Crawfishing in The Bahamas – The Unofficial Guide

Crawfishing in The Bahamas

Crawfishing in The Bahamas 

If you were living in The Bahamas right now, what would you be doing? Well if you were living the real Island Lifestyle, you’d probably be out jookin* crawfish. Because The Bahamas Crawfish Season officially opened on August 1st with every man, woman, child and dog hopping into boats and racing across the turquoise sea to get a piece of the action.

For those of you who don’t know the difference between a crawfish and a lobster, here’s your unofficial guide to crawfishing in The Bahamas. For those of you islanders who might read this and think “Man, whachu talkin’ ‘ bout?” please feel free to comment!

What’s the difference between a Bahamian Crawfish and a Lobster?

No, this is not a joke – there is no punch line. Crawfish is the Bahamian word for a Spiny Lobster, also known as Langouste, Crayfish or (the B52s favourite) Rock Lobster, all of which are members of the Palinuridae family.

Bahamian Crawfish can easily be distinguished from “regular” Maine-style lobsters (of the Neprophidea family) by their lack of claws – a bonus when you’re diving down to catch them!

For more info on the Spiny Lobster read this Bahamas National Trust Fact Sheet

The author posing with “jooked” crawfish in Governors Harbour, Eleuthera (it was bigger in real life…)

How do you catch a Crawfish?

Trick question because you don’t actually catch a crawfish. Most people spear or jook* them with a traditional spear and Hawaiian Sling. The good guys also use lobster hooks or grab them with their hands.

But first you have to find them. Crawfish are cautious crustaceans and spend their days hiding out in protective recesses of coral reefs. The key is to dive down (no bottles allowed!) and peer under ledges for the tell-tale signs of spiny legs and conical antennae, also known as whips.

Watch out for Pirates!

Hauling in crawfish (

Crawfishing is a multi-million dollar industry, supplying both local and export markets with the highly coveted tails.

Fleets of competing fishing vessels set out on the first of the season to harvest their purpose-made “crawfish condos” (artificial habitats), diving down with nothing but mask, hook and a hose to suck on compressed air (no bottles allowed). But watch out for pirates! There are no laws of ownership undersea, so often these hardy divers will be battling each other for territory.

Watch Bahama Lobster Pirates on The Sportsman Channel

Crawfishing Regulations

With hundreds of thousands of crawfish harvested each season, The Bahamian Ministry of Fishing has strict laws to ensure sustainability for generations to come. Here are the main ones:

  • The minimum legal size of a tail is 5 and 1/2 inches in length. All fishermen should carry a measuring gauge.
  • Fishermen are cautioned against capturing egg-bearing females.
  • Use of dive tanks is forbidden. Bahamian citizens can apply for permits to use air-compressors (which pump air to divers through a hose).


Ok, so you’ve “jooked” your first crawfish, now what?  

The best and simplest way to prepare fresh crawfish is to throw a butterflied tail on the grill:

  1. 1. Twist off the head
  2. 2. Butterfly the tail with a sharp knife (I sometimes use a hammer if the shell is thick)
  3. 3. Season with salt, pepper and “sour” (Bahamian for lime)


Remember, the fresher the catch, the sweeter the meat. You can always tell a fresh tail if its still wriggling on the grill!

Fishing Point Estate, Abaco (HG Christie)

*Bahamian Fishing Slang & Words of Wisdom (source More Talkin’ Bahamian by Patricia Clinton-Meicholas):

  • + Jook Vb.  To “stab” or “stick”, as in “He jook the fish wit’ a knife”
  • + Fishenin’ (to go) Vb. One may go “fishenin” literally or figuratively
  • + “Ain’t only shark does cut in the sea!When someone is attacked in the ocean, sharks are nearly always blamed, but are sometimes not the culprits – a metaphor for seadogs as well as landlubbers.
  • + “If you can’t fish, cut bait. If you can’t cut bait, get out of the boat!” If you can’t make some useful contribution, get lost.


Crawfish Salad by Alanna Rodgers
Crawfish Salad by Alanna Rodgers at Tru Bahamian Food Tours


Bahamian Crawfish Season runs from August 1st 2014 to March 31st 2015

Please feel free to share your Crawfish Comments, Slang, Seadog Wisdom & Recipes below!





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