Crawdads are a favorite food choice for many species of fish when they are available. Smallmouth bass, trout, and other species love to munch on these bottom-dwelling crustaceans. Many artificial lures are available that imitate crawdads, but what about fishing with the real thing?
Remember, in the state of Utah, it is illegal to transport live crawdads from the water where they were found! This means, to fish with them live, you must catch them on the water you intend to use them. This isn't a problem at most Utah waters, since almost every lake and reservoir in Utah has at least a small population of crawdads (excluding the high elevation mountain lakes).
There are several good ways to catch your own crawdads.
You can make or buy an inexpensive crawdad trap, designed to be submerged in the water with some bait inside. Crawdads will crawl in, but won't be able to get back out. Traps can be baited with chicken, hot dogs, a tuna can with holes punched in it, or pretty much any kind of meat. Leave the trap in a few feet of water where crawdads can be found (usually in or near rocky and/or weedy areas that provide cover for the crayfish.) Check the traps after about 45 minutes to an hour. You'll catch a lot more at night than you will during the day.
You can use a fishing pole and line, or even just a hand line to catch crawdads, usually only at night. You don't even need a hook (in fact don't bother with a hook). Just tie on a piece of chicken directly to the line. A fried chicken drumstick works great. Drop it down into the water and when a crawdad grabs on, slowly pull him up. He usually won't let go until he's out of the water, where you can swing him carefully over a bucket of water and drop him in. Even when the meat is gone, the bone alone will continue to catch crawdads.
If you're quick enough (and daring enough), you can catch crawdads with your hands. Rocky shorelines usually have crawdads hiding under the piles of rocks. Wade along in the water, overturning rocks and quickly pinning the unsusupecting crawdad to the ground before it swims away. They're fast, so you have to be quick. Then, grab them behind the head where the claws can't get to you. Think of it as grabbing them by their armpits. Unless you're really good (and really lucky), you'll probably eventually end up getting pinched at least once, but that's part of the fun. Sometimes catching bait is funner than fishing with it!
Click here for more information about crawdads.