I grew up in the Rio Grande River Valley and, as a kid, had many great adventures fishing the irrigation ditches and river close to my house.
Fishing for crawdads in the irrigation ditches was something that my buddies and I would do on hot summer days. This is a fun activity to do with kids and a really easy opportunity to try out.
All you need is a 5-foot stick, 10 feet of string, a clothespin, weight and bacon or hotdogs for bait (any firm lunch meat works well, too). A fishing pole also works great for catching crawdads and eliminates the need for a stick and the 10 feet of string.
How to make your crawdad rig
1. Tie one end of the string through the metal spring of the clothespin.
2. Thread weight onto your string. You can use a fishing weight, nut, washer or any sort of weight that can be placed on the string a couple inches away from the clothespin.
3. Use the clothespin to secure a piece of bacon or another meat bait of your preference.
4. Tie the loose end of your string to your stick.
Now you’re ready to fish for crawdads
But first, you’ll just need to locate the habitat structure where they like to live. Crawdads like to live under rocks because it gives them protection from predators and the water’s current. In the irrigation ditches, you can often find good crawdad habitat around bridges where the ditch goes under a road.
There will often be loose or undercut rock/concrete on either side of the bridge. I prefer the downstream end of the bridge because it is safer to access and usually has better habitat.
Once you find a promising spot with large rock/concrete or an undercut bank, toss your baited clothespin into the ditch and let it sink to the bottom near the rocks. Crawdads have exceptional sensory organs that help them detect the bait.
If crawdads are present, they usually detect and latch onto your bait in under five minutes. Once they find it, they use their claws to pinch and latch onto the bait. They do not want the bait to get away and will travel with it if they must.
Detecting when a crawdad has latched onto your bait takes some practice. Sometimes you will see the string move or feel the tension created by the crawdad dragging your bait to a safe place where they can consume it.
Other times, you will not know one is latched onto your bait until you gently raise the bait to the water’s surface and see the crawdad.
Whether you sense a latched-on crawdad or are periodically checking to see if one is there, you want to gently raise the bait to the water’s surface. If there is a crawdad latched to your bait, continue to gently lift the crawdad out of the water and over the bank.
Sometimes the crawdad will release the bait before being caught, but you will be surprised how often they cling to the bait, refusing to let it go!
You can pick up crawdads with your hands by carefully and gently pinching them behind their claws with your index finger and thumb. Just be careful not to get pinched yourself. A net is also a good option for handling caught crawdads.
If you know any kids that have not tried fishing for crawdads, take them out and show them what to do. It is a great fun educational outdoor activity for them to enjoy.
Let’s also talk about how fishing with crawdads as bait, or using artificial crawdads, can help you catch a lot of fish. Pike, bass, catfish, walleye and other large predatory fish love eating crawdads.
I used a 2.5-inch plastic crawdad rigged on a 1/4-ounce white jig head to catch a lot of bass at Navajo Lake last summer. It is a green and red color with black flakes.
Many lakes in our state have crawdads that can be caught using this same method described above in rocky areas of the lake.
Fishing with a slip bobber
Sometimes when fishing with a traditional bobber your bait stays too shallow; other times, when using weight, your bait gets too deep.
The solution? Fish using a slip bobber. This allows you to get your bait to the desired depth. For example, if you want to fish your bait 20-feet deep and the lake is 40 feet deep, a slip bobber is the perfect solution.
This is how a slip bobber works: The bobber can freely slide up and down the fishing line until it is stopped by a “bobber stop.” The bobber stop is a small rubber bead or knot threaded onto your fishing line that stays in place.
To execute a slip bobber setup, identify the depth at which you wish to fish. For this example, we will use 20 feet. Pull 20 feet of fishing line out of your reel, with nothing tied to the end of the line. Then, place a bobber stop at the 20-foot mark.
Next, thread a slip bobber onto your line below the stop. Below the bobber, tie a swivel to the fishing line and then tie on about three feet of leader to the other end of the swivel. Lastly, tie on your hook and bait to the very end of the leader. If your bait is not heavy enough to sink, add split shot weights to the leader a couple of feet away from your bait.
When put together properly, you should be able to cast your slip bobber setup with bait out into the lake. The bobber and bait land in the water and the bait with weight begins to sink. The bobber floats while allowing the line to pass through it, drawn down by the weight of the bait that is sinking.
Once the bait has sunk 20 feet deep, the line passing through the slip bobber stops because the rubber bead bobber stop reaches the slip bobber and does not allow the line to pass through further.
I’ve had good success using live minnows baited below a slip bobber rig for catching walleye and bass. I am sure it would work for many other species of fish using a variety of baits.
(If you have personal tips and tricks that you would like to share with your fellow anglers as we wait out the current restrictions, email Dustin at firstname.lastname@example.org.)