Catching Crayfish in Indiana — At Last, New Rules

Probably not technically legal in Indiana, but something Euell Gibbons recommended.

Several years ago I wanted to expand my local menu a bit and was about to go crayfishing but I thought that first I should stop and check the DNR regulations about it. The info wasn’t too hard to find and at first it did sound pretty liberal. In Indiana I can fish for crayfish year-round and there’s no limit on size or number. Sounded good to me.

Then I read the details. I could catch them by hand (very slow) and with a seine (not the best way) or with a minnow trap having an opening no more than 1 inch in diameter.

Um, what? No limit on size, no limit on number, except they have to be small enough to fit through a 1 inch diameter hole. Dang it, that pretty much eliminates anything big enough to eat! There are crayfish out there the size of a small lobster! If it fits through a 1 inch hole it’s just bait! What got me started with crayfishing was a day in the Ozarks when I was catching carp big enough to pull the boat around, and I tethered the one I kept just within the shallows when I shifted to bank fishing. A few minutes later I looked down and a huge crayfish was already there, nibbling at the fins. Had to be eight inches long. I could eat that! But here in Indiana the rules were all wrong.

All set for the crayfish season! I made three new traps, designed to let the eating sized crayfish in and the bait minnows out. Now I’m waiting for warmer water.

Silly me, I assumed this was a mistake, and had a rather long email correspondence with some unfortunate person at the DNR who got stuck with answering the crazy guy. In the end she said if I just talked to the rangers they’d probably let me use an open basket trap (even though it at the time was classified as a “net with sides” and was illegal). I did not trust that to be true. Then, she asked me how long it takes me to catch enough crayfish for a meal, because she’d like to try it.

Some people just don’t understand the simple problem I expressed, how to get a decent sized crayfish through a 1 inch hole. I ended the conversation before the police came.

This year I checked the new regulations that just came out, and Hallelujah! Someone at the DNR listened to me and then passed this off as their idea and it got through. Now I can fish for crayfish using a minnow trap with a two-inch diameter entry! That’s actually not bad, lets the dinner sized crayfish into the trap. Like catching shrimp, if they are big enough to eat they are good.

When it comes down to actually eating mudbugs, some people will be squeamish. Even dogs will be squeamish, I hauled up a lobster sized crayfish by accident once and my hiking buddy Chopper did the expected thing and attacked it. Well, he tried twice, then he turned away and hacked and dry-heaved for awhile, was salivating in torrents. Yeah, ok, crayfish are an acquired taste. I understand how he felt, the first time I ever ate crayfish it was from a clear spring and crayfish I caught by hand, boiled in a tin can, and then ate on a dare. Eh, well, creepy, I sort of didn’t want to do that again. Since then I’ve eaten far worse crayfish at Red Lobster, now I’m immune and can enjoy the real thing. Crayfish are the inland seafood, the only other crab or shrimp option is “hog’s lice” or “sowbugs”, the little pillbug things you find in your garden under rotting things. I hear they taste like shrimp. As yet I have not been that poor.

If you prefer to buy a crayfish trap, better check your state regulations first. Some states are liberal, some are not. Here it has been mostly a personality thing between me and the DNR rangers, so I am using stealth methods and hope to not be bothered.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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