In the murky fulsomeness of Leighton’s canals and river, armoured, scuttling food lurks. I dont often go in for animal protein, more due to the fact I am crap at catching stuff rather than having any ethical boundary on this. However, in a survival situation, (or if you, like me, have overspent this month on stupidly priced gym trainers and passport applications ) the Signal Crayfish forms a lifeline that makes a nice change from baked beans.
Signal crays are an invasive species, carrying a fungus which is killing off our native White Clawed crayfish. Its easy to tell the difference – signals have red underneath their claws and are bigger. Indeed, you are legally obliged NOT to throw them back in if you catch one (though i am not sure what happens if you do…maybe transportation to Australia 😉
However if you plan on catching them to sell to restaurants you need a licence.
So how do you catch them?
If youve got a spare day to sit about and do jack all, hang a baited line in the water, any scraps of meat or smally fish will do. just pull them up and they will hang on the bait, not being too bright.
If, like me, you have things to be getting on with, your best option is a trap. Easy option, got o a fishing shop and buy one for £5. But why do that when you can have fun doing it the hard way?
I made several 7 foot traps from hazel, osier willow and weeping willow. Also crack willow, which I wish I hadn’t as it lived up to its name.
You need a bait bag held in the centre of the trap and a removeable entrance funnel or door in the side to get the little blighters out afterwards. The willow also needs soaking beforehand. bait the trap by shoving some sardines or bacon rinds etc into the bait bag, close it up and weight the trap inside with something, I used a cast iron chimney collar but a brick or rocks will do. attach ropes at each end and sling it in for 2 or 3 days.
Pull up, try not to smell the slimy brown gunk that covers the trap or it will seriously put you off your dinner. wear strong gloves. Open the trap and grab the crays at the back behind their claws…i got a nasty slash right down the meat of my thumb when i didnt wear gloves once…those critters don’t want to die and I cant blame them. Chuck them in a bucket of clean water. People told me to leave them in for a few days, I did, and they always died…til i realised all the lovely fluoride and chlorine bleach in our nice drinking water was making them shuffle off this mortal coil.
So how to end their lives amicably as possible, and how to cook them? for that you’ll need Part 2, as this has gone on rather a long time!!