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Red Swamp Crayfish Prohibited as Bait in Michigan

November 12th, 2013

The Red Swamp Crayfish is native to SE United States and is commonly exported for consumption. The species is dark red in color with raised, bright red spots covering the body and claws. They also have black, wedge-shaped stripe on the top of the abdomen. Length may vary between 2 to 5 inches.

It has recently come to the attention of the DNR that anglers are purchasing red swamp crayfish from food markets and using them as live bait in the Grand River and Kalamazoo River. The Red Swamp Crayfish has already been found in Ohio and Indiana. These species are considered highly invasive. They can survive in multiple habitat types, are highly prolific, and are capable of outcompeting Michigan’s native crayfish species. Females can lay up to 600 eggs at a time and are capable of reproducing twice a year. The species is also capable of moving (on land) up to 3 kilometers in search of new habitat. In 2009, Red Swamp crayfish were found in two Wisconsin ponds. Their establishment in the ponds proves their ability to survive northern climates. The Wisconsin DNR spent $100,000 to eradicate the species from the two ponds.

In October, the Natural Resources Commission approved Fisheries Order 249 (Crayfish Regulations), which goes into effect on April 1, 2014, in an attempt to prevent the establishment and spread of both the Red Swamp and Rusty Crayfish here in Michigan. Rusty Crayfish are another invasive species, native to the Ohio River basin. They pose similar ecological problems to Michigan waters.

General Crayfish Harvest Regulations-

  1. No minimum size limit
  2. No harvest or possession limit
  3. Harvesting is open in all waters open to fishing
  4. In designated trout waters, crayfish may only be taken during the fishing season for trout
  5. Gear may include: traps, nets, hook-and-line, or hands. All traps must identify owner

Special Crayfish Restrictions-

  1. Prohibit the use of Red Swamp as bait (live or dead) on public or private waters
  2. Red Swamp Crayfish may not be possessed live or dead for any reason on any public or private Michigan waters
  3. Crayfish may not be possessed or used as bait on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters

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