Crazy about crayfish
Here’s more information after popular column
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. suntimes.com/section/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 email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.