Heading down to a friend’s farm to fish for trout yesterday I was warned that they may have been fished out. Because they don’t breed there, success can only come so many times on the stock of 100 fingerlings that went in a few years ago; and successes are now quite firmly believed to be over, at least until new stock arrives and has time to grow. The excuse of ‘no fish to catch’ may normally be a poor one coming from a fisherman, but in this case it may well be true. Trout or no trout, a lunch had been scheduled and a lunch would be had. Luckily I had picked up some saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) on the way, and ever better, he had thrown in some yabby (Cherax destructor) traps overnight. They were purging in the sink when we arrived.
Cherax destructor sounds more like a Japanese manga character than a food, but for whatever reason it is so named, the destructive part can be applied to its effect on dam walls. It will burrow deeply and with just one dam that already leaks, it is for this reason that we haven’t put any in on our land. In fact we are lucky not to have them already really, given their ubiquity in most southeastern Australian waterways and ability to spread by simply marching off overland (especially during floods like our recent ones). Wild harvesting of them can be problematic as the traps usually used can also trap and drown platypuses and turtles and they are now banned in many places. You certainly wouldn’t want to use traps in a river where these bycatches might be a risk, but a farm dam known to be platypus-free can be trusted to get nothing but yabbies. The last time I had traps was in England, where their efficacy on the reviled introduced American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) served me so well I had considered quitting work and going commercial with them.
Parboiled and thrown whole on a barbecue to finish works well. Boiled, shelled, ‘poo-vein’ removed and sizzled in a pan with butter and garlic or as an ingredient in something more complicated is also pretty fool proof. Or in our case yesterday, shelled at the table and into a lemon, garlic and mayonnaise dipping sauce. Another species eating first for the Boy (along with a two year old’s delight watching them alive in the sink), and one of those memory-stirring meals for me.
Update: They have now been found in our dam, for better or worse.
For more crayfish tales, I’ve come across a great American one here