The Bullitt County History Museum

Crawfish Fishin' in a Crawfish Hole

The following article by David Strange was originally published on 27 Sep 2015. It is archived here for your reading enjoyment.

Laynie Wollam and Aubrey Gehring crawfishing; photo by Richard Kurtz.

Did you ever go crawfish fishin' in a crawfish hole?

If not, well, you've missed out on a grand childhood activity.

Maybe you know the crawfish as a crayfish, crawlfish, crawdad, crawdaddy, or even mud bug. Names vary by region. There are hundreds of species of this lobster-like crustacean and just about as many names. Most people would think it was a shrimp.

The scary little buggers live in a hole they dig in the ground, piling up mud above it in what looks like a chimney. Such holes can be 2-3 feet deep or more, depending on the water table. They dig down for safety, but mostly to get to water. It is said the crawfish is about as wide as the hole it creates, and I have seen crawfish holes bigger than two inches in diameter. They can breathe outside of water, but must stay moist to survive for long.

Holes can interconnect. In wet areas, I have stomped on one hole and saw water spout out of other holes many feet away.

Good Bait!

Doing it the wrong way!

An old and dangerous way to get rid of crawfish was to place carbide pellets in the water, cover the hole, and light the resulting gas. The explosion can be a sight to see, if you don't blow your foot off or get mud blown in your eyes.

Crawfish are common in many wetland areas around the world, but not so much in others. I remember a school teacher friend who moved to Bullitt County. He had never heard of crawfish holes and, upon noticing a yard full of them for the first time, was told by fellow teachers that they were snake burrows. For the longest time, he was scared to death to walk outside.

Crawfish, of course, also live in creeks. I have netted many a one over the years out of creeks to use as bait for real fishing. You have to be careful of those pincers, though. Man, can they hurt!

Ah, but catching crawfish in a crawfish hole takes special patience that perhaps only a child on a long summer evening can possess.

The good thing is that you need no special equipment. As a young boy, my favorite gear was simply a long weed stem with a seedpod on the end. Some people like to use a green onion stalk or maybe a bit of bacon on a string. You take the "bait" and slip it gently down the hole, making it seem like a bug. Sooner or later, the crawfish either attacks the bait as food or gets irritated at it and snaps it with its pincer. When you feel the nudge, quickly yank the bait out and the crawfish comes with it before he thinks to let go.

My brother and I had the chore of removing the crawfish hills, or "chimneys", from the yard so Dad would not damage his lawnmower while cutting the grass. Those sun-baked-mud chimneys could be very hard, or like clay when wet. Either way, they hurt when Dale and I, being the boys we were, would throw them at each other. They made great pretend hand grenades as well when we would lob them up into the air.

Believe it or not, I have seen crows fish crawfish holes. For quite a few years in my yard I would watch several crows land, each selecting a crawfish hole, and then just stand there with beak just above the hole, set to spring like a trap. Eventually, SNAP!! When I checked later, I would often find the empty shell of the unlucky crawfish lying by its home. The crows did a good job of it, almost wiping out the crawfish population in my yard.

Honestly, I don't remember what I did with the crawfish when I caught them. One at a time was no good for a meal to me. I probably showed them off to my buddies like a hunting trophy. Ah, the days of youth...

Showing off a crawdad!

♫ You get a line and I'll get a pole, Honey,

You get a line and I'll get a pole, Babe.

You get a line and I'll get a pole,

We'll go down to the crawfish hole,

Honey, Baby mine. ♫ (folk song)

The Crawdad Song - Foggy Mountain Boys

Copyright 2015 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 08 Sep 2018 . Page URL: