(Orconectes i immunis)
Crayfish,    also  called  crawfish,  crawdads,  or  crabs,  are  widely distributed  in New York’s streams,  lakes,  and marshes.   There are more  than  500  species of  crayfish,  and more than  half  of  these occur in North America.  The crayfish body is comprised of a joined head and thorax, or mid-section, and a segmented body.  Colors range from  sandy yellow,  green,  or  dark brown.  The  head  has  a  sharp snout, two pairs of sensory antennae,  and a pair of eyes on moveable stalks.  The appendages,  called pereiopods, which  are located on the thorax  include  four pairs  of  walking  legs  which  are also  used to probe cracks between rocks while looking for food.  The large claws, called  chelipeds,  are   extended   out  in  front  of  the  body  while walking.   These   specialized   appendages   are   used   for  cutting, capturing  food, attacking  and defending.  The  crayfish’s  body also has several other small pairs of legs that perform tasks such as food handling,  moving water over the gills,  and swimming.  Legs and claws which  are broken off  can be regenerated.   The crayfish uses rapid flips  of  its  tail  to  swim  backwards  and  escape  danger.

Crayfish  are crustaceans that have  a hard  external  skeleton.  This hard  exoskeleton  provides  protection  and  allows  movement,   but limits growth.  Due to growth, the crayfish must periodically shed its hard  rigid shell and  form a new one.  This  process is called molting, and may  occur  several  times  during the  crayfishes  first  year  of rapid   growth.   For  a  short  time   after  the  old   shell  has  been discarded,  the new shell is very soft and pliable.  During this period an  increase  in size occurs.   It is also  during  this  period following each   molt  that  the  crayfish   is   most  vulnerable  to   predators. Crayfish that have  recently molted are commonly called soft-shelled crabs.

The  crayfish  usually  becomes  sexually  mature  in its second year. Mating,  which  occurs between  July  and  September,  consists of a transfer  of sperm from the  male to a  receptacle in the abdomen of the female  where  the sperm  is  stored.   Egg laying   by the  female occurs  in late fall.   The female  releases  the eggs from  her ovaries and s imultaneously releases the stored sperm to fertilize them.  The fertilized  eggs   become  dispersed and  cemented within a glue-like substance  (called glair) that  has been  exuded  from  glands  on  the underside of  her abdomen.  The  female  crayfish,  depending on her size,  will  carry from  60 to 300 eggs  through the winter. The egg-carrying female is said to be   “in berry” because  the egg mass looks something  like  a berry.    Females  are  often  observed   “in berry” during April and May.  The eggs hatch in 2 to 20 weeks depending on water  temperature.   The  newly-hatched crayfish  stay  attached to their  mother for one  or two weeks  before  wandering  off on their own.
Finger Lakes Aquaculture 7627 County Rd. 36
Naples, NY 14512
(585) 374-2974
Phil Faber - Owner

The  crayfish  diet consists  of  both plant and  animal matter.  They consume  various types  of  aquatic vegetation  and  algae  as  well as insect  larvae,  worms,   tadpoles,  tiny fish,  as  well as dead aquatic organisms.   They  also  feed on  a variety  of  microscopic  plant and animal  plankton.

Crayfish  can play   an important role  in a  game fish’s diet.   It is a favorite food  item of both  largemouth  and smallmouth bass.  Trout also find  the crayfish to be a  welcome delicacy.  As  a food  supply for  game fish,  the  crayfish  can’t be  overlooked  because  of their size and  nutritional value.   A trout,  bass,  or walleye would have to eat countless  aquatic insects to equal the food value gained from one average-sized   crayfish.   As   with   minnows,  crayfish  should   be stocked  well in advance  of the game fish.  The stocking rate of 100 breeder  sized  crayfish  per  surface  acre  is  adequate.
A female "in Berry".
(Click on photo for a larger image)
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