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The Women Lake Crayfish Project

Jul. 25, 2014By: The Fish Guys

Bringing Back a Lake’s Ecosystem

Sustainability, environmental stewardship and healthy waters are at the heart of The Fish Guys’ business each and every day.  Starting in 2013 and continuing this year, The Fish Guys’ commitment to environmental responsibility has a focus on Woman Lake in northern Minnesota and an invasive little crustacean, the Rusty Crayfish.

Over 400 crayfish species are found in lakes in rivers across the United States. They play a vital role in the ecosystem as a food source for sport fish while their own diets of decaying plant and animal material drive food chains and nutrient cycles. However, invasive crayfish can destroy a lake’s ecosystem. Rusty Crayfish are aggressive, territorial and have high reproductive potential, thus overpopulating and out-competing the native crayfish. Invasive crayfish can cause population declines or elimination of native crayfish, amphibians and reptiles. They are also linked to fish declines from alteration and destruction of habitat, over-foraging and preying on fish eggs.

Support a Lake and Menus

An idea was created and a plan developed. The idea? Harvest the invasive crayfish in Women Lake and bring a unique menu offering to chefs and restaurants. With support from Twin Cities restaurants and local trappers in Woman Lake during the summer of 2013, The Fish Guys developed a strategic plan with all the proper licenses and DNR approval. New traps were built to harvest Rusty Crayfish and it was a success with over 160,000 crayfish caught. Now, in 2014 for the second summer, The Fish Guys are harvesting Crayfish for Twin Cities restaurants to creative crayfish dishes and hold special crayfish events. In fact, the first harvest catch sold out in 45 minutes!

Smack Shack Crayfest 2nd Annual Street Party

One of the original supporters of the crayfish project, Smack Shack is having their second annual Crayfest street party on Saturday, August 16. The Fish Guys will be there with 2,000 pounds of Minnesota crayfish! There will be an All you can eat Louisiana Style Crawfish Boil with All you can drink Hurricanes, beer and live music. Plus a Crayfish eating contest! 

How it All Started

The Crayfish project began when The Fish Guys were featured in a 2013 segment of Minnesota Bound with Ron Schara. During filming, Woman Lake and the Rusty Crayfish problem became an ongoing topic of discussion. Intrigued and wanting to learn more, The Fish Guys traveled to Woman Lake and spoke with local trappers about the situation to see how they could help.

The Fish Guys contacted several top Twin Cities chefs and presented the idea of harvesting crayfish and selling to local restaurants for new and exciting seafood option. The chefs loved the idea and wanted to learn more about the project. In a creative brainstorming session thereafter, the elite chefs bounced ideas back and forth until they emerged with several new and inspired signature menu items, plus exciting summer party events. This summer, the excitement continues with crayfish on menus around the Twin Cities and regional area. And crayfish events too!

Changing a Lake

What is The Fish Guys’ goal in all this? “It’s all about making a difference. It’s about seeing something that needs to be done and just doing it,” says Mike Higgins. For the Fish Guys, they just want to help the environment, maintain the sport of fishing and improve the overall health of the lake. In accomplishing these goals, they hope to simultaneously sustain a lake ecosystem, boost an economy for local trappers at Woman Lake, supply restaurants crayfish offerings and take care of a problem.

The Fish Guys are continually looking for new seafood trends and innovative solutions for their customers. They plan to continue working with trappers on Woman Lake to monitor progress, which may take years, to bring the lake back to a healthy environment.

Check out the Crayfest Smack Shack video!

Tags:  crayfish, woman lake, sustainability, the fish guys
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