Getting the Most Out of Crawfish Season
If you’re a seafood lover then chances are likely that you can’t wait for crawfish season! Crawfish are like a cousin to the lobster, albeit a smaller and dingy-colored relative. They typically hang out in running bodies of water such as creeks and streams where the water is unlikely to freeze during the winter months. Crawfish season in the United States ranges from November to August, depending on the location, but the best time to find the fattest, most succulent crawfish is undoubtedly between early March and the end of May or early part of June.
Unlike other hunting and fishing sports, most states do not have a legal crawfish season in which there are specific limitations on when and how much crawfish a person can collect, although there are a few states that try to limit the sport to a period of a few months. With that in mind, if the whole family enjoys eating crawfish or if you’ve got a sizeable craving for it, then you might get the most out of crawfish season by hunting and cooking your own crawfish.
Catching Your Own Crawfish
Crawfish are easy to catch as long as you know where to look for them. In the Southern parts of the United States catching crawfish is as much a pastime for children as it is a source of food for adults. You don’t have to have any special equipment if you just want to catch a few crawfish, but if you want something on a larger scale—say you’re having a cook out with a lot of friends or family members—then you might want to consider purchasing a trap. In order to catch your own crawfish you need something to scoop them up, such as a large plastic cup or even a plastic ice cream bucket. You might also like to have a pair of gloves, a cooler, and a bag of ice with a few holes punched throughout.
The best place to find crawfish is under large rocks and debris out towards the middle of a creek or other form of running water. Once crawfish season comes around you probably won’t have trouble spotting them in shallow water. Crawfish prefer running waters because it provides better protection and escape from animals that might try to eat them. If things get too sticky they can simply come out of their hiding spot and let the water carry them safely away from harm. Try not to lift rocks up willy-nilly in a search for crawfish. Lift the rocks slowly so that you don’t startle the crawfish; this will also prevent loosening too much mud which could make the water so murky that you can’t see the crawfish scuttle away. When you see the crawfish, sit your cup or bucket down into the water on the bottom of the creek bed with the opening facing the back of the crawfish. Take a stick or use your gloved hand to slowly chase the crawfish into the bucket. If your hand or the stick is moving towards the front of the crawfish he will likely back into the bucket without even knowing it.
As soon as you’ve caught a crawfish you should put it into the cooler with the punctured ice bag. It’s a good idea to use a punctured ice bag instead of standing water because it helps to mimic the crawfish’s natural environment of running water—plus, you don’t want the crawfish to drown! The holes in the ice bag will allow the water to drip onto the crawfish as the ice melts. Because of this factor it’s definitely worth getting a cooler with a drain spout so that you can periodically empty some of the water from the cooler.
Crawfish should be stored in the cooler with ice until you are ready to cook them. The sooner you cook the crawfish, the fresher and better they will taste. Keep the cooler in a cool, shady spot outside or inside your refrigerator if you have enough room there.
Tips for Cooking Crawfish
If at all possible try to keep the crawfish alive until you are ready to cook them. Just like lobster, the crawfish should be boiled or steamed alive so that it tastes fresh and retains a good amount of moisture. To prepare the crawfish for cooking you should first purge them of any excess dirt and debris. The best way to do this is to wash them with clean running water. You can do this by placing them in a cooler with the spout open as you hose the crawfish off or you could do the same in a bathtub. Close the drain and top up the water so that it just covers the crawfish. Use a 16 ounce can of salt to sprinkle over the crawfish. Leave them to purge for about 10 minutes.
Once the 10 minutes is up you can rinse the crawfish and drop them into a big pot of seasoned boiling water. The crawfish only need to cook at a boil for about five minutes, after which time you can turn off the burner; but be sure to let the crawfish sit in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes so that they can absorb the seasonings. Serve the crawfish hot with a bit of butter and lemon or any preferred crawfish sauce.