Working for Better Fishing Environments: The Fish Guys Crayfish Story
Sustainability, environmental stewardship, and healthy waters are all part of the foundation of The Fish Guys’ business each and every day. The word sustainability brings an image of the big, blue ocean to mind. In this case think smaller, way smaller. This instance of environment responsibility is all centered on one lake in Northern Minnesota, Woman Lake, and an invasive little crustacean, the Crayfish.
Crayfish are found in lakes in rivers across the United States, with over four hundred crayfish species in North America. They play a vital role in the ecosystem as a food source for sport fish, while their own diets of eating decaying plant and animal material drives food chains and nutrient cycles. The primary invasive crayfish species is the Rusty Crayfish. They are aggressive, territorial and can 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 due to alteration and destruction of habitat, over foraging, and preying on fish eggs.
What Can We, The Fish Guys, Do?
Recently The Fish Guys were featured in a segment of Minnesota Bound with Ron Schara. During their conversations the subject of Woman Lake and the crayfish problem became an on-going topic of discussion. Intrigued and wanting to learn more, Mike Higgins, CEO of The Fish Guys, traveled to Woman Lake during the winter of 2013 and spoke with local trappers in their homes about the situation. The Fish Guys listened and wanted to help to make a difference. Keeping our waters healthy, whether it is the Atlantic Ocean or a lake in Northern Minnesota, it is the right thing to do.
Back in the Twin Cities, The Fish Guys contacted several top chefs in the Twin Cities area and pitched the idea of harvesting crayfish and selling to local restaurants for unique menu offerings. The chefs loved the idea, and as they got together to learn more about the project, a creative brainstorming session emerged with new and inspired signature menu items bouncing back and forth among the elite chefs.
Crayfish on the Menu
With support from restaurants and local trappers in Woman Lake, a strategic plan was devised with all the proper licenses and DNR approval. In March new traps were built, and were ready to harvest the crayfish. The Fish Guys have just begun to harvest and make the crayfish available to local Twin Cities restaurants. Two of the top Twin Cities restaurants, The Smack Shack in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis, and the Butcher and the Boar in downtown Minneapolis will be supporting the crayfish harvest with special crayfish menu events and experiences.
The Butcher and the Boar will have a special crayfish menu eating experience on Sunday, July 21st. They will be hanging out in their Beer Garden with an anticipated 2,000 – 3,000 pounds of crayfish creating inspired and delicious menu items like crayfish sausage and other gourmet delights dreamed up by the chef.
The Smack Shack will be holding a Crayfish Boil Bash on Saturday, August 10th with a street party that will include live bands. There will be a crayfish boil and other exciting and flavorful menu items. They expect to have between 4,000 – 6,000 pounds of crayfish for the event.
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, to maintain the sport of fishing and to improve the overall health of the lake. In doing this, they can hopefully sustain a lake eco-system, boost an economy to local trappers at Woman Lake and supply restaurants with new menu offerings while taking care of a problem.
The Fish Guys are continually looking for new seafood trends and innovative solutions for their customers. They plan to work with trappers on Woman Lake to see the difference they can make, monitor progress and then take the next steps. All with the goal of bringing a lake back to a healthy environment.