Catching Crawfish At Lake Of The Ozarks – Complete Guide

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Despite having an intermittent horrific allergic reaction I simply cannot stop myself from catching and eating crawfish almost every summer.

As soon as we have any downtime at the lake we start talking about dinner and the line of thought typically goes something like, “Why would we have fish when we can do a crawfish boil?”

And so out come the traps and poles and we get busy when our wives get busy inviting friends.

However, catching crawfish at Lake of the Ozarks can be a bit daunting if you’re new to the area. Hopefully, you can rely a bit on my years of experience and make it less so!

Best Places On Lake Of The Ozarks To Catch Crawfish

The Lake of the Ozarks is a great place to catch crawfish. There are many different places to catch them, and each has its own benefits.

I’m not going to offend all of the locals and give you exact coordinates, but if you’ve caught crawfish before it won’t take you long to find some of these holes that will produce a great catch.

1. From Shore

The first place to catch crawfish at the Lake of the Ozarks is on the banks of the lake itself. The banks of the lake are a great place to catch crawfish because they are often crawling out of the water in search of food. You can find them in most areas of the lake, but some areas are better than others. One good spot is near Bagnell Dam. Another good spot is near Osage Beach. If you’re not sure where to look, you can always ask a local for their advice.

2. Creek Entrances & Coves

The second place to catch crawfish at the Lake of the Ozarks is in one of the many creeks that flow into the lake. These creeks are often full of Crawfish, and they can be caught using a variety of methods. In some particularly good spots, I’ve seen people simply scoop them up with their hands. The best way to find these creeks is to ask a local, or look for signs that say “crawfish.”

You can also check out any of the shallow coves that are often surrounding lakes as crawfish are often found in calm shallow water.

3. Upriver

The third place to catch crawfish at the Lake of the Ozarks is in one of the many rivers that flow into the lake. Look for slow moving water with rock shelves or significant deadfall that crawfish love to hide under and around.

How to Catch Crawfish in Lake of the Ozarks

It’s unlikely that you’ll run out of things to do at Lake of the Ozarks anytime soon…but if you do, try matching wits with a crawfish. Not only are they delicious but most people find them easier to catch than fish.

Here are the most common method for catching them at Lake of the Ozarks:

With A Crawfish Trap

  1. Buy or rent a crawfish trap. You can find these at most bait and tackle shops. Make sure to get a trap that is big enough to hold the amount of crawfish you want to catch.
  2. Choose a good spot to set up your trap. Look for areas with soft mud bottoms and plenty of vegetation. Crawfish like to hide in vegetation so this is a good spot to set up your trap.
  3. Set up your trap according to the instructions that came with it. Baiting your trap with chicken or fish heads can help attract crawfish.
  4. Check your trap regularly and remove any crawfish that have been caught. Be careful when handling them, as they can pinch you with their claws!
  5. Cook your crawfish according to your preferred recipe!

With A Fishing Pole

For a more active fishing experience (or when you’re short on time) crawfish can easily be caught on a pole (or with a net). In fact fishing with a pole was the method I first used and we were able to catch dozens of crawdads in a very short amount of time.

  1. Bait your hook. You can use any kind of bait that you want, but some good options include chicken livers, minnows, or even hot dogs. Just make sure that the bait is small enough to fit on the hook.
  2. Cast or drop your line into an area where there are lots of crawfish. Good spots to try include under rocks or logs, near plants, or in shady areas. If you can find a spot in a creek where you can just dangle your line in without casting you’ll reduce your risk of losing a crawfish that latches onto the bait.
  3. Wait for a bite. Once your line is in the water, all you have to do is wait for a bite (actually, a grab). Be patient – it might take a few minutes (or even longer) for a crawfish to take the bait.
  4. Reel in your catch. When you feel a tug on the line, it’s time to start reeling in your catch. Be careful not to pull too hard, or you might lose the Crawfish. And that’s it! Now you know how to catch crawfish with a fishing pole.

What Kind Of Crawfish Are There In Lake of the Ozarks?

From late February to early June, crawfish season is in full swing in the Lake of the Ozarks region of Missouri.

There are dozens of different types of crawfish available in the area and what you catch will depend on where you are, how you’re catching them, and the time of year.

I’ll introduce you to the most common kinds so you’ll know exactly what’s in your trap next time you pull it up.

Red Swamp Crawfish

The most popular type of crawfish in the Lake of the Ozarks region is the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii). These bright red creatures are typically larger than other types of crawfish, and they have a slightly sweeter taste. Red swamp crawfish are usually harvested from mid-March to early May.

This is by far the most common species you’ll see and the most common one available commercially and used in crawfish boils.

White River Crawfish

Another popular type of crawfish is the white river crawfish (Orconectes virilis). These critters get their name from the white spots that cover their dark brown bodies. White river crayfish are typically smaller than red swamp crawfish, but they are just as delicious. You can find them in the area from late April to early June.

No matter what time of year it is, there’s always a good reason to head to the Lake of the Ozarks for some delicious crawfish.

No matter what time you’re there it’s pretty hard to strike out and, with so many different kinds available, you’re sure to find the perfect one for your next meal.

Preparing Your Catch

If you’re in Louisiana or another part of the south there’s a good chance you know how to prepare crawfish. But for those of us who are not from Louisiana, the process can be a bit daunting.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get the most out of your crawfish boil and the recipe that we always use when cooking for a crowd.


  • 5-6 pounds of live crawfish
  • 1 (16 ounce) package Louisiana-style crab boil seasoning
  • 4 quarts water
  • 4 lemons, halved
  • 4 onions, quartered
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 8 small new potatoes
  • 4 ears fresh corn, broken in half
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can of beer
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Preparing the Crawfish

  1. Bring the water to a boil in an outdoor cooker. Add the salt, crab boil seasoning, cayenne pepper, garlic, and beer. Squeeze the juice from 4 lemons into the pot, and then throw the spent lemon halves into the pot.
  2. Add the live crawfish to the pot, and stir gently. Allow the crawfish to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they turn red.
  3. Remove the cooked crawfish from the pot with a large spider or slotted spoon and place them in a large bowl or cooler. Be sure to save the cooking liquid; you will use it to cook the vegetables.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all of the crawfish have been cooked. Cooking the Vegetables 1 Add the potatoes, corn, onions, and celery to the pot of cooking liquid. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Remove vegetables from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon and place them in a separate bowl or cooler from the crawfish.
  6. Serve immediately with a cold beer and plenty of napkins! Enjoy!

That’s it! Now you know how to prepare crawfish like a pro. With this guide in hand, you’re sure to impress your friends and family at your next Louisiana-style feast.


Now you’re all set to catch and cook a mess of crawfish on your next visit!

If you (or someone in your family) is averse to catching and cooking your own you can typically find crawfish on the menu at some of the bars or restaurants around the lake.

However, catching your own will always be the tastiest and most rewarding option!