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Crawfish in Ohio


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Hello everyone,

We have property in Ohio with a stream, and in this stream seems to be an awful lot of crawfish.

I know very little about crawfish, other than the boiled crawfish I had once on a trip to NOLA.

I did a search on crawfish here and saw lots of posts about crawfish "season". I seem to recall seeing crawfish in our stream year round. Is it better to catch them during a certain season than another?

If I, this midwestern girl, were to want to try a crawfish boil with crawfish from our stream, anyone have any advice on how to start? I know catching them is probably going to prove the most challenging part. After catching them, I assume I need to keep them in a bucket of water or something until I'm ready to boil them? I know I can find recipes online for seasoning the boil... but here comes the midwestern girl... how exactly do we eat them? It was years ago that I had them in NOLA and I honestly can't say I remember the experience very well, probably because I was young and tipsy.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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Sue,

The first thing to do is to confirm the safety of fish from your waterway. There are a number of streams in Ohio that, though they look clean, contain some pretty nasty pollutants. Here is a link to the Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory. You can look up the specific body of water that is on your property to see if their are any advisories regarding the consumption of fish from it. While the advisories do not directly address crayfish, since crayfish are scavengers, I would look to see what is recommended with other scavengers, such as catfish or carp.

With regard to dealing with the suckers once you have caught them, a bucket will do fine for a while, though they will attack eachother while in it. Eating them is just like with whole shrimp, though if you can get any meat out of the large claw, it tastes the best in my opinion. I have heard some recommend purging them by feeding them cornmeal, or by simply keeping them without food for a day or so, but I've not tried it. Instead I've simply tried to devein them similar to what you do with shrimp.

All this comes with the caveat that it has been several years since I did this ONCE with crayfish from near the Indiana/Ohio border. My memory could be somewhat faded, and I'm only drawing from limited experience here.

Edited by donk79 (log)
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Thank you. Actually, our stream is one of the cleanest in the state, which we just learned. We had a group from Ohio State come by last year asking to do some testing in our waters because our creek is considered the "closest to pure" as they can find. We were very happy to hear that!

Thanks for the tips... I'm not sure if we'll do it or not, but it seems a shame not to try!

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we catch crawfish in the canals here, and the water is, well, ditch water. It's right off the marsh, which is briney, muddy and otherwise swamp. I would not hesitate to catch and eat crawfish from fresher water! Course the mud might make them taste better, I don't know.

To catch, get a crab trap...a box with a one way tube like 'door'. Usually made of chicken wire. We buy ours @ the hardware store. Bait with chicken necks.

Purge, by all means. Buy galvanized tubs and lots of salt. We're talking 3or4 of the tubs of morton's here. fill tubs, add crawfish, add salt. Drain, repeat. You'll see the dirt the salt pulls out..My neighbor once told me it's like a crawfish colonic. Sorry, I found that hilarious. As your water/shrimp boil comes up to boil (even on a propane tank outside, this takes a while) let them soak.

You probably would not have to do this for as long as we do, but I'd do it at least once.

Let me know how those clean water bugs taste, I am very curious.

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Why disturb the pristine waterway you are lucky to have on your property for a few crawfish. I am guessing that if you put out five or six traps along 100 yds of stream bed you might collect enough crawfish for a light snack and could possibly take enough stock to effectively wipe out the little colony of creatures that have up till now found a way thrive in their isolated ecosystem. Don't be the one to put an end to that. Buy a bag of frozen tails at the supermercado and make some ettouffe instead, and then go out and watch the little critters scamper about in the stream. Just my two cents. Charlie

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Crawfish are tremendously prolific, so I wouldn't worry about wiping out the entire population if you harvest your stream infrequently. I don't know much about catching crawfish in moving water...here in LA, they favor stagnant/slow moving waterways. To catch just a few crawfish, you don't need to bother with the bulky box trap described above. A set-net works just fine in relatively shallow water...here's a link to a photo of a set-net, with some instructions on how to use it: http://www.bugspray.com/catalog/products/page1931.html Typically, the top frame of the net pokes out of the water, you bait it, wait awhile, and use a pole with a hook on the end to retrieve the net. You bait it with crawfish "melt", which is beef spleen and/or other offal, sold here very cheaply in the butcher's cold case or freezer. You can use chicken necks, but they're expensive compared to crawfish melt.

Anyway, unless you're fishing 3 miles of creek, you probably won't come up with enough crawfish for a 5-lbs-per-person, LA-style crawfish boil. Still, it's worth a go, but the amount you harvest might be better utilized in a different recipe....Scandinavians routinely boil smaller amounts, and my dad would cook just a few pounds at a time in a bottle of Sauternes & plenty of onions for a different, peel-your-own appetizer.

Regarding the need to "purge" crawfish: I'm on a personal mission to point out that extensive research by LSU's acquaculture folks has conclusively determined that a salt-water purge does not "clean out" the crawfish. You need to rinse off the exteriors, but the salted water won't make any difference to their internal cleanliness. Purged crawfish are commercially available, but this process involves several days' holding in circulating fresh water without any food.

Welcome to the Crawfish Nation, a relatively recent phenomenon. I know really old cajuns who can remember when crawfish weren't a respectible food, but rather a food of necessity, and certainly not one you'd find in a restaurant.

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I am by no means an expert in aquatic systems, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn last night. No really, while I acknowledge that down here crawfish are an extremley prolific species I am not sure you can eqaute their breeding habits in the Atchafalaya Basin or in a rice pond to a small cold water stream system in the midwest. From personal experience, walking small to medium stream beds in the East and looking for the little critters you may see less than a handful over a few hundred yards. Sounds like they are doing quite well on Sue's little piece of green earth but the fact that they are not commercially harvested anywhere in the Midwest leads me to suspect that there are not sustainable wild populations in those type of ecosytems.

On another note, I have seen people wreak havoc on their lawns and shrubberies while overdoing it with aforementioned Morton's in ana effort to purge. So be careful out there. Charlie

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Ah, this brings back memories. When I was younger, my parents would pile us into a car and we'd drive out from the Bay Area to the Central Valley. When we saw a nice stream or canal, they'd stop, issue us big buckets, string, and liver. We'd tie the liver on the string and dip it in the water. Invariably, we'd get crawfish after crawfish grab onto the liver and we'd gently lift them out of the water and shake them into our bucket. We usually got plenty of critters in a couple of hours to have a nice crawfish feed when we got home.

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I am by no means an expert in aquatic systems, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn last night.  No really, while I acknowledge that down here crawfish are an extremley prolific species I am not sure you can eqaute their breeding habits in the Atchafalaya Basin or in a rice pond to a small cold water stream system in the midwest. 

While you probably can't equate breeding patterns of crawfish raised commercially in flooded rice fields to cold water stream systems in the midwest, you might equate a cold water stream system in the midwest to a cold water stream system in Scandinavia. They seem to do a pretty good job of sustainable harvesting there, and in other parts of Europe. Your concern is commendable, but I think it's totally misplaced.

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I know really old cajuns who can remember when crawfish weren't a respectible food, but rather a food of necessity, and certainly not one you'd find in a restaurant.

Really... and can you believe they're boiling crawfish at Windsor Court? It just seems wrong, somehow.

Shipping a large batch of crawfish for a meal works great, (though my usual source Cajun Grocer is on shit list right now -- they told me they were sending me seasoning with the 100 pounds I ordered last week, didn't send any, and now are giving me grief about reimbursing me for the seasoning I had to run around town for an hour before 50 people showed up at my house. Grrrrrr.).

Bridget Avila

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Re: shipped crawfish, I can recommend Bayou Bounty, located in Boutte, LA. Good quality crawfish, both pond & Belle River. It's a small business with a website, good customer service and nice people, too: http://www.bayoubountyseafood.com/ I frequent Bayou Bounty's bricks-n-mortar store, so I can vouch firsthand for their operation.

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