Pillow Traps

The use of pillow traps goes back more than 50 years, and this de- sign is still used where crawfish are harvested in backwater swamps and other natural areas. Pillow traps are easily made from vinyl-coated, hexagonal-mesh wire of any width. These traps are shaped like a pillow and have two inverted funnels at the bottom that allow crawfish to enter the trap. The other end is closed off with metal rings, except for one corner that can be opened to extract the crawfish. A clothespin or other simple clamp is typically used to keep the trap closed until the harvester is ready to empty it. Wire 48 inches wide (122 cm) is a convenient size for pillow trap construction, although some harvesters will make an extended trap so that the top of the trap can reach above the water surface even at depths of more than 1 meter. If water quality is poor, crawfish can suffocate if they are unable to reach the surface once inside the trap.

However, if there is even a slight current, traps can normally be deployed completely under water without undue stress on the confined crawfish. Once baited, pillow traps are usually set in the water by leaning them against a tree stump, stake or other object at about a 45- to 60-degree angle. A cord tying the trap to a branch makes it easy to locate. Crawfish are attracted to the scent of the bait and will crawl around the trap, entering through the funnel in an attempt to reach the bait. If funnels are deep enough and set at the correct angle (avoiding contact with the walls or bottom of the trap), few crawfish will find their way back out of the trap. If funnels are too short or angled downward, many crawfish will easily find their way out of the trap. Pillow traps are easily stored and transported. The “pillows” can be slightly flattened and stacked one on top of the other. This is especially convenient when large numbers of traps are periodically moved as wa- ter levels change in natural environments.
How to Build a Pillow Trap
Step 1
Cut a piece of vinyl-coated, hexagonal-mesh wire 48 inches (122 cm) wide and 52 inches (132 cm) long.
Step 2
Connect the cut sides to make an open cylinder by twisting the stubs of the wire together. A modified ice pick (bent at a 90-degree angle) works well for this purpose. Weaving the ends together in this way makes a stiffer seam than simply crimping with rings, and makes the trap stronger and longer lasting. Once the seam is secure, however, it should still be crimped with metal rings to prevent it from eventually opening over time.
Step 3
Close one end of the trap by fasten- ing the facing edges with metal rings, leaving the last 3 inches (7.6 cm) open at the two corners. This will be the bottom of the trap. (The corner of the trap seam is left open, and occasionally bent in slightly, so funnels can be formed.)
Step 4
Close one-half to two-thirds of the top of the trap with metal rings. Use a clothespin to close the remaining opening.
Step 5
Invert the two bottom corners over a long-necked bottle or wooden spindle to form funnel entrances. Angle the funnels upward at about a 75- to 80-degree angle. Trim each entrance hole to be sure it is wide enough for a large crawfish to enter (roughly 2 inches, or 5 cm).
Step 6
Several modifications can be made to pillow traps depending on the fishing habitat and the preferences of the harvester. Extended traps can be made by splicing a 24-inch-wide (61-cm) piece of wire to the top of a 48-inch (122-cm) trap. The result- ing 60-inch-tall (152-cm) trap can be used in water more than 4 feet deep and still allow crawfish to reach the surface to breath. This is necessary where floating vegetation is so thick that it covers the entire water surface.
Another variation of the pillow trap is one that sits flat on the bottom and has three funnel entrances. The top corner of the trap that would other- wise be sealed is formed into a third funnel, with the remaining corner clamped closed with a clothes pin as in a typical standing pillow trap. If there is enough current to keep oxygenated water flowing through the trap, this bottom-sitting pillow trap is very effective. A string and/or float can be used to retrieve the trap if needed.
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