Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium, Inc.


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Rusty Crayfish

Rusty Crayfish

Rusty Crayfish
(Orconectes rusticus)

Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) are native to streams in the Ohio River Basin states of Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee. They were likely introduced to Wisconsin waters primarily by anglers who used them as live bait. They are still sold as bait and by biological supply companies. It is illegal to possess both live crayfish and angling equipment simultaneously on any inland Wisconsin water (except the Mississippi River). It is also illegal to release crayfish into a water of the state without a permit. A fishing license is required to harvest crayfish.

Rusty crayfish eat small fish, insects, and fish eggs. They also eat aquatic vegetation, damaging underwater habitat that is important for fish spawning, cover, and food. They are aggressive and displace native crayfish. Rusty crayfish are prolific; females lay from 80-575 eggs!