This reference question came up several years ago when a local teacher used to send her students on a leprechaun hunt, but is still timely. “How do you catch a leprechaun?” The question had the Newton Falls Public Library staff thinking about how handy it would be to have a pot of gold.
Carol Rose’s book, page 196 of Spirits, fairies, gnomes, goblins: an encyclopedia of the little people, describes leprechauns as fairy shoemakers who like to play pranks on humans and have a reputation for guarding crocks of gold. In the book, Leprechauns and Irish Folklore by Mary Pope Osborne, they are described as the bankers and richest of the fairy folk, originally hiding their gold from the Vikings. It is an Irish legend that they hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows, keeping very busy always moving it around. If a leprechaun is captured, he will supposedly promise to give you his gold for setting him free. Once coins are given and he is free, the silver returns magically to his purse and the gold turns to ash. People will try to trap them in boxes in gardens. Beware that you don’t nab the wrong one; they have similar appearing cousins named clurichauns who move into homes, drink all the wine, and refuse to leave.
An online search revealed numerous suggestions for catching the tricky wee folk. Traps are baited with money, shoes to be repaired, or poteen, an Irish alcohol usually made from potatoes. Some suggest using nets to catch the leprechaun. Others fear that the expansion of cities is causing them to go underground, reducing the likelihood of seeing one. While many legends and tales speak of the unfortunate consequences that often resulted in capturing a leprechaun in the past, none of the sites tell of any recent, successful catches.