How to Trap/Catch Crayfish in the UK!


In this blog we will walk through different techniques of catching Crayfish, the kit you will need, and our best tips to catch Crayfish. We will also walk through the legalities and laws regarding trapping and catching Crayfish in the UK.

Firstly, decide which method is best suited to you:-

There are two main methods in capturing Crayfish. Either by Trapping or by Catching.

Trapping requires a trap, something that the Crayfish will go into from the scent of food and will be unable to get out of. It is best suited to those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands per session. To those who can’t afford to spend all day on the riverside and would rather leave the nets and come back in a day or two to see what they’ve caught.

Catching is done using a simple net. Best suited for people who prefer a more hands on approach and want to catch the Crayfish themselves. Simply throw your bait into the water, wait for the Crayfish to appear and sweep your net over them. This approach will more than likely catch you more per session compared to Trapping.

Once you have decided on your approach you can start looking ahead to the next step. We will break it all down into two sections. Starting with Trapping…


What you will need to trap Crayfish:-

  • Licence/Permission – Before investing in any nets or baits, you will need to apply for a licence to trap. These can be obtained from the Environmental Agency (EA) and are completely free. Once approved, you will then receive your ‘Tags’ which are to be attached to your nets as proof you are trapping legally. You will also require the land owners permission to trap if you are trapping on private property or on commercial fisheries.
  • Location – Once you have obtained your licence you will need to find a area to trap. Nowadays, you can find the invasive American Signal Crayfish in more or less every body of water around the UK. This includes Rivers, Streams and even commercial fisheries. Your best bet would be to get out there and test the waters, throw in some bait and see if any appear. If they do – great! You can try trapping that area with the landowners permission.
  • Trapping Net – So, you have obtained your licence and permission, and a location you want to try. Next, you will require a trapping net such as the one we sell here. Trapping Nets usually have openings on each side for the Crayfish to enter and then be unable to leave. Usually they have a section or pocket to add in your bait to attract your Crayfish.
  • Bait – If you are using the Crab & Crayfish Trapping Net that we sell, then you can simply add bait to the zipped compartment at the top of the net. We recommend Cat Food, Bacon, Oily Fish such as Mackerel or Sardine. Crayfish are not picky and have very good senses so anything smelly enough will be picked up from the water and will draw them towards your net(s).

How to use a Trapping Net:-

To use a Trapping Net such as the one we sell here – read on below.

  1. First, clip on your ‘Licence Tags’ from the Environmental Agency, they can be attached anywhere on your Net.
  2. Add your chosen bait to the smaller zip pouch at the top.
  3. Ensure the bait zip and the larger zip at the base of the Net are closed so the Crayfish cannot escape.
  4. Release some line and throw your Trapping Net into the chosen area of the water whilst holding onto the line.
  5. Using a branch or tent peg on the bank, tie your line around it so your Net will stay in place in the water.
  6. You’re all done! Leave your line tied to the bank and continue your day.
  7. As the EA Regulation states, you must check your Trapping Nets every 24hrs.
  8. Returning within 24hrs, pull your Net(s) out and see what you’ve caught!

That’s all you need to set up Trapping for Crayfish and how to use a Trapping Net.

Next up, catching Crayfish…


What you will need to net Crayfish:-

  • Licence/Permission – Just like before with Trapping, you should apply for a licence to Net Crayfish. There are less rules and regulations with Netting as you are doing it in one session without leaving any nets in the water. There is a lot less chance you could catch something you shouldn’t such as Otters, Voles or Native Crayfish. That being said, we would still advise you to apply for a licence to be on the safe side.
  • Location – Once you have obtained your licence you will need to find a area you want to use. You can find the invasive American Signal Crayfish in more or less every body of water around the UK. This includes Rivers, Streams and even commercial fisheries. Your best would be to get out there and test the waters, throw in some bait and see if any appear. If they do – great! You can give it a try with the landowners permission.


  • Net – Netting requires a lot less kit than Trapping. A simple fishing Landing Net will be more than adequate. We have seen other Crayfish Netters using a simple bamboo cane net that you would find at the seaside! As long as it’s big enough that no excessive damage will be done to the Crayfish, you should be good! We would suggest this Net and this Handle if needed.


  • Bait – If you are using the Net we have recommended, anything with a strong smell will be great for Crayfish. We have always used Oily Fish such as Mackerel or Sardine, Bacon or even Cat Food. Crayfish have a very strong sense of smell so throwing in tiny bits of bait around rocks in the water or in the margin of the water will bring out the Crayfish in their droves.

How to Net Crayfish in the UK:-

Netting Crayfish is really simple, hardly requires any kit and can be done by anyone and all ages!

Simply, find a shallow section of river or stream. If it is quite clear this will help dramatically.

  1. Using bait such as Oily Fish (Mackerel or Sardine), Bacon or Cat Food. Tear it up into little chunks.
  2. Standing at the bankside or even in the water, throw in little bits of bait around the edge or near rocks.
  3. Wait for the Crayfish to come out of their burrows and head to your bait.
  4. Being as careful as possible sweep your net over or under the Crayfish and take it out of the water.
  5. Put your catches into a bucket or tub.
Legalities and Laws

Legalities and Laws to catch Crayfish in the UK:-

As mentioned above, their are more laws in regards to Trapping Crayfish in the UK but read on below for more information on staying within the law whilst catching Crayfish here.

Can I legally catch any Crayfish in the UK?

No you can’t, legally you can only catch the invasive American species of Crayfish called the Signal Crayfish. The native White Claw Crayfish are considered an endangered species and it is illegal to remove them from the waters unless for scientific research which requires a separate licence.

How can I tell the difference with which Crayfish I catch?

The invasive Signal Crayfish are usually much larger than the White Claws, The Signal Crayfish grows from anywhere to 15-16cm whereas the native White Claw won’t be found any larger than 10cm. As well as this, the Signals usually have a white/blue spot between the pincers of the claw which can be a instant differential. Another difference is the natives have a whitish colour on the sides whereas the invasive species have reddish/brown sides. See below for a easy difference image.

Source: Bern Convention: Protecting Europe’s biodiversity

Can I eat Crayfish?

Yes you can, as long as they are the invasive Signals. Although they don’t contain a lot of meat, if you catch enough of them you can make a good sized meal. We won’t go through how to dispatch and eat Crayfish in this guide but stay tuned for a blog on that in the future!

What Net do I need to use to Trap Crayfish?

As mentioned above, we highly recommend this Net for Trapping Crayfish. This is completely legal and requires the right dimensions to stay within the law. The law requires your Trapping Net to be no longer than 600mm, no wider than 350mm and the mesh size should be no wider than 30mm, also the the entrance to the trap cannot be larger than 95mm. These sizes prevent you accidentally catching Otters, Fish or Voles.

So that should cover you for everything you need to begin Crayfishing in the UK. We hope you learnt something and hope you get out there and get started now!

After all, fishing for Crayfish is not just helping the eco-system and preventing the native species dying out. It is also a great way to spend the day and even provides you with a completely free meal! What more could you ask for…

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