Alvarado Creek runs through La Mesa along the south side of Interstate 8 from the Mount Helix watershed to where it converges with the San Diego River a few hundred yards east of the mission. In the 1960s into the 1970s, crayfish were plentiful in the holes on the downstream side of culverts that served as bridges for the roads crossing Alvarado Creek.
I remember catching crayfish from the creek along the stretch that ran behind the old RV center and trailer park near 70th Street for eating and for bait. My grandmother from Joplin, Missouri knew just how to prepare them. You could catch them easily with a piece of hotdog on a string lowered into the deeper parts of the pools that in the drier months held the only water in the creek bed. Catfish and bass loved them, and we’d tote our bucket full of them to Lake Murray, or the pools in the San Diego River and pin them on a hook.
The crayfish she boiled up, to me, tasted as good as the shrimp dad would buy in San Felipe for a dollar per kilo. Grandma said to use crawdads for bait was like fishing for silver with gold. With the nickname ‘mud bug’, we never thought of them as a potential meal until we were shown how to break them open, suck out the juices and gobble up the tail meat. They were best, she said, from the cooler water higher up, but the ones we caught would do nicely.
At Lobster Port Fishing Supply in Oceanside. The FishGroms 3rd annual Crawfish Boil will feature a Cajun-style setting, complete with pots of mud bugs that were caught from cool water in the Sierra Nevadas.