Crawfish, crayfish or crawdads: no matter what you call them, the popular freshwater crustaceans can be found in bodies of water throughout the U.S. They make for tasty meals, and are a staple in certain southern cuisines. While Louisiana tops the list of the best places to catch crawfish, it’s not the only spot rife with these delicious critters. Here, we run down 10 of the best places for crawfish catching, from the bayou and beyond.
Where to go: The Atchafalaya Basin
Best time of year: January thru June
What to expect: Louisiana – and specifically the city’s Beaux Bridge – is known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” and is has been home to some of the largest crawfish festival in the country since 1959. The Atchafalaya Basin in the southwest part of the state is particularly good for catching crawfish, especially in June. Basin crawfishing depends on the river’s activity, and a good flow will nurture the crawfish and bait to draw them into the net traps. The Atchafalaya Basin is a large area full of spots to catch crawfish, so you can practically look in any water source along the area and find crawfish.
Louisiana/Mississippi Border, USA
Where to go: Honey Island Swamp, either side of the Mississippi River
Best time of year: Mid-March thru Mid- May
What to expect: When in the area of the swamp, you will want to check where the cars are parked or look for the trails, then pull over. From there, you can simply start walking, and you will be able to catch them anywhere. If you have a huge fear of snakes, this may not be your place. There are many cottonmouths in the area. So as long as snakes do not startle you too much, it is worth the risk for the amount of crawfish you will catch. Parking alongside the road and making your way down the trails becomes a truly nostalgic experience. If you are wanting to enjoy a truly traditional swamp experience you can check out Honey Island Swap Tours. The tours begin at Crawford Landing in Slidell, off of the Old Pearl River.
Where to go: The Clark Fork and Kootenai Rivers, Northern Idaho
Best time of year: June – August
What to expect: If you’re a fan of crawfish and heading to northern Idaho, you’re in luck. The Clark Fork and Kootenai Rivers, which run through the panhandle of Idaho, have some jumbo ones that are sure to satisfy your cravings. State biologists have even found crawfish weighing 6-7.5 pounds.
The area is full of beautiful lakes and rivers and lush forests, and you’ll likely spot deer and elk as you drive alongside the river to scope out a good crawfishing hole. While there isn’t one specific go-to place on the river, if you go during the warm summer months and search for clear, gently flowing or still water sources, you’ll likely find your fill.
Idaho crawfish have some sneaky tactics to avoid capture, so best to use a trap. If you are planning to wade around in shallow waters looking for them, however, make sure take some time to shuffle rocks and other debris around.
Where to go: Escambia River, Floridatown landing. Located on the eastern shore of Escambia Bay, near the mouth of the river in Pace, Florida.
Best time of year: Early Spring
What to expect: The Escambia River has its headwaters in southern Alabama and is called the Conecuh in that state, changing names as it comes into Florida as it drains into Pensacola Bay. It is the fourth largest river in Florida and harbors the richest assemblage of native North American freshwater fish of any Florida river, among these are crawfish. The crawfish in this river tend to be smaller but plentiful.
After a day of crawishing you can head over to miles of trails for hiking and biking. You can also find a variety of water sports in the area outside of crawfishing. The seas in this area are calm which provide more recreational opportunities. The Pensacola Crawfish Festival is held in April each year and has run in the heart of historic downtown for nearly 30 years.
Where to go: Greensboro, Alabama, along Big German Creek
Best time of year: End of February through early March
What to expect: Alabama is a great habitat for crawfish because the soil is favorable for burrowing. However, that makes them a bit more challenging to catch. Unlike some locations where you can set big traps out in the water and pull them in later, catching crawfish in Alabama might require more adventure. Many of the crawfish here burrow up to 15 feet deep, so prepare to get wet and muddy because this will likely feel more like clam digging than fishing or trapping. You will want to be cautious of where you are catching the crawfish, as many property owners in this area have set up crawfish farms. Though that may put a damper on your adventure, you could easily find locals to chat about crawfishing, and if you are lucky, they may share some of their secrets.
Where to go: Chicken Creek, a Tennessee stream near the hamlets Green Acres and Lancelot Acres. Located 1.8 miles from Pulaski, in Giles County. Chicken Creek is a tributary of the Little Pigeon River’s West Fork, a major regional river.
Best time of year: Late February thru May
What to expect: Crawfishing is less popular in Tennessee than in some other areas of the south, but with a little time and persistence, you’ll find some. The area surrounding Chicken Creek Tis known for its natural beauty, rolling hills, forests, scenic streams, and rivers. Several parks and recreational areas are nearby, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just a short drive to the east. It is also popular for canoeing and kayaking, especially during the spring and early summer when water levels are typically higher. This area is a natural retreat for both locals and those who visit.
Where to go: The Little Red River in Arkansas winds its way through the gateway of the Ozarks near Heber Springs, Arkansas.
Best time of year: May thru July and again in September and October
What to expect: This river has abundant aquatic life, and among those critters are crawfish. Arkansas is home to nearly 60 species of crawfish, including 13 found only in Arkansas. The upper sections of the Little Red have several full-service marinas, resorts and access to fishing guides and equipment, so you won’t be alone or empty-handed on your adventure. Public and private resort launch areas are on both sides of the river. You will also find plenty of hiking trails overlooking the river and a trout hatchery, so you can head out on another adventure after catching your share of crawfish.
Where to go: Spavinaw and Saline Creek watersheds in southern Delaware County
Best time of year: March thru May
What to expect: The Oklahoma cave crawfish, a small and delicate species, thrives in this area. This species is particularly vulnerable to environmental threats such as groundwater pollution and human disturbance. You can find them in shallow groundwater underneath portions of the Spavinaw and Saline Creek watersheds.
If you plan to crawfish here, you should ensure you have the necessary permits and follow all regulations for fishing in the area. You should use a small, non-invasive trap that will not cause harm to the crayfish or their habitat. It’s important to immediately release any undersized or unwanted crawfish into the water and avoid disrupting or damaging the surrounding environment due to the delicate nature of this species. You can enjoy the thrill of catching crawfish while also protecting the delicate ecosystem of the Oklahoma cave crawfish and its habitat.
Where to go: Crawfish Creek, a stream located just 1.9 miles from Chickamauga, in Walker County, Georgia, near Red Belt, Georgia.
Best time of year: Year-round, with late fall and early winter being the best times
What to expect: The state’s many lakes, streams, and rivers are brimming with tasty crustaceans, making it a popular destination for anglers looking for a fun and delicious adventure. You will want to look for these critters in areas that have rocky surfaces. If there are few predators nearby, you may catch one to two pounds in a single trip. Before you head out to catch crawfish, be sure to check with the local wildlife department for the most up-to-date fishing regulations as there may be specific rules in place.
Where to go: Topanga creek in southern California
Best time of year: July through October
What to expect: Yes, you can crawfish in California. Topanga Creek actually has a problematic red swamp crayfish population and as such, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) frequently coordinates crawfish round-ups and other types of removal programs in the area to help control it. Crawfish in California like to hang out under rock piles or branches in slow-moving creek waters. The red swamp crayfish primarily inhabit swamps, burrowing into the mud. Unfortunately for the area’s rice farmers, paddy fields sometimes become the “swamp” choice of the area’s crawfish, and can cause distress to farmers. If you are lucky, maybe you can befriend a local rice farmer and get in on the action.
It’s important to note that crawfish seasons and regulations vary by state, and it’s important to obtain the necessary permits and follow local laws and guidelines. With a little research and patience, however, you can enjoy a delicious crawfish boil with fresh, locally caught crawfish.