The Best Ways To Stop Crayfish Trap Theft


Two of the best methods of stopping trap theft are submerged and hidden lines. Submerged lines are just that, trap lines, (ropes), which lay well below the surface of the water right close to the bottom of the body of water you are fishing. These lines are retrieved by a specially built crayfish grapple which can be built with the right materials. The second method is using black tarred twine which is tied to the bank or any object that is stationary in the water.

Personally I use both methods, depending upon the type of water I'm trapping crayfish. In Ponds and Lakes I strictly use the crayfish grapple. Buoys or other floats is inviting trouble. In Rivers and Creeks I only use the hidden line method.

I have received so much email this year concerning worries about trap theft that I have decided to attempt to describe in as much detail as possible how to avoid theft. I have very little artistic talent and with that in mind I hope you overlook many of the crude drawings you are about to witness! Where I can, I will include photos but most of the examples have to hand drawn, so don't laugh to hard.

Submerged Lines:
The true term for 'Submerged Line' is 'Ground Line' in the commercial fishing world and that is how I will refer to it. A ground line is a single rope with more than one trap or in many cases  more than one baited hook attached to a single rope, normally with removable rope snaps just like the ones you find on my traps.
Crayfish love rocks and one of the worst things that can happen is to have your ground line wrapped around a rock and snag up. This could cost you in lost traps. The way around that is to use 1/4", 3/8", or 5/16" braided poly rope for your ground line. This rope is slightly lighter than water and will float over the top of even fairly large rocks or other obstructions. When the ground line is pulled it will retain it's somewhat upright position as it was when it was first set down. This allows the rope to avoid being snagged when pulled to the surface. 

Using a Crayfish Grapple

Notice in the drawing above the floating rope ends at the trap on the left and the trap on the right. There is no rope leading to a buoy at the water's surface. By avoiding a float of some type on the water's surface your trapline, is out of sight, it lies below boat motor depth, and most people would have not only a hard time locating it but also they would have a hard time retrieving the rope. Here is where the crayfish grapple comes in to play.

The poly rope floating line will not lay on the water's bottom but will bridge up between traps making it fairly easy to use a grapple to retrieve the rope. Not any grapple will work for this job, only a grapple especially built for crayfish traps will work successfully every time. 

A crayfish grapple is unique and must be able to grapple along rocky bottoms or bottoms with a lot of obstructions. Remember this type of rough area is the ideal fishing grounds for crayfish. In all commercial fishing stores and even in some sporting goods stores you can find manufactured grapples. The smaller ones are nicely welded 3/8 hooks onto a sturdy shaft and run for $30. This type of grapple is really nice and would work good if the bottom was always muddy. The trouble here is crayfish rarely like the 'always muddy' bottoms and you'll not have much success trapping crayfish there. In a good rocky bottom crayfish where crayfish hang out I'm afraid the first pass you made with this type of grapple would be the last time you saw your $30 investment again. The hooks on these types of grapples do not bend nor will they bounce the bottom without digging in. So once your grapple is stuck it's stuck for good especially in big broken rock areas. 

I was desperate to get away from using buoys on my ground lines because of trap theft by tourists, so I switched to ground lines and I ended up losing 3 high priced grapples right from the get go. Thankfully I tried only one 50 trap ground line to begin with which I couldn't retrieve. The only choice I had was to get another grapple or hire a diver, more lost money! What I did instead was to make a grapple from some lighter round wire and it sure didn't look like the one pictured above! Like magic I did recover the ground line and I improved the grapple into a simpler form as it appears in the picture.

Sometimes the most simple items work the best. For capturing crayfish ground lines the statement holds very true indeed. I've been using this style of grapple since 1972 and have only made one improvement in it's design which was to add 2/3 of an ounce of heavy zinc at one end to give a better bottom bounce when retrieving the ground line. Plus, I haven't lost a single grapple nor have I ever not retrieved a ground line that I had set. Trap loss due to theft since I changed, ZERO! Not to bad for 30+ years don't you think? The grapples are fairly easy to make and not to costly in materials provided that you plan on making more than one grapple. The problem being, even at full retail you have to buy far more wire then you need, actually it would be enough for 40 grapples, LOL's. If you do have the materials at home then it would be cheaper to make one yourself then buy it from me. It only takes a touch under an hour to make and simple in construction.

You can use the crayfish grapple method even with one trap and not just on a whole line of traps. You must however still use the floating rope and a weight of some type on the end of the rope not attached to the crayfish trap. The ideal weight type for Lake fishing is a zinc cannon ball 8 ounces in weight. This type of weight is the least snag proof of any other type of weight you can get plus the anchor eye will break and free up the rope should the moon turn blue and weight got snagged, grin. In other words, snagging the weight is so rare and it's never happened to me. The best method of course is using two traps, one at each end of the rope instead of a weight at one end. The second trap is just as snag proof as the weight and yes, they were designed that way.

To set a ground line using a single trap and retrieving it is very simple. First you would attach the baited trap to one end of your rope and the cannon ball at the other being careful the rope is positioned is such a way that it will not tangle when being set out. The length of your rope should be at least 35 feet and no longer than 50 feet depending upon the depth of the water you are crayfishing in. "The deeper the water the longer the rope." 
If you are in a boat, check the shoreline for a reference point of where you are setting your trap (very important, grin). Slip the trap over the side of the boat into the water then motor or paddle your boat parallel to the shore feeding out rope as you go. Once you have reached the end of your rope (no pun intended), and the line becomes taunt, drop the weight end of the rope into the water. Quickly look at the shoreline for an additional reference point for the end of the line.
If you are fishing from the shore, make sure the line between your trap and weight will not snag when you throw both ends into the water. It is recommended that your rope is no longer than 35 feet in length unless you have great throwing ability, grin. 
I'm assuming you have no wish to get your feet wet with this method just as I do, LOL's. Once your trap, weight, and line, are ready simply throw your trap out from shore and immediately throw the weighted end of the rope away from the trap at a equal distance from the shoreline as your trap and parallel to the shore. This may take a little practice at first then it becomes second nature. The idea is to keep the distance between the weight and the trap as great as possible and have both ends of the rope nearly equal distances from the shore. Remember to note a reference point on the shoreline as to where your trap is set and where your weight is set, again very important.
OK, you are now crayfishing and it will take a scuba diver to find your traps! Finally, you can feel secure about leaving your traps overnight without someone stealing them and you can take advantage of night crayfishing at it's best!

It's now the next day and when it is convenient you can go and pull your traps without worries of theft! Nice thought huh?

Don't forget your crayfish grapple! Grappling for your ground line is very simple as long as you remember your shoreline reference points. The principle is the same from either grappling from the shoreline or grappling from a boat. The direction from the point of origin is the only difference and you will acquire the way you pull the grapple by experience gained from the body of water you are working.
As you see in the picture the trap and weight are parallel to the shoreline. The direction the trap's entrances point makes no difference what so ever in real life, it's just easy to show it that way when I drew it. The picture shows both grappling from a boat and grappling from shore. Remember the floating line between the trap and the weight is raised from the bottom between the two objects, because it floats, grin. If you are in a boat you want to throw your grapple shoreward across the bridge of the trap line. From shore you would throw your grapple outward across the bridge of the trap line.
 When you pull in the grapple you pull it in by quick jerks. From a boat you would jerk in the line 1.5 to 2 feet at a time and then let the grapple hit the bottom between jerks. A common fishing term close to this method would be called 'Jigging'.
Here is where the zinc at the end of the grapple comes into play. The zinc causes the hook end of the grapple to become more heavy than the end where the rope is attached to, just the opposite of a store bought $30 grapple. When the grapple is jerked the grapple will flip the rope end pointing toward the surface and the grapple hooks will move at a 45 degree angle upward from the bottom avoiding possible snags and not allowing the hooks to dig into the bottom. When the grapple encounters the floating rope it is in a perfect position to pull in the rope above any of the obstructions on the bottom as well. Sooner or later everyone including myself is going to snag the grapple on the bottom, this is where the thinner wire hooks come into play. With a good tug, whatever hook that is snagged will bend outward thus freeing the grapple. Bring the grapple in and bend the hook back down into position by hand throw it back out after your ground line. After 30 or 40 snags a hook may break, no worries, three hooks will grab you ground line as well as four. After a while if you break another hook then you have definitely got your moneys worth!
Are you worried one of the hooks may bend once you hook your ground line? Don't be because once you hook your line the rope slides down to bend right near the pipe and unless you are able to pull a couple of thousand pounds the hook will not bend there. A snag on the other hand will always catch the point of the hook away from the pipe where the weakest point is. The length of the grapple and the length of the hooks all come into play as well but I'm sure by now you understand why I call it a crayfish grapple, grin.
 If you are grappling from the shoreline, all of the above is the same only you want to jerk a longer amount of rope. Try and jerk 3 to 3.5 feet at a time. The reason for this is the fact you are grappling to shallower water and not to deeper water. Again, you will have to experiment for the area you are fishing.

That is all there is to using a crayfish grapple. I'm sorry for being so long winded in describing something which is SO simple to do but I do have my long winded reputation to maintain, grin. After you have done it once or twice you will probably get quite a chuckle at my overly long descriptions on such a simple task!

Please Note the above method of using a grapple is for use in Lakes and Ponds. Grappling for ground line is very common and efficient for Rivers but that is a whole different ball game which is not covered here. Also note that it is extremely important that your grapple is correctly built for this method to work successfully. I know!

Using Hidden Lines:

 Using hidden lines is the next best thing to ground lines. Hidden lines can still be found by other people should they happen to stumble over them but by golly it sure reduces the threat of trap theft!
 Hidden lines are thin line which is often tied to your main rope going to your trap and then tied to something solid on shore or an obstruction sticking out of the water. The type of line you use is very important, one would think common fishing line would work well. It does work but not as well as tarred black nylon twine. Many commercial fishing stores will carry it and you can also buy the correct size line here. In many areas I will use the twine in place of the normal floating rope especially if I'm fishing from shore (and I do that a lot). The black twine blends in so well that a few times I wished I had marked the spot tied the line to with a ribbon in order to find it and even a few times I thought someone had stolen the trap only to discover the tied off twine a few feet away from where I was originally looking, grin.
In the picture are three arrows point to the black line I use. I purposely tied the line above the rocks so it would show in the picture better. Normally the line would be at the base of the rocks and covered with gravel, sand, or leaves. When the line is under water you just don't notice it and often pass it off for a twig or crack among the rocks on the bottom.
 The method works but it is a bit more of a hassle than using the grapple. One has to take care that no one sees you throw out the trap and then appear to hide something along the shoreline where later after you have left they can go and investigate what you were doing.

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