It’s a Trap!
Gotcha’! I bet you thought I was going to write another article on the Rome / SSPX talks. Well this time I’m back at the homestead here at Hunny-Bunny Farm and today I would like to discuss trapping.
Part of self-sufficiency involves foraging in the form of hunting and fishing; often this involves trapping, which can be a part of either hunting or fishing. While it is hard for the modern comfortable suburbanite to imagine, in the not so distant past many households utilized not only hunting and fishing to supplement the garden and stock the larder, but also used trapping for the same purpose. I know of families who without hunting, fishing, and trapping would not have made it through many a year otherwise. Unfortunately in our times trapping has been given a bad rap. Trapping is a legitimate means of wildlife management that has been vilified by individuals and organizations largely based on emotion rather than logic; and just as there are bad hunters and fishermen, who disrespect the laws, commonly called poachers, there are those who are bad trappers as well. That said, however, to condemn out of hand, all trappers and trapping is not only painting with a broad brush, but also unjust.
Let me first state the modern laws regarding hunting, fishing, but most especially trapping are not just for wildlife management through culling of an overstocked herd, but also for the humane handling and dispatch of game. In our insulated and clinically sealed hygienic society we have forgotten that wildlife often harbors pests and diseases that can cause great suffering in man. From Bubonic Plague, through Rocky Mountain Tick Fever, and on to Lyme disease, without the culling of overabundant wildlife these illnesses would be far, far worse and devastating. So with that said let’s dispel the notion that trappers are sadistic killers who relish the death of animals; nothing can be further from the truth.
Another aspect of hunting, fishing, and trapping is these forms of harvesting renewable natural resources can eliminate the cruelties inflicted by Mother Nature herself when populations of species become too dense for the habitat to support. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation of a starving deer population during the height of winter with feet of snow blocking vegetation. Unfortunately, this was the result of well-meaning tree huggers with a Disneyesque outlook who prevented hunters from culling the herd the previous fall. Nature has its own controlling mechanisms, and they are far from humane or kind. The role of trapping in furbearing management is essential if both the best interests of the species and man are to be served properly.
Trapping can involve all and any game whether it is bait fish for traditional fishing, or trapping fur bearing critters of forest and field. We will start with aquatic traps for fish, crayfish, and in the case of salt water crabs.
As a child growing up along the Bronx River, in the city, yes, the very
same that runs through the Bronx Zoo, we used to play along the waterfalls at various points along the river course. In those days, for us kids, money was tight and we were forced to use our ingenuity to come up with the means to catch crayfish. Some of the older and braver among us would simply put our hand into a likely submerged crevice and allow the crayfish to grasp a digit until we pulled it free of its lair. Most of the others used nets and traps that were homemade from bits and pieces of hardware cloth or chicken wire. Sometimes we even fashioned nets out of old forty pound onion bags that we’d garbage-picked, to use a colloquial term. For bait we’d use every sort of leftover food from the kitchen table; the smellier the better. This was stuffed into an old sock or mom’s old nylon stockings, which was wired into the bottom of the trap, so the crawdads didn’t run off with the bait.
Now I know many of the readers are thinking the Bronx River …a city river full of pollution and runoff from various towns along its banks …Yuck! In my own defense however, I have to say that this river in its thirty mile or so course is little more than a stream. It doesn’t widen until about three miles above the Bronx border. The river runs through mostly residential suburbs so there was little runoff or dumping of toxic waste above the more industrial West Farms section of the Bronx. The river was our refuge in the hot, humid summers in NYC, and also served as a source of food and entertainment on many a hot and sultry July and August afternoon. For us city kids the river was as vital as the Mississippi River was to Huck Finn.
Anyhow we’d set our traps or use our fingers and within an hour’s span we’d have dozens of red and blue colored 6 inch crawdads ready for the boil. It was the best reward to work expended ratio I’ve ever experienced to date.
Meantime, below the brackish water line of the West Farms falls we could rig a seining net, again from scraps to catch killi fish as bait for some serious fresh and salt water fishing. Dozens and dozens could be gleaned from the river in one well-placed sweep of the net; after which we set our fishing poles in the rip-rap and waited for whatever game fish the tide might bring our way. Ah! The livin’ was easy.
When we wanted to experience some “big game” fishing we’d pester our dad’s and uncles to take us to the mighty Hudson River on the west side of town. Our encampment was generally at the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, an area eerily known place called Spiten Divel, that is, in spite of the devil, (a purported haunted place); many a Sunday afternoon from after Mass ‘til well past sundown would find the clan catching stripers and trapping blue claw crabs for a crab boil later Sunday night.
Crayfish, Crayfish Everywhere.
Meantime, to the matter at hand, …trapping crayfish; crayfish of several local varieties are found in nearly all areas of the US, generally in rivers, creeks, and streams. Their size varies from region to region and even from river to river. Depending on size they can be used as food in themselves or as bait for larger game fish like bass. They have a sweet meat much like lobster and in fact in most areas they are known as the poor man’s lobster.
Certainly, crayfish trapping is an easy and cheap way to provide food for the family. Below is a series of YouTube videos on how to make and catch crayfish. Now that July is here the fishing should be rewarding provided you’ve found a body of water where they live. Check your local bait and tackle shop for information on crayfish hotspots.
Here is a website that shows how to build crayfish traps very cheaply, like we did in the Bronx:
How to Build a Crayfish Trap – Part 1
How to Build a Crayfish Trap – Part 2
How to Build a Crayfish Trap – Part 3
Crayfish Trap – Set and Retrieve
Next week trapping furbearers!
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.