Intensive trapping and increased fish predation cause massive population decline of an invasive crayfish


Catherine L. Hein, Department of Watershed Sciences, 5210 Old Main Hill, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5210, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Invasive species frequently have adverse impacts on native communities and ecosystems. Management options are often limited. Our goal is to evaluate the effect of intensive trapping and fish predation on the population dynamics of an invasive crayfish.

2. From 2001 to 2005, we removed invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) by trapping in Sparkling Lake in northern WI. In addition, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources restricted harvest of fish species known to consume crayfish, thereby increasing predation on crayfish that are too small to trap.

3. After an initial increase, catch rates of rusty crayfish declined by approximately 95%, from 11 crayfish per trap per day in 2002 to 0.65 in 2004. The catch rate in 2005 remained low at 0.5 crayfish per trap. Females comprised nearly 50% of the catch from 2002 to 2004. Unlike rusty crayfish in Sparkling Lake, catch rates of O. rusticus and Orconectes propinquus in three nearby lakes increased or remained relatively constant over the 5-year removal period.

4. We also examined the influence of habitat and temperature on crayfish catch rates. Catch rates were highest at water temperatures between 20 and 25 °C and on cobble, log or macrophyte habitats that may serve as refuge from fish predation.

5. Five summers of intensive trapping and fisheries management practices reduced abundances, but did not extirpate rusty crayfish in Sparkling Lake. To determine the potential of trapping as a management option for invasive crayfishes, these methods must be tested in other systems.