Living off the land can be a lot of work, not to mention the dangers of confronting the wild. But for the outdoorsman, living on the edge comes with the territory. In the Louisiana swamps and bayou’s, if one is not familiar with the landscape, the waterways, how to get out of trouble when you find yourself in trouble, it would be wise to hire an experienced guide. The swamp is no place for the faint of heart, especially for the new kid on the block when there is an ever present danger lurking a few feet away.
The experience of catching small crawdads, shrimp, alligator, bullfrog, snapping turtle, catfish, gar, and crab is rewarding for when you prepare these scrumptious, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans and arthropods using Cajun style cooking, the end result is a mouthwatering delicious meal that stays with you for life.
To fish for crawdads it requires a basket, a relative cheap buy. In shallow waters, one could even use a window screen. Tie the four corners with string, tie bacon down in the middle of the screen and you’re good to go. For the basket, you would want to use bait that smells rancid, pork or chicken will do. Even a punctured can of dog food will work. The crawdads will go all out to find anything that smells bad. Fishing for shrimp requires special netting and rigging attached to the boat as well as other accessories needed to go shrimping, i.e., baskets, culling tools, fantail, etc.
At night, gigging large bullfrogs can be a challenge for the swamps are riddled with water moccasins and copperheads. Shooting snapping turtles can also be a challenge but they are a delicious eat when prepared and cooked right. Fishing for cats as well as gar requires no special fishing gear other than normal tackle.
Hunting alligators is an entirely different matter. Depending on one’s skills and body size, hunting alligators will determine what size you can handle when getting the dead alligator into the boat. Setting the baited hook is the easy part; it’s reeling in the thrashing gator then shooting a quarter size spot in the back of its head. This method of catching alligator is not only the hard part but the most dangerous. A 200 lb man can with some effort roll a gator weighing up to 400 lbs into the boat. Gators weighing more than 400 lbs will require an extra set of hands, or an onboard hand winch with crane. Cajuns have used different kinds of baits such as chicken, or whatever, using their special rotting juices and coating to lure the alligator.
Having the right equipment can mean the difference in how much food you can catch, more importantly, in saving your life. To fish or to catch alligators, or anything else, one has to have a boat to get into places that are not normally traveled by foot. Having a min of a 15 hp, or larger outboard motor is needed to operate a 24-27 ft boat. Ideally, having a .22 rifle and a larger caliber rifle equipped with a scope is perfect to have in the boat. I always carry a sidearm for extra protection when I need it.
Having several large weighted 14/0 treble hooks to snag an underwater alligator is needed as well. Other equipment such as bamboo poles, large 18/0 baiting hooks, pole to snag lines, premade bait lines that consist of using 20 ft of 100 lb braided test line, used as a leader, then have a 50 lb mono test line used as a backer. The amount of fishing and hunting equipment varies with individuals and there are many ways to make hunting easier.
There is a lot to learn about living in the Louisiana swamps and bayous. Having a home where you can park your boat trailer and have the facility of skinning an alligator, as well as preparing other meals is ideal. There are certain restrictions on when you can hunt alligators and shrimp for commercial purposes, however, if you live in Louisiana, and live off the land, you can catch whatever you need to live on.
© 2013 James Ian MacIntosh all rights reserved