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Crawdads - Colors and Seasonality

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After spending a couple years studying Threadfin Shad and picking lures to mimic their patterns and colors, it's time to focus on another common forage here in the SW. 

 

Please share your breakdown on crawdads. I'm interested in common colors from their yearling to adult stage. Traditionally speaking, what colors they take on in winter vs spring vs summer? Lures and soft baits that resemble their metamorphosis for a lack of better word?

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You need to go online and look for crayfish in your area and the various color stages they go through, there are thousands of variations and since crawdads are transported to every state from southern states you need to look at crayfish from those states.

For example in California we have only 1 native crawdad the Signal crayfish that is very dark brown with a white spot on the claws that gives it it's name. Colors vary as it molts and grows from dark green to almost black with some orange on the underside of the legs. This crawdad is indigenous to San Juaqine delta area.

The southern swamp crayfish is very common in SoCal and varies from light tan to dark red depending on the ecosystem and growth phases from molting to water chemistry being acidic or alkaline.

You can drive yourself crazy trying to match the crawdad hatch.

After 60 years of jig fishing I am convinced high contrast colors work good and black with bright blue, Browns with green purple and white with dark green charteuse work everywhere. Just match 1 of the skirt colors with the predominate trailer color, this gives you 8 combinations with 3 jig skirt colors.

Tom

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Watermelon and green pumpkin, you don't need more, maybe black and blue to complement.

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Color expression in crawfish is regulated largely by special pigment containing cells (chromatophores) located beneath the exoskeleton, and color is normally a function of two factors, developmental stage and the environment. Most crawfish species are generally greenish or brownish as immature animals and begin to take on the characteristic colors as the approach maturity. Color manifestations is intensified in sexually mature individuals. The aquatic environment and diet also influence color.

 

Individual specimens of crawfish vary in color from the normal population. Color variants are almost endless with respect to degree and/or pattern of expression.

Molting is the periodic shedding of the old exoskeleton (shell) and takes place with each increase in size which can be 4-6 times a year; once the crawfish reaches maturity the molting process stops Each individual crawfish will vary in color before, during, & after molting!

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Thanks all. So what I'm gathering is I need to grab tubes, Jigs, crawdad cranks, chunks, and other crawdad imitation soft plastic - one of every color. Ok! jk

 

I get the theme in the answers. For an animal that can camouflage so easily the variables are endless. I vaguely recall hearing that crawdads get a blueish color in the winter then orange to reddish in the spring. Lure manufacturers make summer patterns that are geared towards the watermelon shades then the Fall is one big question mark. Man, Shad are so much easier!

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Here in North Texas, red on the bottom and blue on the top. That's the same claw btw, just a pic of each side. image.thumb.jpeg.2364bfc087039befb382547ba066b696.jpegimage.thumb.jpeg.5065110bb8a307d8178a1c7d32c25df9.jpeg

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@Catt do crawdads spawn every full moon or during different seasons of the year? I had no idea that they go through the molting phases so frequently either. I like what @WRB mentioned about having a variety of skirts to interchange because it's going to get expensive and maddening trying to cover every stage especially region and species specific 

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Male and female crawfish mate during all months but the peak is reached in the spring.

a. The female stores sperm until eggs are laid. (Female crawfish have been observed to store sperm as
long as 6 months.)
b. The eggs are fertilized at the time they are laid by the female.
c. Females usually lay eggs in burrows in the late summer or early fall.
LSU AgCenter

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21 minutes ago, Catt said:

Male and female crawfish mate during all months but the peak is reached in the spring.

a. The female stores sperm until eggs are laid. (Female crawfish have been observed to store sperm as
long as 6 months.)
b. The eggs are fertilized at the time they are laid by the female.
c. Females usually lay eggs in burrows in the late summer or early fall.
LSU AgCenter

 

This also varies depending upon the species of crayfish and where in the country you are.  In some parts of the country, and in some species, the crayfish can mate, lay eggs, etc multiple times throughout the year.  And just to make it even more complicated, a body of water likely has several species of crayfish that all may be at different points in the cycle at different times.  

 

So it's not like there's one set size, color pattern, location (different species will live everywhere from muddy weed beds, to rocks, to burrowed in muddy swamps and even burrowed in wet fields), etc.  The best things you can do are catch crayfish in your local lakes to compare color or to fish the conditions and using some basic colors and a tub of dip'n'dye to match the hatch.

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From reading the responses I'm glad I live in NW Ohio. We have one type of Crayfish in my Area, the Rusty Crayfish. The only go through two colors. Green Pumpkin and Orange/Brown. They are mean little suckers and grow to about 5". They are also invasive. We had 6 different species in 2005 but a 2015 study by ODNR reports the Rusty Crayfish is the only one left up here.

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It's not a terrible idea to try and match patterns with your local forage, though I find it's often enough to simply come close.  Meaning, a fishy bait for fish based forage, a crabby bait for crawfish diets, and [worms and creatures in muddy habitats.  Even then, I don't think too hard.  I'm looking for active, hungry bass, using structural and cover features to guide me.  If I can fine tune things, so be it, but mostly I throw what works best in the situation without too much regard for color.

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Have seen plenty of crayfish here in NY.  What I have the most success on doesn't exactly match any of them.  The color in the GYB line is #196 - Pumpkin/Black Green Flake.  I throw a 3.75" baby craw on a 1/16 oz. Owner Ultra shakey head and reel it slowly back in.  This looks like a little lit up Christmas tree coming through the water.  I guess fish aren't trying to study things under a microscope and are more prone to going after what looks good to them, not us.

 

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My live crayfish here are red sides with black backs. My hottest color craw lure is the rebel BIG CLAW CRAWFISH crank in chartreuse D74 dives to 10'. This seems to work everywhere I fish. I cast it out and give the rod a sweep back motion to get the lure to dive right away then reel slow yet fast enough to bounce it off the bottom. She floats and runs to ten foot depth but a slower reel speed it can run between 1' to 10'. Don't forget the topwater action too just cast it out and twitch it on the surface, over open weed pockets. It's the lure we're using but the presentation too.

 

i carry all the colors of the BIG CLAW too the bright red works too. The smaller rebel crawfish lures work great in shallow rivers and streams.

 

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Back in the late 60's to early 70's when I was fishing with live crawdads in San Deigo city lakes for trophy size FLMB we learned several thing about crawdads. 

1. Bass prefer molting crawdads over mature ones.

2. Crawdads with 1 or both claws removed worked better than craws with 2 big claws.

3. 3" crawdads were the ideal size.

4. Crawdads dyed in food coloring that stood out from the native crawdads worked good.

5. Nose hooked in lieu of tail hooked crawdads and smaller size 1 light wire octopus or sqiude hooks were better then bait hold style hooks.

I used to catch crawdads, put them in clear glass jar to watch and study thier coloration to try and duplicate it. It's amazing to look at a magnified live crawdad shell, the colors are a dot matrix of multiple colors that our eyes blend together like a color TV screen.

After years of trying to match the hatch and the experiences learned fishing live crawdads I came to the conclusion a contrast of natural occurring colors work far better than matching the hatch. Critters that stand out don't survive very long in the predator prey world.

I have never found a crawdad that matched the colors of jigs I catch giant bass on, but the bass eat them anyway.

Tom

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this was in the livewell on the 2nd weekend of July, we were catching on Watermelon Red (and Red/Black) that day. 

20170709_142820_1.jpg.2fc92ff5a2600010b0eacc8c5c3c67b7.jpg

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I am interested in this topic.  Not so much how it pertains to fishing but just general interest.  Anyone have any good resources on the crayfish/crawfish subject?  Info on species, distribution.....   

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Here N.E. NJ we have 2 different colors at the same time but in 2 different lakes. One lake has darkbr/gp with orange tipped legs and tail, and the other lake has pretty much a Rage Tail Falcon Craw color.  When the water depth visibility is decreased a Bk/Bl jig with a GP Rage chunk will do.

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6 hours ago, Rick Howard said:

I am interested in this topic.  Not so much how it pertains to fishing but just general interest.  Anyone have any good resources on the crayfish/crawfish subject?  Info on species, distribution.....   

 

Google crawfish LSU Agcenter

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Green Pumpkin or black and blue work all year here.

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I have fished a small river system for many years and found that color doesn't matter too much. I have mainly used the Yum Crawbug in black neon, green pumpkin Texas red, and crawfish (watermelon and orange).

 

What I have found makes a huge difference is size. The larger Crawbug will catch a fish or two once in a while, while the little Crawbug has gotten crushed. Same goes for the pit boss jr vs the standard version. So it appears that matching the size of the craws is very important, and having seen some on my system, the smaller baits match the real thing the best. 

 

Crawfish scent helps out too 

On August 16, 2017 at 0:38 PM, WRB said:

 

2. Crawdads with 1 or both claws removed worked better than craws with 2 big claws.

 

I have read this before and have tried to fish crawbugs, bizz bugs, Berkley craws, etc with one of the claws bit off and have never gotten a bite. But put a new bait back on and I am back on the fish. I mostly fish for smallies, and maybe they like to tear apart a craw on their own vs one that is already injured? Smallies definately have an attitude problem, so it wouldn't surprise me.

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As far as natural size is concerned, I remember seeing all different sizes mixed together when I was growing up in Wisconsin.  I recall one time we turned over an old rowboat that was upside down along the shore, and under it were about 30-40 crawdads, all different sizes from about 1½" to near 5".  Those we found in the stomachs of bass we ate were usually on the smaller end of the scale.

 

Same was true with the ones I saw while teaching scuba classes in the gravel pits in SW Denver metro area - various sizes seemed to be mixed randomly.  So I figure bass just pick the size they prefer from the smorgasbord.  

 

I don't have any comment on color.  The ones I saw while diving were about 20 feet deep in murky water, so color was a bit uncertain - they all looked mostly gray-green in that water.  

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here in southern california , this what the crawdads look like and this is what i use

20090316141406.jpg

rsWZ6DA62S.jpg

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