How To Fish For Crawfish

Crawfish, also known as crayfish, crawdads, or freshwater lobsters, are small crustaceans that resemble lobsters but are found in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds. They thrive in environments with fresh water and often hide under rocks or within mud burrows to protect themselves from predators. Crawfish are not fish but belong to the crustacean family, which also includes crabs, shrimp, and lobsters.

Crawfish is an engaging catch for both recreational and seasoned anglers. Fishing for crawfish can be a simple, enjoyable activity that requires minimal equipment and can be done in various water bodies including streams, rivers, and lakes. This guide will cover the basic methods of catching crawfish, including the use of traps and nets, bait selection, and the best times and places to find them.

Crawfish Setup

The most effective way to catch crawfish is by using specially designed crawfish traps. These traps come in various sizes, but a standard size is typically around 24 inches in length and 12 inches in width and height. They are constructed with a mesh or wire frame that allows crawfish to enter but not escape, especially when lured by bait placed inside.

The best setup for crawfish involves placing these traps in areas where crawfish are known to be active, such as near the banks of streams, lakes, or ponds, or in areas with plenty of rocks or vegetation for them to hide. Baiting the traps with fish heads, chicken parts, or commercial crawfish bait is highly effective. The bait should be secured inside the trap to ensure it attracts crawfish over a prolonged period without being quickly removed by them or other animals.

For a more hands-on approach, the best rig for catching crawfish can be a simple line and bait setup. This involves tying a piece of bait (like a piece of hot dog, bacon, or fish) to a string or a lightweight fishing line, and then manually lowering it into crawfish habitats. Once a crawfish grabs onto the bait, it can be gently lifted out of the water. This method requires more patience and time, as it targets crawfish one at a time, but it can be particularly enjoyable and allows for selective harvesting.

Best Bait For Crawfish

Crawfish are omnivorous creatures that feed on a wide variety of food sources in their natural habitats, including plants, dead animals, and small aquatic organisms. This diet preference makes them relatively easy to bait and catch.

The best live bait for crawfish includes fish parts (such as heads, tails, and innards), chicken pieces, and other meaty substances that emit strong scents in the water. These baits mimic the crawfish’s natural food sources, making them highly effective for attracting crawfish. Placing these baits inside a crawfish trap or net is the most common and effective method. The bait should be secured inside the trap to ensure it lures crawfish effectively without being quickly consumed or removed.

Crawfish Fishing Techniques

Crawfish fishing can be both simple and highly effective with the right techniques. Here are the most common and effective methods to catch these crustaceans:

Using Traps

Trapping is the most popular method for catching crawfish. Use specially designed crawfish traps baited with fish heads, meat scraps, or cat food. The traps should be placed in areas where crawfish are known to inhabit, such as under rocks, near vegetation, or in mud banks in slow-moving waters.

This technique is most effective when traps are set in the late evening and left overnight. Crawfish are nocturnal, so trapping during these hours maximizes your catch.

Hand Fishing

Hand fishing, or “graveling,” involves locating crawfish by hand in shallow water, typically under rocks or logs. This method requires no special equipment other than protective gloves to prevent nicks or cuts from the crawfish’s claws.

Hand fishing is most effective in clear, shallow waters where crawfish are visible and accessible. It’s a great daytime activity, especially in late spring to early summer when crawfish are more active.

Dip Netting

Dip netting involves using a small, handheld net to scoop crawfish out of the water. This technique is often used in conjunction with a light source at night, which attracts crawfish, making them easier to spot and net.

Dip netting is most effective at night, in shallow areas with clear water. The use of a light to attract crawfish can significantly increase the catch rate.


Seining involves using a seine net, which is a large net with floats on the top edge and weights on the bottom. Two people stretch the net across a stream or creek bed and walk forward, herding crawfish into the net.

This method is highly effective in streams and creeks with a moderate current. It’s best used during the day when crawfish are hiding under rocks and in debris, as it allows you to cover large areas quickly.

Best Time To Catch Crawfish

Catching crawfish at night is highly effective throughout the year but is particularly beneficial during the warmer months when crawfish are most active. Using a flashlight or headlamp, along with baited traps or nets, can yield a significant catch. The light can attract crawfish to the area, and the cover of darkness makes them less wary of approaching the bait. For those preferring a more hands-on approach, gently scooping them up with a net as they come to investigate the light and bait can also be successful.

Where To Find Crawfish

Crawfish thrive in a variety of freshwater environments where water is clean and oxygen-rich. They prefer habitats with plenty of hiding spots, such as rocky bottoms, dense vegetation, or areas with debris and logs. The best water bodies for catching crawfish include streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds, each offering unique environments for these crustaceans.

Streams and Rivers

Streams and rivers with slow-moving water and soft bottoms are ideal for crawfish. They often inhabit areas where the water depth ranges from shallow edges to about 2 to 3 feet deep, especially where there’s cover like rocks or vegetation. For streams and rivers, baited traps or nets placed near the bank or around structures in the water prove most effective. Securing bait like fish heads or chicken pieces inside the trap and leaving it overnight can yield a good catch.


Lakes offer a wide range of habitats for crawfish, from shallow, vegetated margins to rocky areas. Crawfish in lakes are often found in depths ranging from the shoreline to about 5 feet, particularly in areas with cover. Using baited traps set along the shallow, vegetated areas or near rocky structures can be very successful. The traps should be checked regularly, ideally in the late evening or early morning when crawfish are most active.


Ponds, especially those with a lot of vegetation and natural debris, can be abundant sources of crawfish. They tend to stay in shallow areas, making the edges of ponds an excellent place to set traps. In ponds, setting traps in water depths of 1 to 3 feet near vegetation or submerged logs can provide a good harvest. The use of baited traps, with the bait secured to attract crawfish over a period, is the preferred method.

Using Crawfish as Baits

Crawfish are commonly used as bait due to their effectiveness in attracting a wide variety of game fish species. Below, we explore how they can be used to target some of the most sought-after fish.


Bass, especially largemouth bass, have a particular affinity for crawfish, making them an excellent choice of bait for these fish. To catch bass, anglers often use a live crawfish rigged on a hook through the tail or the horn (the part between the eyes), allowing the crawfish to move naturally and attract the bass.


Catfish are opportunistic feeders with a keen sense of smell, making crawfish an effective bait for them as well. For catching catfish, both live and dead crawfish can be used. Anglers often use a simple bottom rig with a crawfish hooked through the tail or the head (if using dead crawfish) to release more scent. This method is particularly effective in murky waters where the scent plays a significant role in attracting fish.


Walleye are known to feed on crawfish, particularly in rocky or sandy bottom areas where crawfish are abundant. Live crawfish are used as bait, hooked through the tail to encourage natural movement. This can be particularly effective during the early morning or late evening to catch walleye when they are more actively feeding.


Trout, particularly brown trout, are attracted to crawfish in streams and rivers where crawfish are a natural part of their diet. Small live crawfish or crawfish pieces can be effective bait to catch trout, especially in clear, moving waters where trout rely on their sight to hunt.