Crawfish Swim in Reverse to Elude Predators
By Russell Graves
Some people call them crayfish. The same creature with exaggerated pinchers and bug-eyes is also called a crawdad, or a mudbug.
By any name, this fierce-looking member of the crustacean family – the crawfish –is readily identifiable for its exaggerated, crab-like claws and a meaty tail that helps it swim tail-first. The crawfish has become a mainstay for fish bait and a popular delicacy of late spring in the South.
“Crawfish are typically located where habitat requirements are met: surface water or reachable water below ground,” says Ken Johnson, co-author of the book Texas Crawdads. “In Texas these are available generally in the central and eastern part of the state.”
In western areas, he explains, crawdads are found in streams or reservoirs and, in wet weather, spots like ditches and nearby watersheds.
“Ponds are also populated here and there but these may be introductions. We have found them though all the way to the Caprock in several counties of dry West Texas.”
“If one must choose a most common species for Texas, the red crawfish (or Louisiana Swamp Crawfish) might fit the bill,” Johnson says. “It is very common in the southern part of the state from east to west and in certain ponds and lakes in the northern part where released by intentional and unintentional stocking.”
In Texas crawdads are a commercially viable crop as they are raised for food consumption and bait. While Louisiana grows most all of the crawfish sold for food consumption, Texas is in second place with some 147,000 pounds produced annually according to the last agriculture census: a document released in 2007 by the United States Department of Agriculture. At the time of the last census, eight Texas farms were raising crawfish for the table.
With modern aquaculture harvest methods, crawfish are either grown in dedicated ponds and harvested when ready for market, or they are double cropped with rice when fields are flooded during the growing season.
Traditionally, crawfish were raised and consumed on a local scale. With the rise in popularity of Cajun inspired foods, more and more of the harvest is packaged and shipped.
While there are a variety of ways to cook crawfish in dishes such as étouffée, jambalaya, or pie, most people enjoy crawfish boiled in a big pot. Essentially, the Southern delicacy is boiled in seasonings — peppercorns, allspice and garlic — along with ingredients like corn, sliced potatoes, slices of sausage, maybe even slices of chicken.
Like lobster and shrimp, the tails are primarily consumed, while some native creatures such as catfish or raccoons, will eat the crawdad’s insides as well.
Russell Graves is a former school teacher now a noted outdoor photographer, writer and coach in youth sports. With questions or comments, contact Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.russellgraves.com.