It all started in 1878, in the lake Hjälmaren, where over-fishing of crayfish threatened the survival of the species. A ban was imposed, which later spread to other parts of Sweden. It was not permitted to catch crayfish from the 1 November until the 7 August, which meant that the 8 August became the first day of the crayfish season. Even though the ban has long since been removed, Swedish people continue to start catching crayfish – and hold crayfish parties! – on 8 August every year. The date was probably chosen because crayfish shed their shells two to three times during the summer as they grow in size, during which they hide under stones and are extremely difficult to catch.
The ban and the start of the Crayfish party season really only applied to crayfish, but here on the west coast we prefer fresh langoustines (locally known as Ocean Crayfish). This time of year there are many lively discussions between west coast residents and Swedes from the east coast about the type of crayfish that should be served at a party.
In the area which is home to the Swedish crime novel author, Camilla Läckberg – the Fjällbacka Archipelago – visitors can join local fisherman on trips to catch langoustines. The catch is cooked on board, and all the fishermen have their own recipes which they are very proud of and happy to share.
Crayfish parties are usually private events – but this year, visitors can join in the crayfish celebrations at Väderöarnas Värdhus guesthouse on West Sweden’s idyllic Weather Islands, found at the far end of the Fjällbacka Archipelago. Its new package gives guests the chance to catch the seafood delicacies fresh from the ocean, before a big crayfish feast is cooked up, accompanied with schnapps and traditional drinking songs!
Want to join the crayfish celebrations? Click here to book the Weather Island crayfish package.
A few things you didn’t know about crayfish:
- Crayfish have blue blood
- Crayfish do not walk backwards, however they can swim backwards by flapping their tail
- The male crayfish has two extra legs under his belly
- Crayfish breath with gills, just like fish
- Crayfish are cannibals and eat each other
- Crayfish must be at least 9 cm long when caught
- Crayfish with schnapps became such an important part of Swedish traditions that they were even used as argument for the non-supporters in the Swedish referendum on whether to ban intoxicating drinks in 1922, with the motivation that crayfish require these drinks!
How to eat crayfish/langoustines
- Suck out the tasty crayfish liquid from underneath the crayfish.
- Break off the tips of the claws.
- Take one claw or leg at a time, break off the tip, open it and eat the contents.
- Lift off the carapace, scrape out the contents underneath and eat it.
- The females contain both ‘crayfish butter’ and roe.
- Line up the carapaces by the side of your plate to keep count of how many crayfish you have had.
- Finally, the most longed-for part; the tail.
- Break open the shell, cut the tail lengthwise, and remove the intestine.