When fishing means finding the King of Crawdads
When my beau asked me if I liked the taste of lobster, I thought he was gonna take me out for some fine seafood.
I didn’t realize I’d be spending the day foraging for my own dinner underneath slime-covered rocks in some river. I say some river because I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
I can only say it’s somewhere in this state or the one next door. If I gave up my man’s top-secret Redneck Lobstering digs I think it could go on my permanent record.
I’m not gonna push it.
Especially since I’ve tasted these babies.
Call them crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs or crawfish.
I call them Redneck Lobsters.
It’s an accurate descriptor for these pint-sized lobster taste-alikes, especially when they’re served with squirts of juice from a fake plastic lemon, melted margarine and washed down with barely-cold Busch beer.
These babies come sans the hassle of waiting in line at Red Lobster for two hours and the pricey dinner ticket. All it costs for a fine meal of Redneck Lobsters is gas money and a few hours of your time.
It’s the only kind of lobster this working girl can afford.
We set out early on a Sunday morning and within two hours arrived at the secret spot just a short drive from the Interstate.
He brought along a crawdad trap he’d purchased at a local outdoors store and the bones and skins from a six-piece fried chicken for bait. After we set the trap in a hole in the river, we were ready to go hunting.
Armed with a minnow net, I followed him upriver as he flipped over large rocks. My job sounded easy enough: Watch for the crawdads to swim out from under the rocks, net ‘em and put them in a bucket.
Little did I know that crawdads (A) are the same color as the muddy river bottom and (B) swim at the speed of light.
“There’s one. Git it,” he yelled as the little bugger brushed between my legs and up the river.
It took a while to get the hang of it. I fumbled around plenty, murking up the water with clouds of silt as I stumbled and slipped on rocks.
Before long, I gained an eye for the good hiding spots.
“I bet there’s some under that rock,” I’d say, pointing to a 200-pound boulder in shoulder-deep water and watch as he strained all manly-like to flip it over for me.
“Well, it looked like a spot where I’d have hidden if I was a crawdad. How about that one over there?”
It went on like this for a few hours, until our bucket was nearly half full.
It was enough, we’d decided, and went to check our trap.
Unfortunately, it had come apart and all that remained was the bait, but I was pleased with the haul we’d made netting and scooping.
Once we got home, we couldn’t help but have some fun with our food. The kitchen drain board became a sparring ring where soldiers like Daddy One Claw and Little Snipper and Clutch faced off for the title of King of the Crawdads.
It was real entertaining for the kids and I won’t lie—I had fun, too.
After cleaning and cooking our bounty (I used a crab boil recipe I found online), we sat down to one of the finest meals I’d had in a long time.
There was no white tablecloth.
The lemon wasn’t fresh-squeezed.
But the company was good, the beer was good enough and, for an Idaho girl who can’t tell the difference between real lobster and the redneck varietal, it was a 5-star meal.KEEP IT LEGAL - Be sure to check your state’s fishing regulations before you go Redneck Lobstering. Montana requires a valid fishing license to harvest crawdads and has regulations limiting the size of traps used. In Idaho there is no limit on crawdad harvest, but you must have a valid fishing license and it needs to be open season for fishing. Traps can be used, but must be marked with the owner’s name and address.
WHERE TO LOOK - Crayfish can be found in the spaces under and between rocks, beneath sticks and logs and hiding in the mud. Use a net to catch them as they swim (they swim backward and real quick) or just reach down and grab them by their backs, watching for the pinchers.
HOW TO PREPARE - Keep your bounty in water or on ice until you’re ready to start cooking. Purge the crawfish by placing them in a tub, rinsing until the water is clear and then boil in hot water until they turn bright red. Try crab boil seasoning or make your own. The Internet is a good source of recipes.
HOW TO EAT - The good meat is in the tail. Pull off the tail, break it open and pull the meat out. Season with lemon juice and dip in melted butter. If the claws are large, there’s meat in there, too. Try sucking the head, which is full of tasty fat and seasonings, after pulling off the tail.
A CRAWDAD RECIPE FROM DUKE - (Ed. Note: please don’t mention to Duke what Taryn said about fake lemon and margarine.) Duke shares a recipe for Salt-n-Pepper Crabs that he thinks would work well with crawdads. Take 3/4 cup flour and blend with 1/2 cup sweet paprika, 2–3 tbsp. salt and 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper. Dredge the crawdads in this mixture, then fry in a wok with this secret oil recipe: 8 cups vegetable oil, 12 long, hot red wax chiles, chopped, 3 1/2’’ piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped, 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and chopped. Heat about 20 minutes, then set aside overnight.
Taryn Hecker is a freelance writer and photographer. She owns Taryn A. Hecker Photography in Spirit Lake