Free Food: Mudbugs a.k.a. Crawdads
Crawdads are a native fresh water crustacean, that look just a whole lot like little lobsters, because they are in the same family.
Crawdads live mostly in fresh running water, so brooks, streams, creeks, and rivers are where they will be found. One good thing about Mudbugs is, they can't tolerate polluted water. So if you find Crawdads alive and well, you can pretty much know the water is in good shape. Since Crawdads need shelter to hide from predators, look for spots that have places for Crawfish to retreat to when you search for Crawfish.
My Daddy once found a spot so thick with Crawdads you could sein them out by the tubfuls! But some people may not know what a sein is, so I'll tell you. Simply put, a sein is a net suspended between two poles. The last sein we used on the Brazos River had a net about 4 feet wide, by about 15 feet long. You can roll the net around either pole if you want to shorten the length you're using. We were seining for bait minnows, not Crawdads. But seining works for Mudbugs if they are plentiful, and you're at a spot that won't drag the bottom of your net down, tangle it, or tear it up.
You can also basket fish, or trap for Crawdads.
The photo above is of a pretty nice Crawdad basket. But anything with similar dinamics will work in a pinch. You need something to hold the Crawdads after they are baited in, and a way to get them out. It seems like my brother might have made a Crawdad trap with a plastic pop bottle once. But I think he wanted the Crawdads for fish bait, instead of food.
Anyway... you put the bait into the body of your trap, the Crawdads go through the little inverted neck, or opening of the trap, and they're stuck until you take them out.
There are lots of ways to enjoy your Crawdad catch. But before cooking the Mudbugs, you need to purge them. Don't evr let anyone convince you oterwise. To purge them just cover the live Crawdads in plenty of salt water. Enough for them to move about freely. The salt water causes them to throw up, ridding them of the mud in their little stomachs. Take them out of the salt water, and put them into fresh water. Then repeat the salt water purging. You will be surprised how muddy the first purging will leave the water! If the second purging is very muddy again, repeat the proccess. By purging your Crawdads you will loose the "dirty" tase, and be left with nice and tasty Crwdad meat.
The best part of the Crawdad is the tail. You just boil the whole Mudbug and eat the meat inside the crusty tail. You can also pick the meat out of the claws, or even suck the stuff out of the head. (I don't eat the stuff in the head.) Some people like to remove the meat from the boiled Crawdad and stir fry it with veggies. Some boil the the whole Crawdad up with potatoes, corn, or combinations of other favorite things. However you decide to fix them, they are a real treat!
I hope you enjoy catching and eating Crawdads, and continue to look for free food!