Making a Montana boil

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

The next time you go fishing in Central Montana, keep your eyes open. You might just spy the prairie’s answer to a lobster, the crayfish.

These crustaceans are native east of the Divide in Montana, and are a common site in local ponds and lakes. They are one of the less popular catches, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith.

Lewistown’s FWP handles a few crayfish questions every year, but the interest is low enough that FWP doesn’t regulate their capture.

“They are not a managed species, meaning we don’t regulate the intake of them,” Smith said. “From our perspective, they’re like a nongame animal.”

Smith added anyone looking to catch the crustaceans would need a fishing license, though. Most people use traps to collect crayfish, and Smith said there were a few rules limiting the size of a trap, and requiring its owner to have contact information attached.

Crayfish are omnivorous scavengers, eating plant and animal matter at the bottom of water bodies. Smith said they’re also a bit shy.

“They hide,” he said. “They prefer to live in areas where there is cover present to hide in, so rocks, woody debris or large aquatic vegetation.”

This means traps with pungent bait left to sit in the water are the best bet, according to Smith.

“Stinky is probably good,” he said.

Google can provide several DIY designs for crayfish traps, but Lewistown stores stock some, too. John Tognetti, owner of The Sport Center, said every year his store gets a few requests.

“Not all the time, but a few times,” he said. “We sell a crawdad trap similar to a minnow trap.”

Like Smith, Tognetti recommended strong bait, adding it didn’t have to be expensive.

“Crawdads are scavengers, so they’ll come after just about anything,” he said. “You can put a little chunk of liver in, or a can of cat food: something that’s got a little odor to it.”

Crayfish can be used as bait, but Tognetti said most people are after them for food.

“You need multiple crawdads to make it worth your while,” he said. “Three of four, that’s just a couple of mouthfuls.”

Dale Pfau at Don’s Store also sees a few people every year looking to catch a crustacean dinner. He remembers when crayfish started showing up on the menu in Central Montana.

“When the people came through putting the missile bases in, a lot of those guys were from down south,” he said. “It was at that point in time we realized that crayfish were not too bad to eat.”

In fact, Pfau still knows people that have a crayfish boil every summer.

“You set the trap in the evening, pull it up in the morning and usually you have crayfish,” he said.With 1 photo

 

Creating a Montana boil

 

By JENNY GESSAMAN | Reporter

 

The next time you go fishing in Central Montana, keep your eyes open. You might just spy the prairie’s answer to a lobster, the crayfish

These crustaceans are native east of the Divide in Montana, and are a common site in local ponds and lakes. They are one of the less popular catches, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith.

Lewistown’s FWP handles a few crayfish questions every year, but the interest is low enough that FWP doesn’t regulate their capture.

“They are not a managed species, meaning we don’t regulate the intake of them,” Smith said. “From our perspective, they’re like a nongame animal.”

Smith added anyone looking to catch the crustaceans would need a fishing license, though. Most people use traps to collect crayfish, and Smith said there were a few rules limiting the size of a trap, and requiring its owner to have contact information attached.

Crayfish are omnivorous scavengers, eating plant and animal matter at the bottom of water bodies. Smith said they’re also a bit shy.

“They hide,” he said. “They prefer to live in areas where there is cover present to hide in, so rocks, woody debris or large aquatic vegetation.”

This means traps with pungent bait left to sit in the water are the best bet, according to Smith.

“Stinky is probably good,” he said.

Google can provide several DIY designs for crayfish traps, but Lewistown stores stock some, too. John Tognetti, owner of The Sport Center, said every year his store gets a few requests.

“Not all the time, but a few times,” he said. “We sell a crawdad trap similar to a minnow trap.”

Like Smith, Tognetti recommended strong bait, adding it didn’t have to be expensive.

“Crawdads are scavengers, so they’ll come after just about anything,” he said. “You can put a little chunk of liver in, or a can of cat food: something that’s got a little odor to it.”

Crayfish can be used as bait, but Tognetti said most people are after them for food.

“You need multiple crawdads to make it worth your while,” he said. “Three of four, that’s just a couple of mouthfuls.”

Dale Pfau at Don’s Store also sees a few people every year looking to catch a crustacean dinner. He remembers when crayfish started showing up on the menu in Central Montana.

“When the people came through putting the missile bases in, a lot of those guys were from down south,” he said. “It was at that point in time we realized that crayfish were not too bad to eat.”

In fact, Pfau still knows people that have a crayfish boil every summer.

“You set the trap in the evening, pull it up in the morning and usually you have crayfish,” he said.

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