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April 2009 cover image dorrado fish in the gulf

Texas Reader: Crawfish Chronicles

A father and son share their passion for crawdads.
By Dan E. Klepper

Ask most Texans to name the state’s favorite freshwater ingredient for a good Cajun boil and they will probably say “crawdaddy.” But these small aquatic critters are actually known worldwide by a myriad of names. Pygmies, fatclaws, grippers, bluefingers, hairclaws, longpalms, grays and prairie burrowers are a few of the many monikers assigned to 39 known species comprising the state’s crawdad population. This might come as a surprise to Texas readers like me who thought there was only one kind of crawdaddy — red and edible.

But I have been set straight thanks to Texas Crawdads, a new publication in which Texans can learn all about the crawdads inhabiting the state’s streams, ponds, deepwater creeks, roadside ditches and culverts. Authors (and father-and-son team) Sterling and Nathan Johnson have spent the last decade identifying, photographing and documenting the state’s crawdad species and encapsulating their results in Texas Crawdads, the first and most extensive treatise on the Texas crawdaddy since 1958.

Both father and son have brought an impressive dedication to the task. But it is their enthusiasm for the subject and exhaustive research that invests Texas Crawdads with much of its authority.

“We began to collect Texas crawfishes in earnest about 10 years ago,” the authors explain. “Though we caught many more, we retained about 1,100 specimens from throughout the state. Non-Texans should appreciate, and this is not a boast, that Texas has a larger land area than the five states to its east. There are 254 counties. We took our boots and nets along on vacations and visits to faraway relatives, dipping along the way as patient wives sat charitably in a nearby vehicle. Very enjoyable were companion trips meant to search out the various species. Live specimens were brought home in transfer containers and then moved to more permanent housing. Over time, we learned to make decent photos and drawings, correct identifications and live collections that thrived.”

Texas Crawdads features excellent full-color photographs and detailed text on how to recognize each species, their habitats, distribution and distinguishing features. And, to the delight of freshwater fishing folks, Johnson and Johnson have also included perhaps what many Texans will consider the most important information on each crawdad species overall — how to catch them.

The book is published by Crawdad Club Designs and available only through their Web site: <www.texascrawdads.com.>

 

 

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