They are incredibly annoying, widespread, and infuriatingly clever in their bait stealing tactics; we are of course talking about the infamous crayfish in our fishing waters.
In recent years the American Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) has progressively swept through European fishing waters, including the UK, causing stress, havoc and much grievance amongst anglers.
Losing confidence in your tactics is one thing, but being unsure whether there’s even a bait left on the end of your line is even more demoralising. You could be sitting there waiting for a run that might not even be a possibility in the first place, all because a cheeky crayfish has stolen your hook bait. On top of this all the loose feed and attractants you’ve spent your hard earned cash on in order to bring fish into the swim might just be feeding up the next generation of crays and prolonging the longevity of those in the water. This is the impact Crayfish are causing but it doesn’t stop there.
Crayfish are a particular nuisance in carp fishing, notoriously having an appetite for tasty carp baits such as boilies and pellets, but being a scavenger will also happily accept anything else that comes their way, thus baiting up a swim can attract a swarm. Furthering this, they seem to have learnt the ability to eat or at least remove boilie stops! Crayfish also cause serious damage to carp rigs by clawing and nipping at the line. Monofilament is especially vulnerable to the Cray nip.
If you’re planning on fishing a suspected crayfish infested water (See Tell Tale Signs ) then here are a few tips to ensure a more successful and less stressful fish…
How to Guard and Protect Hook Baits from Crayfish
MESH/SHRINK TUBE: You can buy specialist mesh to wrap around hook baits such as boilies and pellets, effectively forming a shield barrier against the crayfish. Similarly you can also buy tubing to shrink around the bait which acts in the same way. Both of these should be available from your local tackle dealer.
THE SRUNCHIE TRICK: You can purchase bath scrunchies from a variety of places including supermarkets. Similar to the above method you wrap your bait in a piece of the srunchie and tie off the ends with dental floss to keep it secure. This way the smell is still released and it’s an effective and cheap option. You can buy a similar mesh from sewing shops.
BOILIE STOPS: As mentioned earlier the Crayfish seems to have developed the ability to do away with boilie stops, consequently releasing the bait. However different styles of stoppers can work better for Crays. You can purchase extended stoppers for the crayfish problem, ( such as Korda extender stops ) but the general advice would be to bury the stopper as best as possible by pulling the stopper into the bait.
BAIT PASTE: Shrouding the bait in paste can slow the Crayfish down in its process of demolishing the bait allowing time for carp to move into the swim at which point the crayfish will leave.
Although the crayfish’s ferocious appetite goes as far as to eat rig materials some believe there must be baits or at least flavours they are not fans of. Unflavoured plastic baits do get less attention from crayfish. Pineapple flavours have had some success in this respect as well, along with tigernuts, however neither consistently. A further piece of advice would be not to use monofilament in your carp rigs as these can easily be damaged by Crayfish claws.
Crayfish tend to go for the easiest target available, so if your hookbait is less accessible they’ll probably give up on it or leave it alone altogether and focus on other offerings. There are a few baits that have been specifically designed to be ‘crayfish resistant’ and these include Solar’s jail baits and Berkley Power Naturals amongst others.
Ultimately it will probably be a combination of the above tactics that yield the best results.
Loose Feed and Crayfish
It is impossible to stop the crayfish from divulging loose feed and inevitably they will eat some. However the silver lining to this is that the commotion and raucous the crays cause when they hone in on the loose feed and stir up the venue bed, alerts and attracts the carp, and when the carp move in the crayfish move away, as they know they might otherwise become Carp food themselves.
Crayfish – Tell Tale signs
If a venue has a bad case of Crayfish then it should become obvious fairly quickly and experienced anglers will pick up on it pretty immediately.
In other cases, sometimes you might be able to spot the Crayfish in shallower water.
It’s worth inspecting your bait after its been in the water for any signs of nibbling or nipping marks, but of course this is not as obvious as the mysteriously disappearing boilie! Another sign is to keep an eye on your bobbins and bite alarms for those tell-tale single, or double beeps while never having an actual run.
Food for Thought
One bonus of the American Signal Crayfish moving into our carp waters, is that we have learnt Carp seem to be quite fond of the crayfish flavour. They will regularly eat them crushing them with their back teeth (Pharyngeal Teeth) perhaps providing some useful inspiration for new bait flavours – just some food for thought.