Gumbo and jambalaya may not be at the top of Northwest menus. But if the invasive red swamp crayfish has its way, that could change.
The Red Swamp Crayfish – also known as “crawfish” or “crawdad” – is native to the Southeastern U.S. and the Gulf Coast. But over the past decade this crimson-clawed invasive has moved in on some Northwestern lakes and rivers, and it could be impacting native species of trout and bass.
Ground zero of the invasion? Pine Lake. It’s a small body of water 40-feet deep, about 20 miles east of Seattle. The shores are lined with nice homes. Yellow labs patrol well-maintained yards and docks. Bass and trout fishermen share the water with laughing kids on paddleboards.
But the ecosystem balance of this lake is shifting, says Julian Olden, a freshwater ecologist with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. Invasive red swamp crayfish now outnumbers the hometown species, known as signal crayfish.