Dominica Living - Fishing Dominica - Freshwater Crayfish
  Fishing Dominica
    

Freshwater
Crayfish

 

 

 

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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 crayfish on to a bent-pin hook.

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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 medium sized.

  
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 around waterfalls ...typical of Dominica's rainforest rivers and streams. 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 river.

 

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 taught back to the base of the pole, the now doubled line pulled taut and secured by finger. 

 

But, before 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. 

 

Satisfied the 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. 

 

Caution must 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.

 

Boiled like lobster, crayfish meat is whiter, sweeter and softer.
 

 

"Trust 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 followed...

 

 

...likewise, barefoot, into the chilly swirl of rushing water.

 

Immediately, a 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 river. 

 
I'm coming, I let them know, all the while appreciative of their patience, my learning, my joining the river with them in this incredible place.

  

 
 

"Trust no rock."