Crazy about cray­fish

Here’s more in­for­ma­tion af­ter pop­u­lar col­umn

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DALE BOW­MAN dbow­man@sun­ | @Bow­manOut­side

My col­umn Satur­day about an on­go­ing study of cray­fish, es­pe­cially in­va­sive red swamp cray­fish, by the Keller Lab at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity drew much in­ter­est. So I reached Kevin Irons, the as­sis­tant fish­eries chief for the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, who spe­cial­izes in in­va­sives.

Below is an edited Q&A with Irons. The unabridged ver­sion is at chicago. sun­­tion/out­doors.

Even if you cap­tured red swamp cray­fish your­self, it is il­le­gal to trans­port them live or use them as live bait, right?

‘‘Cor­rect. They are not an ap­proved aquatic life, so pos­ses­sion and trans­porta­tion is not per­mit­ted. You can see in the fish­ing regs that any wild­caught live or dead bait can only be used in the waters where caught.’’

Would it be le­gal to trans­port and use them as bait if they were dead?

‘‘No, it is only ap­pro­pri­ate to use live or dead wild-caught bait in waters where cap­tured. The regs do al­low four species of cray­fish to be used live in waters where cap­tured.’’

What should peo­ple do if they cap­ture a red swamp cray­fish?

‘‘Cer­tainly, I rec­om­mend eat­ing them out of ap­pro­pri­ate wa­ter. Like all of our aquatic life, I would sug­gest dis­patch­ing and plac­ing on ice im­me­di­ately to pro­tect qual­ity. Th­ese are qual­ity bait and can be used in the wa­ter where cap­tured but not trans­ported.

‘‘If an an­gler does not want to har­vest the cray­fish, sev­eral pho­tos from top, bot­tom and sides can be taken and sent to dnr.ans@illi­, or you can call (217) 785-8772. With ei­ther method

. . . pro­vide con­tacts so we can [fol­low up]. While we pre­fer nui­sance/in­va­sive species are re­moved, it is per­mit­ted to im­me­di­ately re­turn such to the waters where caught. Many pre­fer not to kill/ harm any species, and this is OK.

‘‘Cray­fish are avail­able for bait at lo­cal bait stores. They fol­low reg­u­la­tions and sell bait that is ap­pro­pri­ate for sell­ing in Illi­nois un­der ap­pro­pri­ate screen­ings and per­mits. Also, they sell some cray­fish dead to pre­vent spread or in­tro­duc­tion of cray­fish species. Again, by work­ing to­gether, we can keep our waters great.’’

Con­sid­er­ing red swamp cray­fish are dis­tinc­tive, I doubt peo­ple re­port­ing they caught them from odd waters are misiden­ti­fy­ing them. Are more around than we re­al­ize?

‘‘We are look­ing into that with [Loy­ola pro­fes­sor Reuben Keller] and oth­ers. Red swamp cray­fish are na­tive to Illi­nois, na­tive in those waters in ex­treme south­ern Illi­nois. Cray­fish, in gen­eral, are highly in­va­sive out­side their na­tive ranges, so trans­port of any live wild bait, in­clud­ing cray­fish, is not al­lowed. Cer­tainly less work is done on cray­fish than fish­eries in the state, so it would not sur­prise me to see them pop up in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions due to move­ment from th­ese satel­lite pop­u­la­tions or other bait/ food in­tro­duc­tions.’’

What should peo­ple do if they catch or cap­ture what they sus­pect is an in­va­sive in an un­usual area?

‘‘I rec­om­mend tak­ing pho­tos with your cell­phone from many an­gles (top, bot­tom, sides, head). [Then email dnr.ans@illi­ or call (217) 7858772. Pro­vide a name and con­tact.]’’


The Illi­nois Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion fi­nally re­leased the free app Out­door Illi­nois. Get it where you get your apps.


The Black­hawk Field Archers’ 28th an­nual Tra­di­tional-Only Shoot is this week­end in Rock­ton. Con­tact David Lee at (708) 476-0305.

Stray cast

Is In­di­ans pitcher Zach Ple­sac, a Sox fan as a youth, con­sid­ered a na­tive or an in­va­sive? (Or just a dum­b­ass?)


A bag of red swamp cray­fish, part of a col­lec­tion July 31 from the North Shore Chan­nel and the North Branch of the Chicago River by staff from the Keller Lab at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity.

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