Thanks to Tony and Nathanial for their patience in teaching me
the means of walking Dominica's rainforests & rivers, and
tutoring me in the art of enticing Dominica's freshwater
on to a bent-pin hook.
Fishing for crayfish in Dominica is a lot different than seining
crawdads in Kansas, USA! Crayfish grow to the size of dinner plates or
car hubcaps (the ones in the images (see right) are small to
Pursuing crayfish here is something that not everyone can
do or will ever experience, even for most locals. Moving
through the crayfish's environment is, in a word, perilous.
Not the act of fishing itself, but the journey, literally in
the water... walking ankle, knee, thigh, waist, over-head-deep, up,
over and around giant boulders, piles of rocks, down or
waterfalls ...typical of Dominica's rainforest rivers and
Here, because of the incredibly thick plant life tangle and
mostly vertical river banks and cliffs, walking along or near
the shore is mostly impossible... one can only walk in the
The gear used
to catch crayfish is basically simple. A flexible, six
feet long tree sapling, finger width in diameter tapering
to about an eighth of an inch at the tip, works as the pole.
A sewing needle, bent into the shape of hook is tied to 12 feet of 4 pound test line. Young crayfish,
the size of one's little finger, hand-caught
at location are used for bait. Tiny pieces of their tail meat
and body is
carefully placed on the hook. The hook is then lightly
tacked to the tip of the pole. The loose line is then pulled
to the base of the pole, the now doubled line pulled taut and secured by finger.
the actual searching for and catching begins, the attention of
the crustacean must be gained. In an attempt to make them
consider coming out from beneath their hiding places in crevices
and holes beneath rocks, logs and outcrops, a couple handfuls of
finely chopped coconut meat is tossed to the current just
upstream from target pools.
After a few
minutes waiting for the coconut flakes to mix in the river,
the search begins. Stealthily walking in the crystal clear
water, sometimes swimming, wearing a diving mask, one
quietly looks beneath the surface for a target of suitable
size. Once one is spotted, the pole tip with secured
bait is placed directly in front of the intended catch.
Lured quickly, the crayfish first grabs the pole with one of
its large claws. It then moves closer so that its maxillaes -
(tiny jaw-feet, that help manipulate food) can
grab the tiny bait and hook. Smaller appendages next
move the bait to the animal's mouth for tasting.
bait is worth eating, it's then taken deeper into the mouth
where, after a few moments the line can be released and the
pole slowly raised tightening the line and setting the hook.
Once caught, patience is important, as often the the
crayfish will back into its hiding hole, forcefully
resisting the tension and pull of the line. Finally,
perhaps after 5-10 minutes, the fisher having exercised
caution not to break the line, the crayfish stubbornly can
be pulled to the surface.
be taken when removing the crayfish from the hook as it's
long arms and powerfully sharp claws can reach back nearly
180° to inflict pain on any human body part it can grab.
lobster, crayfish meat is whiter, sweeter and softer.
no rock!" my friend Tony Roudette told me matter-of-factly,
just before he turned and stepped, barefoot, from the tangled
grassy trail that ended abruptly in a quick current of river
water. Believing the words and emphasis in his voice, I
barefoot, into the chilly
swirl of rushing water.
myriad of stones of all sizes begin to harshly
massage the bottoms of my feet with every step.
Wearing shoes or sandals here would simply be a slick-quick motion of
an accident occurring. To move in some form of false security one needs to feel each toe
and portion of foot as it is touches the minefield of
moss-slick, wet and odd shaped rocks, boulders and stones.
Real movement for
me is a repetitious awkward ballet of squeezing through narrow or
low points, hopping, skipping and balancing, mixed with slow and
cautious three and
four-point contact climbing... this hand purposely put here,
foot there, fingertips here.... around over
and up jumbles of boulders, fallen tree logs and jams.
Ahead, a butcher
knife in one hand, pole and sack of coconut in
the other, Tony moves, both cat-like and
mountain goat-like, hopping, skipping,
trotting, near running from one boulder, one
stepping stone, to the next. Nathaniel tactfully
moves in the middle position as we traverse the
I'm coming, I let them know, all the while
appreciative of their patience, my learning,
my joining the river with them in this
"Trust no rock."