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Cut to the Chase: Don’t take the bait on live crawdad ban

By Chris Fennewald

Bass and catfish like to eat crayfish. Fishermen like to catch bass and catfish. Add a hook to that equation, and you’ve got a great combination. Proposed regulation by the state Conservation Department will make it a crime to sell live crayfish for bait. This will put fishermen, as well as sporting goods stores that sell live bait, in a pinch.
According to MDC, the reason for the regulation change, which takes effect Sept. 1, 2012, is to prevent ecological damage to Missouri waters and wildlife by non-native crayfish species. But sport and commercial fishermen are questioning MDC’s logic. Current regulations allow bait shops to sell only four crayfish species native to Missouri as live bait and according to the Missouri Aquaculture Association none of the four are considered invasive. Many stores are unaware of the impending ban.
Apparently, not all crayfish are the same. Although your trophy bass can’t tell the difference, there are native and non-native crayfish, some invasive and some not. The proposed regulation is MDC’s attempt to keep the bad crayfish out of our ecosystem.
My first thought when learning of this was: Is a crayfish a crawdad? I grew up catching crawdads in the creek. A quick online search revealed that, sure enough, they are the same. What species I caught as a kid is unknown, but hours were spent trying to catch the speedy critters.
Now, I learn rusty crawdads are bad and golden crawdads are good. The former is from out of state and causes problems with the locals. They displace native crayfish, and are poor neighbors that alter and harm aquatic systems, according to MDC. Think of when the brother-in-law visits the Griswolds in the movie “Family Vacation” and you get the idea.
But a ban of all live crawdad sales is extreme. We already have rules prohibiting the buying or selling of most species of live crayfish. Let’s work with the rules we have. The proposed ban will not only affect fishermen, but fish farmers who raise crawdads for some of their income.
A petition is being circulated requesting MDC to rescind the proposal. Those who who like fishing with crawdads would rather spend more time fishing and less time trying to legally catch their own bait. Those who sell crawdads to sportsmen want to continue raising them.
There is something fishy about a crawdad ban. If it pinches a nerve, sign the petition or switch to one of those plastic crawdads. Most fishermen know which one they prefer. Ask your local tackle and live bait store if they have the petition to sign. The petitions will be collected from stores June 1 and June 28. If you can’t find a one to sign go online at www.mofb.org to sign our virtual petition. Get the ban off the hook so you can keep putting a bait favorite on yours.

Chris Fennewald is editor for the Missouri Farm Bureau.

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