Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
Nature Bulletins
Newton Home Page

Introduction and Instructions

Search Engine

Table of Contents



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 others.

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 themselves.

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!
Hosted by NEWTON

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Sponsered by Argonne National Labs