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Be careful if you walk barefoot around the rocks in your pond. Your toes might be pinched by the claws of a crayfish. Also known as crawfish, crawdads and mudbugs, there are over 400-species in the U-S. Most are about three inches long, with big front claws and long feelers. They are found in freshwaters in nearly every state.
"They clean up a lot of carcass on the bottoms of rivers and ponds. They're omnivores which means they eat anything and everything. They also in a lot of ecosystems serve as food for a lot of fish species and some large salamanders and things like that," says Crandall. "So they become pretty critical in habitats where they're native."
Most problems with crayfish involve species that aren't native to your area. This often happens when fishermen use them for bait and release them in the water. Crandall says a few mudbug species are invasive, eating everything in sight. Some burrow into yards, leaving sinkholes, or into dams and banks, creating leaks.
If you feel they're too destructive or if there's too many, you can have them for dinner.
"There are a lot of nice traps you can put in with just some chicken livers and throw in the trap and the crawfish will crawl in and they can't get out," he says. "You harvest them out and it kind of selects for bigger crawfish, which are better for eating, and that way you're pulling them out and you’re keeping a reproductive population in."
Another method for reducing crayfish numbers is to stock sport fish such as bass, catfish, trout, and large bluegills, all of which feed on crayfish. Many wildlife species also eat them.