Table Rock Crawdads
If you crave lobster, your Missouri fishing permit won't help you obtain a meal. However, you can catch a close relative of the lobster that is just as nutritious and has its own distinct flavor.
Crayfish are popular as food in a handful of southern states, including Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Those states have a growing number of crayfish farms where the crustaceans, raised in ponds and rice paddies, are sold on the open market. The estimated harvest of crayfish for food in the United States is said to be close to 100 million pounds, and most of that comes from Louisiana.
Crayfish are also popular in Scandinavian countries, especially Norway. That country has intensive fisheries for crayfish and resource managers devote a lot of time to them.
Missouri isn't usually regarded as a crayfish state. We do have 33 species of crayfish living here, but most of our crayfish are too small to attract attention as a food item, even though Missouri anglers can legally harvest 150 of them daily.
At least one of our crayfish is big enough for the table, and they are numerous enough to provide a feast. In fact, our longpincered crayfish is the largest crayfish in North America. This species can have a body six inches long with pincers and claws almost as long as its body. The longpincered “crawdad” is believed to be indigenous only to the White River basin of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, which includes Table Rock Lake.
People who live near or visit Table Rock are finding that the reservoir holds an excellent population of large crayfish, and more and more anglers are harvesting them—and having fun doing it.
“The Table Rock Lake crayfishery is unique in the state, if not the nation,” says Bob DiStefano, a Conservation Department resource scientist whose specialty is crayfish.
“Only a few other places in the country have an intensive fishery for wild crayfish,” DiStefano said. It certainly is one of a few places where the number of people catching and eating crayfish is growing.”
I'm one of that growing number of crawdad fans on Table Rock, so is my friend Wayne Williams. Until he retired and moved down to Table Rock from Kansas City, he never tried to catch crawdads to eat.
“I saw a trap on the dock of a friend of mine,” Wayne said, “and I decided to try catching some. I baited the trap with some canned dog food and,