Nature Bulletin No. 14 May 12, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
The freshwater crayfish, known to all farm boys as "crawfish" or
"crawdad", is a relative of the lobster and just as good to eat. They are
prepared by dropping them in boiling water, where they die instantly,
The water should be flavored with two tablespoonfuls of salt per gallon
of water, a pinch of red pepper and a handful of dill. Boil for 15
minutes, during which time they turn a bright red. Peel off the carapace
-- the shell that armors the central part of the body -- peel off the tail
shell, and you have a delicious morsel. The meat inside the claws is best
of all but hard to get out, Epicures eat the pink feathery gills and the
greenish liver in the central part of the body.
There are four kinds of crayfish common to northern Illinois. The
largest, and therefore the best for food, is Cambarus virilis, the larger
found in streams. It is greenish in color with large, heavy claws.
Another large one, found in great numbers in lakes, ponds and sloughs,
is Blandingii acutus. It has slender claws and is dark red with a darker
stripe down the back.
Diogenes is the crayfish that builds a chimney of mud around the mouth
of his hole on the shore of a marsh. He is smaller and has broad, short
claws, deeply notched.
The smallest is Propinquis, rarely more than 2 l/2 inches long, found
mostly in the riffles of running streams. It has short, broad claws
sharply pointed, and will pinch your flesh more painfully than all the
The female crayfish lays 100 to 200 eggs in February or March,
carrying them attached to the swimmerets under her tail, The young
hatch there and are carried there until large enough to shift for
Crayfish are an important item of food for coons, snapping turtles,
herons, bitterns, crows, catfish and bass.
To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Update: June 2012