Catchin’ Crayfish in Lake Tahoe

how to cook crawdads

I was surprised when I read that Nevada recently issued the first commercial permit to harvest crayfish from Lake Tahoe. It’s believed the crawdads were introduced to the lake sometime in the 1800’s and the population has since grown to an estimated 220 million according to an article on the University of Nevada, Reno website. While I was oblivious to the fact that the lake was full of little crustaceans, I was fully aware that crawdads are in fact delicious. So armed with a crawdad trap and the responsibility to do my part to keep Tahoe blue, I headed out to the east shore to catch my next meal.

How to catch crawdads:

The easiest way to catch crawdads is with a trap, which can be purchased from most sporting goods stores. The trap is made of wire netting. It’s cylindrical with conical shaped holes at either end that allow crawdads and small fish to enter but not exit the trap. I suggest attaching the trap to some sort of buoy (an empty milk jug works) with about 10 feet of rope. This will help you keep track of your trap.

I chose a small can of wet cat food as bait because it is cheap, but I have heard of people having success with tuna, salami and sardines.  Punch a few small holes around the circumference of the can and place it in the trap. The idea is to let the scent out, without allowing the water to wash the bait away.

Set the trap in a rocky area where it is completely submerged. Try to place it in such a way that it is easy for the crawdads to crawl into the entrance. Sit back and relax, have a beer, read a book and work on that suntan. Check the trap every hour or so, toss back any crawdads that are smaller than 3-4 inches. Keep the ones you want to eat in a bucket of water in the shade. You want to keep the crawdads alive until you are ready to cook them.

How to cook the crawdads:

Rinse the crustaceans well and boil them in a large pot for 3-4 minutes, or until they are dead and turn bright red. To eat them, you remove the tail from the body by twisting it away. Use your thumbs to break the top of the tail in half lengthwise and remove the meat. Remove the intestinal tract before eating as you would with shrimp. If the claws are large enough, they usually hide a sweet bite of meat as well.

eating crawdads

  I served the crawdads with the following recipe.

1 cup rice

¼ small onion – diced

½ red bell pepper – diced

½ green bell pepper – diced

1 jalapeno – finely chopped

5 cloves garlic – finely chopped

4 Andouille sausages – cut into rounds

Cajun seasoning – to taste

18  Live Crawdads rinsed

Cook the rice according to directions on package, I seasoned the water with Cajun seasoning.

In a skillet, brown the sausage rounds. Add the vegetables and garlic and cook until soft.

Stir in cooked rice and keep everything warm while cooking the crawdads according to the directions above.

This article has previously appeared in the Sierra Nevada College student newspaper The Eagle’s Eye.