Ban forbids taking live crawfish

Invasive species found in river prompts regulation

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Division of Wildlife/courtesy

Rusty crayfish have been found at several sites along the Yampa River and have sparked a new regulation from the Division of Wildlife.

— The invasion of rusty crayfish in the Yampa River has led the Division of Wildlife to issue an order that prohibits taking live crawfish from the Yampa and its tributaries.

Rusty crayfish, a nonnative species that biologists say are more aggressive than native crawfish, were found at several sites along the Yampa River last year and early this year.

The new regulation from the DOW went into effect Friday and prohibits any taking of live crawfish from any of the rivers or lakes that fall in the Yampa River basin that extends across almost all of Routt County.

Rusty crayfish are hard to distinguish from native species, so all crawfish taken from the waterways must either be immediately returned where they were found or killed by separating the tail from the body, the new regulation states.

Anglers often use the crawfish as live bait, and people who eat crawfish often keep them alive before eating them, but that is no longer allowed.

DOW state invasive species coordinator Elizabeth Brown said no crawfish are native to the Western Slope, but this species causes more problems than most.

“This is a particularly invasive species for a number of different reasons, mostly ecological reasons,” she said. “They’re highly aggressive with fish, they reproduce more rapidly, they outcompete the other species (and) they chew down the weed beds.”

One study shows that the rusty crayfish can eat up to twice as much as similarly sized northern crayfish, mostly eating fish, fish eggs, invertebrates and aquatic plants, according to the DOW.

Rusty crayfish were found in three locations on the Yampa River, all south of Steamboat Springs, Brown said.

Brown said as the rusty crayfish eat the weed beds, they also fragment the weeds, causing them to spread to areas.

“They just change the dynamics of the system,” she said. “When something is not supposed to be there and you introduce it, over time, it just changes the system,” and some species are more detrimental than others.

The ban is in effect until Dec. 31, and Brown said a more long-term solution, likely continuing the ban, will be crafted this year.

Comments

Richard Hagins 4 years, 5 months ago

WHAT? DOW is keeping this species IN the river? Nowhere in the article explains why.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

"so all crawfish taken from the waterways must either be immediately returned where they were found or killed by separating the tail from the body, the new regulation states"

"Anglers often use the crawfish as live bait, and people who eat crawfish often keep them alive before eating them, but that is no longer allowed."

So can be taken if killed. Key change is that people are not allowed to have LIVE crawfish.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 5 months ago

Killing them as soon as they're caught kinda defeats the purpose, since you want them alive through a couple three changes of water to clean 'em out.

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Ken Reed 4 years, 5 months ago

So is it crawfish or crayfish? Do you have rusty crayfish and everything else is crawfish? Is one bad and the other okay? I thought they were the same thing. Maybe I'll go ask my crawdad.

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aichempty 4 years, 5 months ago

If you move them away from where they were caught, some yo-yo will end up putting them back in the water somewhere and they will reproduce and harm the environment there. That's probably how they got up here -- somebody brought a few of them as aquarium or science project subjects and ended up releasing the survivors.

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bigfatdog 4 years, 5 months ago

leave the exotic in the river.....RIIIGGGHHHHTTT...can't wait to see how they manage health care!! .....oh wait like medicare and medicaid!!!

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bubba 4 years, 5 months ago

I really didn't think this article was so complicated that it warranted a call to the DOW. To stop the spread of an invasive species, they do not want people transporting live crayfish. If Yampavalleyboy catches a bunch and live transports them to Denver to give to children there, there is the risk of other waterways being affected as well.

If you want to harvest them, kill them on the spot. This is the best way to ensure that they are not inadvertently released in an uncontaminated waterway. If you can't understand that, then there is a good chance that the crayfish will outsmart you into releasing it into a different body of water.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 5 months ago

"If Yampavalleyboy catches a bunch and live transports them to Denver to give to children there..."

Get a grip. Anyone harvesting crayfish for their own consumption aren't going to use them to play Santa Claus to the little children of the world. Or scatter them Johnny Appleseed-style into uncontaminated areas. And if you're serious about being "outsmarted" by an invertebrate, your family should seriously consider an intervention.

This edict is pretty unenforceable. Make sure you're not observed when you set & retrieve the traps, and chow down.

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