Anything New Under the Sun?

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

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Even though I am a grandpa, I try hard not to look or act like the stereotypical, frumpy, old grandpa who thinks the world should function like it did when I was a kid, but allow me to digress a little in starting this week’s column.

I’m the oldest of five kids, and my nearest sibling in age is six years younger than me, so growing up, I had to learn to amuse myself, a skill sadly missing in many kids today. I’ll come clean here that I love my smart phone. I’m a FOX News junky, and enjoy surfing through FOX news or Facebook on my phone when sitting in front of TV in the evening or when waiting on my wife in a store parking lot, so I understand the draw. But When I was a kid and on-my-own, I learned to build hay forts in the haymow, shoot blackbirds along the creek with mom’s old .410 shotgun, and to catch crawdads under the bridge that crossed the creek in our pasture.

That bridge had metal sides that were three or four feet high and was built like a tank, but the huge, thick wooden planks that were the floor, were not fastened down and just laid in place, so there were big gaps between them. I learned I could lay on the planks looking through at the creek below, and catch crawdads with a long, forked willow stick. The water below was shallow and clear, and the crawdads would lay in the mud there. I’d cut the forked ends of the stick three or four inches long, and when I jabbed the forked end across an unsuspecting crawdad, they would flex enough to trap it between them like a clamp, and I could often raise the captured crawdad up through the planks, where I’d pull it out, toss it back and try again.

In the first chapter of Ecclesiastes 1 in the Bible, verse 9 says “What has been, will be again, what has been done, will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” Well guess what, speaking of crawdads, the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has discovered a new crawdad species in Kansas. The Aquatic Nuisance Species Program and Ecological Services section of the KDWPT recently funded a university project focused on sampling Kansas lakes for invasive “crayfish,” (which is the politically correct name for the little buggers.) This study establishes processes that can be used to monitor both native and invasive crayfish in KS, something that has never been done before, and a process that some questioned the need for. During capturing efforts at McPherson State Fishing Lake, the need for this process was validated early-on, as sampling found multiple Rusty Crayfish, an invasive species never before found in KS. Both males and females of various ages were found, indicating a reproducing population is established in McPherson State Fishing Lake. Rusty Crayfish are large aggressive crayfish known to attack the feet of unsuspecting swimmers, and outcompetes native fish and crayfish for forage that acts as important cover for select prey species.

Since Rusty Crayfish most likely arrived in Kansas as fishing bait, this a perfect place to remind everyone of the KS regulation regarding the use of live fishing bait here in our state. Quoting from the regulations, “Live baitfish, crayfish, leeches, amphibians and mussels, except for bluegill and green sunfish from non-designated aquatic nuisance waters, and baitfish, crayfish, leeches, amphibians and mussels from designated nuisance waters, may be caught and used as live bait only within the common drainage where caught.” In summary and in layman’s terms, this means, use wild bait ONLY where you catch it, DO NOT take it anywhere it couldn’t have gotten to on its own. This will help keep aquatic nuisance species like our “new” friend the Rusty Crayfish, from spreading to other KS waters… Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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