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By Tim Hauserman
It was a clear and crisp fall morning when I walked down to the beach in Tahoe Park. A fairly strong wind from the east was blowing, putting the kibosh on my thoughts of getting out on the lake for a paddle. Instead, as I watched the waves crashing on to the rocky beach I noticed that the ground was moving. Everywhere you looked there were mini lobsters crawling just above the waves, looking dazed, and curious as to how in the heck they ended up here on the beach instead of in the lake where they belong.
Crawdads! Crawdads (or crayfish) as every Tahoe or visiting child knows, look like mini lobsters. They are actually an invasive species which were introduced into Marlette Lake in 1895, and then made there way downstream into Lake Tahoe. Not sure who is counting, but it is believed there are more than 300 million of the little buggers in Lake Tahoe. And that is not good for the lake because they produce a lot of poop that increases algae growth. In fact, crawdads are considered to have a major impact on the lake’s clarity.
The good news is that they are tasty, ask someone from Louisiana who love to cook crayfish with lemon, onion, bay leaves and garlic. And apparently our Tahoe crawdads, who reside in Tahoe’s crystal clear waters (instead of muddy bayous) are especially tasty. For a few years several companies were in the crayfish business on the Nevada side of the lake, but they went out of business. Now, individuals can catch all they want to eat. A fishing license is required in California, but not in Nevada, although hopefully, the Fish and Game have bigger fish to fry then kids catching crawdads off the pier. The bad news is that you have to catch a lot of them to make a decent meal.
Which brings me to a powerful childhood memory. I was probably about eight, and as a big east wind was crashing on Tahoe’s North Shore we got it in our brains to collect some crawdads on the beach. We filled a big plastic bucket, to the brim, then dragged the bucket back to the house, and began what turned out to be a several hour process of cleaning and cooking and cleaning out the little morsels of meat from hundreds of crawdads. The result: A little cereal bowl of meat, which didn’t quite reach our lofty expectations.
While it is a lot of work, crawdads are tasty, and every one removed from the lake is a step towards improving Tahoe’s clarity. So grab some lemons, get out the big boiling pot, and do your part for Lake Tahoe.