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Crayfish…or Crawdads…?

Ingredients Magazine focuses on local food ingredients from local Utah sources. How remiss in our obligations to readers we would be if we neglected on yummy morsels literally waiting to be picked up –or caught- all at the cost of one fishing license and your time!

Before you slap down $25 a pound for lobster airlifted from Massachusetts, consider its humble brother presently basking in warm autumn waters. Crayfish, aka Crawdads; aka poor man’s lobster, aka warm water lobster. There’s some speculation as to what proper name this epicurean delight deserves: Crayfish when fished or crawdad when cooked, but Shakespeare’s analogy of “called by any other name would smell just as sweet,” works well with here too.

Mr. Crayfish has a few shortcomings when compared to his blue-blood Bostonian brother to be sure – you’ll require several of his aunt’s, uncles and cousins to make a meal size portion. Chances are high he isn’t accompanied by a snooty waiter, you’ll receive no silk screen imaged bib and he has no frequent flier points to cash in with Delta. Then too you’ll not have any blue rubber bands that bonded claws hitherto to recycle. With all that said, we arrive at the highly attractive point that Mr. Crayfish won’t have the fraud protection squad at American Express calling you to verify a high-ticket purchase.

Not exactly a fair and unbiased observation! Fact is good ‘ole Mr. Crayfish suffers from prejudices that are far from well earned. What seems to be a humble dwarfed lobster is huge on flavor, at very least rivaling his salt-water relatives. He’s easy to catch, easier to cook and nothing short of delicious! Cajuns of the south have been feasting on this giant of epicurean delight for centuries and with darn good reason!

Often overlooked, you’ll find dandy crowds of crayfish at Virgin, Price, Bear, Duchesne, Weber and Green river basins, among other stream and river outlets in Utah.  He’s also plentiful in supply and easily found at: Scofield Reservoir, Starvation Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, Bottle Hollow Reservoir, Deer Creek Reservoir, East Canyon, Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Gunlock Reservoir, Huntington (North) Reservoir, Lake Powell, Lost Creek Reservoir, Newcastle Reservoir and Sandwash Reservoir to name some of his home turf. He isn’t exclusive to these locations, but it’s a certainty you won’t have to look hard at these places. Crayfish can grow as large as five or six inches in length, with a good target size of two to three inches as a minimum. 

Catching crayfish isn’t difficult either – but this isn’t a rod and reel job. Although you can use a line and pull him up when he grabs it in a death grip with his claw (and he will too!), that process will take a very long time indeed. No, this is a job for nets or traps, but one can make a dandy one with a few household items costing very little. All you need is a small mesh net or a trap using screens or maybe combination of both.  Utah Division of Wildlife’s webpage provides a few sketches of basic day and night traps.