When you’re travelling the vast landscape of Australia, sure you can pop down to a supermarket before you leave and stock up whenever you come across one in a town or city, but sometimes the best meals are the ones you catch and kill yourself.
Crayfish come in three families and be found in both hemispheres in the Americas, Eurasia, Australasia and Madagascar. They don’t like polluted waters but can be found in nearly any other kind of body of freshwater such as creeks and rivers, marshes and swamps or even ditches and rice paddies.
The signs of a crayfish being around a body of water are that they dig burrows into the shoreline or banks of the water source and that they cannibalise other crayfish, leaving bits and pieces of their prey around the area.
To catch a crayfish is quite simple, but smelly and messy, and takes patience. Take some bait, rotten fish is the best, and place it along the shoreline or just in the water upstream of the burrows; the crayfish will come to investigate and eat the bait, even right in front of you. Sometimes you can take you time catching some, but others you’ll have to be quick grabbing them. Again, be careful as they have some wicked claws with a nasty pinch, and don’t be frustrated if you a crayfish or two get away, you will lose some, but there are plenty more.
Once they’re out in the open approach the crayfish from behind or from an angle and grab them around the body where the legs are, being careful not to put anybody pat in front of them or in reach of their claws. Once caught place them in a bag or container for safe transport.
As crayfish are often found in places where the ground is damp and wet you don’t want the ground to affect the heat of your fire when cooking. One way to do this is to cut some dry wood from trees, particular ones that are dead and still standing, or carry some dry wood with you, and make a base or a raft on the ground. Stack the wood on the ground neatly in a row, preferably on flat or level ground for obvious safety reasons, then place two pieces of wood in a triangle as a way to control the flow of oxygen and create some distance between the tinder and the fuel-wood; for better results create a double raft and stack another layer of wood on top in a cross pattern. Don’t use wood you find on or low to the ground as it will be damp and not catch easily, produce weaker or colder fire, and produce lots of smoke.
Great for smoke signals, not great for cooking.
Once you’ve got a good fire going you’re ready to cook. There are two main ways to cook crayfish. One is bring a pot or billy of water to a full rolling boil and pop the crayfish in, killing them instantly and effectively painless. Another way is to sever the spinal cord, also allowing you to remove the waste pipe in one go, then place them on the fire either as they are or on a skewer, or again into boiling water.
To sever the crayfish’s spine, take a knife and find the small gap just behind its head. It’s a simple action, just push the knife through the shell and soft innards and sever the spine in one go. There will be some movement of the body even after death, that’s the same for all animals, it’s just the internal motors and muscles shutting down. To remove the waste pipe, take the main or central fin of the tail and break it until you hear a click, then simply pull and remove from the body. There should be a pipe or tube attached to the fin leading into the body, hopefully, it’s not broken. Simply pull the whole thing from the body and discard.
To actually cook them, as said throw them in the fire either on their own or skewered, or in a billy of boiling water until they are a nice reddish-orange in colour, maybe a bit darker in places. Rip the tail or the claws off to check the meat inside, as it should be white in colour with slight orange colour from the shell. Break the rest of the shell, particular the tail and claws, then serve with your choice of dressing and a drink.
And that is how you enjoy yourself some crayfish.
Video created by MCQ Bushcraft & Wilderness Life – http://www.MCQBushcraft.co.uk