Crayfish ‘Crayze’ at McPherson Lake: Invasive species make Kansas debut

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Researchers have discovered a new species at McPherson Lake. The rusty crayfish is considered an invasive species. Although they have affected the waters of some of our neighboring states, it’s the first time in history we see them in Kansas. 

“Because this is the first population of rusty crayfish in Kansas, we don’t really know exactly what to expect,” said Chris Steffen, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator at Kansas Wildlife and Parks.

Steffen was surprised to find the invasive crayfish, but it is the first time they are sampling for them.

“It’s a larger aggressive species of crayfish that competes with our native crayfish for space, and food, and just kind of disturbs the ecosystem,” he added. 

Steffen said the population likely started with an angler using the rusty crawfish as bait, but the state’s bait shop inspection program shows a clean record.

“We have never found these rusty crayfish in those bait shops.”

So how did they get here?

“Someone could have collected these outside of the state and brought them back with them,” Steffen said.

Brian Sowards, Assistant Director of Fish and Culture in McPherson County, said a new law should help curb the issue.

“We finally passed a regulation to where it’s illegal to transport crayfish from one body of water to another,” mentioned Sowards. 

Although that may prevent people from taking their bait and contaminating other lakes, it’s too late for McPherson lake.

“We’re not going to be able to remove them from this lake, they’re going to be in there,” added Steffen.

There is a foolproof way to stop the spread. 

“If you’re going to move water bodies don’t take water, or bait or live fish with you, just, just don’t move things between lakes,” said Steffen.

KDWP stated anglers, boaters and water sport enthusiasts are encouraged to keep their eyes open for this invasive species, which can be identified by its trademark large, black-tipped claws and rust-colored spots on its upper shell.

If one is discovered, freeze it in a sealed plastic bag, note the date and location of capture, and contact KDWP’s Emporia Research and Survey Office at 620-342-0658.

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