As covered in our previous article, crayfish make great bait, not only for bass, but for other fish as well. However, crayfish often die and go foul before you take them to the lake. I remember the first time that I went fishing with crayfish. After catching about 40 of them at a local creek, I put them in a bucket with a lid and left them for about a week. I didn't drill any air holes, have an aerator installed, or change the water. Needless to say, when I opened up the bucket a week after, a foul smell and maggots greeted me. In this article we will go in depth about the proper storage and care of live crayfish before you use them to go fishing.
Above: When storing them in water without an aerator, make sure that the water is not over their heads; otherwise, they can drown.
Most people store their live crayfish by putting them in a bucket, filled with water, with an air pump, similar to how one would store live minnows for bait. While that method does work for short term storage, it certainly isn't ideal.
Crayfish are unlike fish in that they have specialized gills that can breathe underwater as well as outside of water, provided that the gills are kept moist. If you have ever bought or kept pet hermit crabs, they have a similar kind of gill, only even more specialized. Of course, in order to breathe air, they must first have access to it. These specialized gills have evolved to allow crayfish to live in oxygen poor aquatic environments, such as swamps and ditches, thus, they prefer shallow water. If you keep crayfish in deep, oxygen poor water with no means of getting out of it, they will "drown". While the aerator work for a time to keep oxygen in the water, eventually the bottom, where the crayfish are, will be oxygen deleted, and they will drown; unlike fish, crayfish can't swim up the water column to near the surface, where there is more oxygen. The aerator not only will be a waste of electricity, it may also not work in keeping your bait alive. I used to use the before mentioned method, but I would often have massive die backs.
The method I prefer will not require an aerator, so it will save you method. It involves cleaning up a plastic tub (crayfish are sensitive to some metals and chemicals, such as copper), and filling it with a layer of 0.5"-1" with stream water. Make sure the water is not too high so that the crayfish can drown. Drill some air holes and put on a lid; crayfish are very talented escape artists, Next, add some stones that are above water level so the crayfish can crawl out of the water to breathe.
Finally, add your crayfish. Don't overcrowd them; if you do, crayfish will fight and some will die. Put the tub into a fridge, near the door. The cool air will slow down their metabolism so they don't need as much oxygen and don't pollute the water as much.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.