"Crayfish scare me," said Sergei, the Spanish foreign
exchange student, one night at my family's house.
"Don't ever admit that out loud," my dad told
him. "Crayfish don't get to be more than two inches
"Yes," said the Spaniard, worriedly, "but they
They did have pinchers. The big crayfish had big
pinchers. That's what made hunting the little
lobsters a sport. And while some people like to catch
crayfish for fish bait, in our family, we just like to
My brother, I, and my cousins were all shown the
ropes by old Grandpa Breen, a legendary bare-handed
crayfish hunter in his day. As he watched his young
grandsons wading in the cold, quick, winding stream of
Townsend Park, old Grandpa Breen wouldn't tolerate
fear of a crayfish pinch or anything less than a 40%
catch rate. He made us into men in that creek. That
is, if an obstacle only two inches long could make you
into a man, which I'm pretty sure it couldn't.
We even hunted crayfish on vacation. It was
during one family trip to Tennessee where we stumbled
upon Crystal Falls, where all good crayfish go when
they die. Here, sheets of water tumbled thirty feet
down a squarish rock wall, forming a pristine pool
among the trees below. Upon entering this pool, my
cousins and I soon learned we were outnumbered by
hundreds of sharp-clawed crayfish.
There was nothing to do but catch 'em. We
assumed positions. I hid on top of a log, my brother
huddled beneath the waterfall, my cousin Kyle hovered
over some rocks in the middle, and cousin Ben hung out
on the pool's side. We spent hours flushing the
crayfish families from their hiding spots, clasping
the slower individuals, "yowch!"ing when a big pincher
got us bleeding, and then letting the captives go. It
was good, old-fashioned fun, and my brother nabbed
over seventy crayfish.
Crayfish, crawdads, yabbos, crabberoos, "Johnny"
- call 'em what you want, but they know what to call
their worst enemy: "Brandon." That's my brother, now
20, who hosts crayfish-hunting picnics, usually with
ham-and-cheese sandwiches. They say that a crayfish
in his eyes is as good as a crayfish in his hands. He
attributes his success to the highly renowned strategy
he coined, which he calls the "Pin, Pinch, and Pull"
It goes as follows:
1. Pin the crayfish, with the palm of your hand,
to the river bottom.
2. Pinch his back with your other hand.
3. Pull him out from beneath his rock and show
him off to friends.
My brother flew home from college during my
second week in Michigan. He brought his
lightning-quick fingers with him, I took along the
scared Spanish kid, and we headed to nearby Townsend
Park for "Competition of the Week" 2: nighttime
Never before had we attempted to enter the
crayfish's dangerous domain at night. I opted to
bring my snorkel mask.
My brother, however, was disgusted by this idea,
and controversy ensued. "Justin, you can't use a
snorkel mask," he said. "You're supposed to catch the
"I know," I said. "But my hero, the Crocodile
Hunter, also hates using devices that put animals at
an unfair advantage. But, one thing he will use is a
"Well, then, the Crocodile Hunter is using ..."
"Don't you bad-mouth the Crocodile Hunter!" I
began to wrestle with him.
"You can't use it," said Brandon. "It's
I couldn't believe the fuss he was making. It
wasn't like I wanted to use a NASA-designed
"But if I can't use the snorkel mask, I can't
pull out my strategy," I said. I wanted to get down
and dirty with these crayfish. "That's like saying
you can't use the 'Pin, Pinch, and Pull' technique!"
Brandon wasn't having it. He didn't care that I
had handicapped eyes. Without the snorkel mask, I
needed to either A. Not open my eyes underwater, for
fear of losing my contacts - B. Not wear my contacts
and be nearly blind - or C. Who cares if my expensive
contacts get lost? The important thing here is that I
really crush my brother, thus avenging the little brat
for when he pushed me down the stairs eightteen years
ago! Rrrgh ...
Or, I could get my handicap fixed. "Well, then,"
I told Brandon, "pull up to the nearest laser eye
surgeon and I'll just get my eyes fixed on the way."
There was no time for operations, though, as the
crayfish were waiting. We grew excited as we drove,
and Brandon began telling tall tales.
"Once!" he began, "I caught a crayfish THIS big!"
He indicated size by putting his hands five inches
apart. "With pinchers ..." He hesitated, seemingly
disappointed over the realization that even a
crayfish-catching lie isn't all that impressive. He
indicated only an inch and a half with his fingers.
"... THIS big!"
It was enough to make the Spaniard, Sergei,
swallow. "Crayfish scare me," he said. "I especially
don't like the pinchers on the small ones, because
there's no place to grab without being pinched. I did
catch one crayfish." Sergei's experience had come
last year at one of Brandon's picnics, where he caught
little more than a ham-and-cheese sandwich. He was
deservedly proud of the one crayfish he'd grabbed,
We arrived at Townsend Park as the sun had just
gone down. We pulled the flashlights out of the trunk
and crossed the grassy park.
"Competition of the Week!" Sergei yelled.
I stripped down to my bathing suit, and we walked
into the cold, dark river until it was up to our
knees. We shined our flashlights near some large
rocks, hoping to see herds of crayfish beneath. But,
the mucky water was impossible to see through from
No problem for me, I thought, and I dunked my
head underwater for a better look. (I'd chosen not to
wear my contacts.) I only got my scalp wet before
quickly pulling it out, due to the cold. Whoo, that
water was chilly! I tried going under again, but as
soon as water entered my ears and swam to my brain, I
forgot all about the crayfish and could only have
thoughts of icebergs and penguins and other cold
stuff. My snorkelling strategy had to be abandoned.
We were going to have to search blindly, by feel.
Brandon, Sergei, and I combed the river, stopping to
rake our hands beneath the rocks and logs we came to.
The river conditions put us in a lot of risk. Each
time a twig or pebble hit our hands, Brandon and I
just about freaked out, expecting two unseen pinchers
to clomp down on our hands.
Ten minutes passed, and no one even encountered a
crayfish. My brother had earlier said: "If anyone
catches a sucker fish, it counts as three points." Of
course, we now realized he must've been on a
drug-induced "Pin, Pinch, and Pull" invincibility
boost, because the maneuverable sucker fish are about
5000 times as tough to catch as the crayfish, and we
couldn't even catch those.
We weren't giving up, though. Using my defrosted
brain, I developed a strategy. It may not have had a
fancy, alliterative name like my brother's, but I
could win with it:
1. Find a rock.
2. Point your feet off to the sides and elevate
them in the front.
3. Flush the crayfish out from under their rock.
4. If and when a stupid crayfish tries hiding
under your feet, GRAB 'EM!
5. Rub it in to your brother.
I carried out the first three steps of the "Find,
Point, Flush, GRAB, and Rub" and waited. I felt a
medium-sized stupid crayfish back his way beneath my
foot. I reached down and touched him, but he shot
himself away from my foot and into the current. I
could feel his wavy, propelling swim motions and
attempted a blind grab. Amazingly, my hand clamped
down just as he tried swimming through it to certain
My crayfish-clenching hand shot above my head.
"Woooooohoooooo!" It was probably one of the ten most
surprised moments of my life.
I held the crayfish's torso and posed for a prize
photo. This crayfish was a beaut. Two healthy,
antennae-like feelers came off its triangular head.
It had stubby whiskers for eyebrows, and its curled
tail was plated and dark brown. It maneuvered its
sleek pinchers in an effort to pinch me. It was about
two inches long. I admired my catch for a bit, then
put him back in the river.
We continued the hunt. Sergei spotted a crayfish
later, but he couldn't catch it, which wasn't very
surprising. MODERN ODDYSEUS' GUIDE TO ALWAYS WINNING
# 2 - Don't be afraid of something only two inches
We called it a night soon after. Final score: 1
to 0 to 0.
Woohoo! I'm still undefeated!!!
I'd got my vengeance on Brandon, and in the
most-crushing manner. He'd never lost a crayfish hunt
A few days later, we sat around my family's
house, and an argument erupted. Brandon insulted
Sergei, but Sergei knew a response that would hit
Brandon where it hurt most.
"Hey, Brandon," he said, calmly," you catch any
"Why, I can't believe you said that!"
They started wrestling. I just laughed and
thought back to the beautiful two-incher ... that
didn't get away.
- Modern Oddyseus (2-0)
Add'l Stats: Catch rate.
Me: (1-1) 100% *
Sergei: (0-1) 0%
Brandon: (0-0) --
* - old Grandpa Breen would be proud