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Last crayfish of the year in UK


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I have just cooked up six fantastically vicious crayfish I caught in the stream at the bottom of the garden this weekend.

After 30 minutes in the freezer I dropped them in a big pot of boiling water and five minutes later was cracking the now brilliantly red shells open. I tugged out the white fleshy tails and quickly fried them in a little local butter and garlic. Then I mixed them in with some fresh watercress (not from the stream although I use that for soups).

It was just the most delicious lunch for a sunny October afternoon.

No more now until spring when I will be setting traps along the whole stream and having a Crayfish lunch party.

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Interesting. I love the Noble crayfish in Finland. Do you happen to know what species they are?

Yes they are the American Signal species. Not native to the UK and a real pest introduced by crayfish farmers and which has escaped in to the wild.

They have destroyed the native variety and can also be really harmful to fish stocks as they eat the eggs laid in the gravel of streams. The up side is that they have one big claw which has a pretty decent piece of meat in it.

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Yes they are the American Signal species. Not native to the UK and a real pest  introduced by crayfish farmers and which has escaped in to the wild.

I'm told* that Peter Ackroyd's new book repeats the story that crayfish were first introduced into the Thames by a careless chef working near Bray. Anyone know if there's a grain of truth to that urban myth?

(* Can't vouch for this, having not read it yet.)

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Yes they are the American Signal species. Not native to the UK and a real pest  introduced by crayfish farmers and which has escaped in to the wild.

I'm told* that Peter Ackroyd's new book repeats the story that crayfish were first introduced into the Thames by a careless chef working near Bray. Anyone know if there's a grain of truth to that urban myth?

(* Can't vouch for this, having not read it yet.)

Marwood Yeatman's magisterial 'The Last Food of England' blames MAFF/DEFRA for permitting their introduction to the UK in the 80's and for failing to act as they naturally escaped into the wild.

As the book could be described as a collection of rural legends for misty-eyed nostalgists and the country-sports crowd, one would sort of expect him to blame central government - that's if he couldn't blame Townies.

Ackroyd, though a noted reclusive curmudgeon, never seems to fail to come up with some juicy titbit around launch time. I find it hard to imagine Heston releasing crayfish into the Thames, he'd be too busy trying to teach them to sing arias into an iPod before pureeing their insides with a low-frequency sound pulse.

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Yes they are the American Signal species. Not native to the UK and a real pest  introduced by crayfish farmers and which has escaped in to the wild.

They have destroyed the native variety and can also be really harmful to fish stocks as  they eat the eggs laid in the gravel of streams. ...

Signal crayfish have certainly damaged the population of native crayfish, which nevertheless do cling on in many places, and are legally *protected*.

In Britain one of the biggest threats to the native crayfish is the presence of introduced non-native species, particularly the signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus). This species was introduced into England and Wales in the late 1970s and early 1980s for farming purposes but subsequently escaped from many farm sites into which it was introduced. The signal crayfish is quite capable of walking overland in its search for a home, it will rapidly colonise freshwater sites and can not only competitively exclude our native crayfish, but it also carries a fungal disease, the crayfish plague, to which the native crayfish has no defence. In addition to the potential impact on native crayfish, the signal crayfish has also been shown to have detrimental effects on other native fauna in British waters. Anglers too find them a nuisance as they take their bait and burrow into river banks.
My emphasis. http://www.defra.gov.uk/fish/freshwater/crayfish.htm

Just a couple of years ago, the Government introduced new legislation to facilitate the trapping of Signals - but one does nevertheless need a license for this. Previously, there was barely any provision to allow licensing (to prevent any trapping, which was intended to protect the native "White Clawed" Crayfish).

On 1 June 2005, the Environment Agency introduced a package of crayfish Byelaws that will allow them, under certain conditions, to approve the trapping of crayfish in England and Wales. In the past only the Thames Region of the Environment Agency had the authority to allow this activity.

The hope is that the byelaws will aid in the control non-native populations, and where appropriate, commercially exploit them. They also hope that these byelaws will go some way towards protecting the remaining native crayfish populations.

If you are thinking of trapping crayfish you should bear in mind that there are a number of conditions that need to be met. Permission to trap will be dependent on local situations, in particular the presence of the native crayfish. The EA will also take into account the possible detrimental effect that trapping could have on other species, such as protected animals like otters and water voles. Many water courses go through private properties and it will be your responsibility to obtain the permission of the landowner before you commence. You should also try and ensure that the traps are inspected every 24 hours, and disinfected after use.

You should also be aware that if you reintroduce the caught crayfish into any other waters, without the required licence, you could be liable for prosecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and this could result in a heavy fine.

We would strongly advise you to seek advice from your local Environment Agency Officer before you make an application.

Crayfish trapping advice packs are available from the National Fisheries Laboratory 01480 483968. Further information on these byelaws can be found on the Environment Agency website.

Again, http://www.defra.gov.uk/fish/freshwater/crayfish.htm

Here is a *link* to a relevant section of the EA website.

Although one requires an additional license to "keep" crayfish, (and yet another to transport them), this does not seem to apply if the 'keeping' is for immediate personal consumption (holding briefly to allow some time to purge the intestines).

It needs to be noted that they are very talented escape artists...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I have just cooked up six fantastically vicious crayfish I caught in the stream at the bottom of the garden this weekend.

After 30 minutes in the freezer I dropped them in a big pot of boiling water and five minutes later was cracking the now brilliantly red shells open. I tugged out the white fleshy tails and quickly fried them in a little local butter and garlic. Then I mixed them in with some fresh watercress (not from the stream although I use that for soups).

It was just the most delicious lunch for a sunny October afternoon.

No more now until spring when I will be setting traps along the whole stream and having a Crayfish lunch party.

Wow - sounds great, you're so lucky. Out of interest, was the 30 minutes in the freezer to make them easier to handle or because you didn't want to boil them alive?

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