Crawfish in the PNW.
Crayfish, also known as crawfish or crawdads, can be found in most of our fresh water sources in Washington. This includes lakes, rivers, and streams. They are known as the bottom dwellers and are often found hanging out on the rocks up to 30 feet below the surface. While several different kinds of crawfish can be found in Washington, the only one native to the area is the Signal Crayfish.
The Signal Crayfish can typically grow up to 6” in length. Their color is found to be various shades of brown, allowing them to blend in with the rocks that we often find them on. Visually, crayfish look similar to a lobster. They have an exoskeleton which they outgrow and “molt” as they grow in size. Crayfish are both predators and scavengers, feeding upon a variety of vegetation, fish eggs, and even smaller fish.
Size isn't everything.
If you’re a native of the PNW and not the South, you may be wondering what a crayfish is or what it even tastes like. While smaller than its similar looking cousin, the lobster, the Signal Crayfish are still bursting with flavor. This freshwater crayfish that we find in the PNW boasts meat that is more tender than a shrimp and a flavor that is sweet yet slightly salty. Some even refer to this delicacy as a “lobsterette” or the fresh water lobster of the PNW.
So what exactly can you do with these tasty mini lobsters? Similar to the lobster, crayfish are best prepared alive. When killed, crustaceans often release bacteria that can multiply extremely fast. By cooking the crayfish alive, it dramatically reduces the chances of getting sick. Don’t let this scare you into not enjoying this type of protein, just make sure to prepare and handle the food safely.
There are so many dishes that you can create with crayfish from sauces, to pasta, macaroni and cheese, and even fried crayfish. The most famous and tasty dish that you can make with crayfish is the boil. Grab a handful of friends and bring the taste of the south to your very own backyard. The boil not only includes the tasty protein of the crayfish but there are so many other great ingredients that go into the pot. The sausage. The corn. The potatoes. And all the Cajun spices that you can dream of which soak right into all of the tasty ingredients that you threw in the pot.