May 23, 2008

Idaho Man Preaching the Crawfish Gospel Slug Line:Idaho Man Preaching the Crawfish Gospel

By Scott Sandsberry

By Eric Barker

Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON, Idaho -- Just about anywhere you find fresh water you can find crawfish.

If you can't, just ask Wally Biederstedt of Lewiston. He'll gladly tell you where the hot crawfishing spots are and even sell you a trap or two. Before long you'll be boiling a mess of mudbugs and preparing for a Cajun feast.

Good crawdad fishing can be found in most of the rivers and lakes in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington. The Snake River is particularly good but so is the Grand Ronde, parts of the Clearwater, Elk Creek Reservoir, Dworshak Reservoir and on and on.

"Anywhere there is water you've got gobs of them," Biederstedt says.

And very few people fish for the invertebrate shellfish that are a Cajun delicacy. Biederstedt, 76, is on a one-man mission to change that.

"This crawfish thing here in Lewiston has never been exposed like it should be," he says as he pulls a trap out of the Snake River holding about 5 pounds of crawfish. "It's a freshwater lobster we are catching."

Biederstedt baits his traps with fish flesh, throws them out along rocky banks of the river and about 12 to 24 hours later he returns to haul in his catch. On a recent morning, he and his wife, Julie, bagged about 15 pounds of the freshwater lobsters. Less than an hour later, he prepared to turn them into a feast.

Biederstedt poured about a cup of salt into the 5-gallon bucket full of crawdads and let them sit for about 20 minutes. The salt causes the crawfish to purge themselves and also knocks off freshwater lice clinging to their crustacean bodies. Once purged, he dumps them into a pot of boiling water, chucks in some German sausage, a Cajun spice mix, stirs and waits.

"Oh, I love that smell," he says standing over the pot in his shop. "I could stay in here all day when I cook them."

The boil lasts about seven minutes and he lets the crawfish sit in the hot water for another 10 before they are ready to eat. Then he drains the water and pours the bright red crawfish onto a table.

"It's just like crab," he says of the claw meat.

The season starts in May and lasts into the early fall. As the water temperatures warm, the fishing gets better. Biederstedt says his best months are August and September. The regulations are different in Idaho and Washington.

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