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You might not think about crustaceans or crayfish when you think of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but we do manage them. 

Crayfish also known as crawdads, resemble miniature lobsters and are found along shorelines with large rocks in lakes, reservoirs and slow moving rivers. Most species are nocturnal and capturing them effectively requires leaving traps out overnight. Crayfish are more abundant in southern and eastern Wyoming.  

There are four native and two introduced species of crayfish in the state. While crayfish are much smaller than lobsters and only provide a small morsel of edible meat, they are a sought after treat for some. Here are the guidelines for harvest:

  • Harvesting crayfish in Wyoming does not require any licenses or permits. 
  • Commercially produced traps constructed of a woven mesh are the most common harvest method, but there are other ways that work as well.  
  • All traps set for crayfish must have the owner’s name and address clearly attached. 
  • Once captured and in your possession, crayfish must be fully confined and may not be released, abandoned or allowed to escape.  
  • Crayfish can be used as fishing bait only on the water where they were captured.  
  • If you or your kids capture a crayfish and take it home, never release it or allow it to escape. 
  • If your crayfish traps capture fish, they must be immediately released unless the fish captured meet the stipulations of a License to Trap and Seine Live Baitfish you possess.
All species may be harvested except for the rusty crayfish. Rusty crayfish were illegally introduced in southeast Wyoming and are an aquatic invasive species. They spread prolifically and outcompete other species including native crayfish. It is illegal to collect, harvest or possess rusty crayfish.  People collecting crayfish from Albany, Converse, Goshen and Platte counties in particular should become familiar with the difference between rustys and natives before retrieving crayfish traps.

Photo: Rusty crayfish can be identified by the dark rust colored spots on either side of the carapace.  Anyone capturing a rusty crayfish should report the catch to the Game and Fish Department as soon as possible. (Jeff Gunderson, Minnesota Sea Grant)

Mark Smith
Assistant Fisheries Management Coordinator

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