Autumn in Idaho offers no shortage of excellent fishing options. From the adrenaline rush of the steelhead run to great late-season bass action and hot trout fishing, there’s plenty to keep anglers busy.
Allow me to further muddy the waters with another great fall option: the crayfish.
Crayfish — also known as crawdads, crawfish or mudbugs — are nature’s smaller, freshwater version of a lobster. They thrive in many of Idaho’s river systems, where they are a popular prey for bass, catfish and even big trout.
They are also on the menu for many anglers or others who don’t enjoy traditional fishing. Crayfish boils — a Cajun staple in Louisiana and other parts of the South — taste the same in Idaho, even if they aren’t as common. And fall is a great time of year to fish for them because lower water levels make them easier to spot and capture. Crayfish are considered a game fish in Idaho. You need a license to fish for them, but there are no bag limits and you are allowed to fish for them with nets, traps and even your hands.
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Want to have your own crayfish feast? Follow these steps:
1. Find ’em: Crayfish can be found in the Boise, Snake and Payette river systems. They usually hang around rocky habitats. I won’t give away anyone’s secret holes, but there are spots as nearby as the Boise Greenbelt that are crawling with crawdads.
2. Catch ’em: Once you locate your quarry, you need to catch enough to make your effort worthwhile. If you’re in shallow water, simply flipping over rocks and scooping them with a net or your hands will work. Grab them just behind the head to avoid getting pinched. Traps are another popular method. Fill the cage-like contraptions with chicken parts, bacon or dead fish (suckers work great), and leave them in the water overnight or during a fishing trip. Keep your crayfish alive in a bucket of water.
3. Eat ’em: Now for the fun part. Clean the crayfish by rinsing them repeatedly in cool water until the rinse water comes out clear. There are various seafood boil packets and spices to try, or you can concoct your own. Some folks like to add onions, peppers, potatoes and other vegetables to the brew. There are all sorts of recipes online, but the key is to bring the water to a boil and dump the live crayfish (cooking dead ones is not recommended) into the boiling water. When the water resumes boiling, cook the crayfish for two more minutes and then turn off the heat. Most recipes recommend dumping the cooked crayfish into an empty cooler, shutting the lid and letting them “steam” for another 10-15 minutes.
Crayfish should be eaten like lobster — most of the meat is in the tail and claws. As a general rule, you need from six to 10 crayfish per person to make a meal. And everyone has their own favorite twist on the recipe, so experiment until you find your favorite.