Many traps are, in my opinion, too small for produtive catching. Even the traditional minnow traps are too small to handle large amounts of crayfish in a well populated crayfish lake.
Our most popular traps are the the TRAPPY, the Trappy XL, the JUMBO and the JACKPOT. Of these the Jackpot is collapsible, which is important to people who backpack in to crayfish rivers and lakes or who bring many traps with them in a boat. The only disadvantage with this trap is that it has no escape stopper, which makes the others so productive overnight.
A: Of course they can be very good. Most traps on the market today were once 'home made'. This is an area where the human mind can really excel in imaginative designs. Some 'home made' traps I have seen were obviously quite productive.
The advantage with professionally designed and manufactured crayfish traps is that they are the result of years of experimentation. Trapper Arne presents types of traps which use proven and well known productive designs.
Designing and buildinrap is so much fun, especially for young developing minds, that I heartily recommend it.
A: Most crayfish seem to live within ten feet of the surface of a river or lake. Generally, they seem to go deeper when the water is cold, but then they are also as a rule less likely to be caught in a trap as they are less interested in food.
For that reason, I have kept my trap lines at about ten feet, but some professional crayfishermen use much longer strings. (And when using ground lines-trot lines, traps often end up much deeper.)
As most crayfishing is done during warm summer months, the ten foot length seems to be quite adequate.
A: Some states regulate that a crayfish trap must be emptied at least every 24 hours. That makes for a maximum time limit.
Depending on how well populated the lake or river is, you may want to leave the traps in for only an hour or two. My own rule is to leave them in between three or four hours. If you want to maximize your catch of crayfish, count on emptying them at least every four hours. And as crayfish are nocturnal, that means you will have to empty traps during the night a couple of times. It makes for lots of crayfish but very little sleep.
Most of the Trapper Arne traps are equipped with escape stoppers. This contraption prevents crayfish from leaving the trap. Thus you can effectively leave the traps in all night long and empty them at sunrise.
A: As mentioned before, crayfish are nocturnal. That means they are more active at night while searching for food. That is why most tales of crayfish catching mention night time activities.
No doubt about this. However, crayfish, especially if they are very hungry, often search for food in the daytime too, at least in the afternoons and on cloudy days. So although the best time for catching crayfish is at night, don't forget to take advantage of daytime hours - especially if fish don't bite.
A: A ground line, also called a trot line, is a way of connecting all your traps together with an underwater line so that you don't need floats on top of the water. The advantage is that your traps will not be visible and will be less likely to be stolen.
With a little bit of ingenuity you will be able to build your own trot line outfit. I used a plastic milk carton container, attached a home made crank to it and then wound up 200 feet of floating polypropylene rope with loops tied about every twenty feet. With traps equipped with spring loaded clips, I attached the baited traps to this line as I cranked it out in the lake from my boat. The only caveat is, it is difficult to do this without a helper, especially if you have a wind to fight at the same time.
Crustaceans have the unfortunate habit of deteriorating quickly after they are dead. Therefore it is of great importance to only cook live crayfish and to cook them at least 6 or 7 minutes in boiling water.
First bring the cooking water up to a brisk boil before dumping the crayfish into it. After that, let the water come back to boiling again. Then, and only then, start counting six or seven minutes of boiling.
Bear in mind also that higher altitudes means you have to boil things a bit longer than at lower ones. Normal boiling point for water is 212°F. At my altitude of 5000 feet, the boiling point is down to about 202°F. This mean that I have to cook my crayfish a little bit longer to compensate for the lower boiling temperature. If your altitude is less than 1000 feet, don't worry about it.
As I usually freeze my cooked crayfish, I want to cool them as fast as possible. To put the hot kettle in the freezer may give it too much of a strain, so to cool the boil down to an acceptable temperature for the freezer, I put a fan on the kettle for about an hour. Now the temperature goes quickly down to acceptable levels. Of course, if you prefer to eat crayfish warm, you don't have this problem.
If salt is considered a spice, then that's all you need to cook crayfish. When you buy crabs or lobsters in the store, they are just boiled in a salty brine. Same with crayfish. Unless you definitely prefer the Cajun spices, you can make great crayfish from boiling them simply in salty water. The formula for this simple recipe is, 1/2 cup of salt per each gallon of water. Swedes also add some handfuls of dill weed in the boil, but that is purely an ethnic custom.
If you prefer Cajun spices, hurry over to your favorite grocery store and find their Zatarain's crab boil. On the package you'll find their recipe which will make all Cajuns happy.
You need enough water to cover all the crayfish you want to cook. However, as long as the water has all the spices or salt that it needs, you can have more water than necessary, that won't hurt the boil although it is wasteful. I want to emphasize, that it is the amount of salt in relation to the water that is important. Remember the rule of thumb; 1/2 cup of salt to each gallon of water. after that you can add as many or few spices you want and as many crayfish you want as long as they are all covered by water.
Absolutely! If the crayfish are relatively large, they usually have claws that are worth cracking for their meat. Crayfish in the northern states have larger claws than you find on the Red Swamp Crawfish, but even they sometimes have large enough claws to pick out the meat.
Then, don't forget the crayfish butter, an accumulation of crayfish fat full of the nutritious Omega 3 Fatty Acids under the main shell, the carapace. The only thing you don't eat on a crayfish is its stomach which is located way up front where you can't get to it anyway.
If you are lucky enough to dine on a female crayfish, you may also feast on crayfish roe, an accumulation of red crayfish eggs under the shell and part of the tail. This is considered a delicacy among aficionados and could be compared to eating fancy caviar.
It's a little tricky, but here's how I do it. After you have removed the shell from the tail of a cooked crayfish, remove the sliver of meat on top of the tail; Under it you will find the sand vein. If the crayfish has not been purged, the sand vein will be black. If purged, the sand vein is empty and clear and you can forget about it. With your finger or a crayfish knife, remove the sand vein and then eat the rest of the tail and the sliver you removed.
Sometimes you will find that the sand vein pulls out when you separate the tail from the main shell. Some people are good at that. I usually have to remove the sand vein by hand.
This depends on how big the crayfish and how hungry you are. If they are as big as the ones I caught at Black Canyon Lake, only ten crayfish may fill you up. Normally, though, I find that I eat about 15 crayfish to call it a full meal. But, if you eat your crayfish in the company of friends, you probably offer drinks (beer, schnapps) and side dishes of different sorts which will help fill you up.
Remember that crayfish is the perfect party food to be eaten in the company of close friends. If you eat because you are hungry, try hamburgers.
A: This is entirely a personal taste decision. Most crayfish in this country are eaten warm. Only the Swedes and some Europeans eat them cold. However, consider this. Crayfish need to steep in their cooking brine for a day or two in order to fully soak up the spices in the brine. To do that, leave cooked crayfish in their brine for a day or two after which they taste much better. In order to do that, the brine has to be cold. Thus, if you want the tastiest crayfish, eat them cold after a couple of days of soaking in their brine.
A: Go to the HOME page, the first page you see when you go to www.TrapperArne.com and there click on the menu item called ORDER HERE in the left upper corner. Once on the order page, you will be guided to the product you want and how to order it using PayPal.
A: If the order goes out by UPS or Priority Mail by US Postal Service, which is the most common methods we use, they promise the package will arrive within a week. If the order goes to Canada, it may take longer as the package has to go through customes.
A: Yes, we certainly do. We accept and have handled many orders from Canada, England, Finland and Israel. Unfortunately, PayPal is not set up to handle shipping for international orders. What we do is suggest international customers to send us a cashier's check in US Dollars for the required amount. Payment can also be made using credit card. (see shipping instructions on the Order Form page.) Customs handling delays the arrival of the order by some days, but in the end all of our international customers have been happy with the transactions.
A: The easiest way to pay for the order is to let PayPal handle it. On the ORDER HERE page, click on the PayPal icon and then just follow the instructions.
If you prefer to send payment direct to Trapper Arne, that is fine too. Just prepare a money order or cashier's check and send it to the Trapper Arne address at the bottom of this page.
A: Of course you can. But it will take a few days longer until the check clears. Checks from customers who are well known to Trapper Arne will be treated as bona fide cash.
A: Make out the check to Trapper Arne.
A: Most shipments of crayfish traps, bait and crawfish boil go out as UPS or priority mail with United States Postal Service.