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Let's Go Down to the Crawdad Hole, Baby

By Bill Willis

July 12, 2017

going to the crawdad hole
Going down to the Crawdad Hole at Discovery Lake.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

So begins the song "Crawdad Hole" performed by Woody Guthrie, in Muleskinner Blues. This is an old country tune about the tradition of going crawdad hunting for food and bait.

The southeast United States claims 300 species of crawfish, but the better-known ones are the blacks and the reds that are prepared for food. Louisiana supplies all the crawfish fished commercially and consumed in the States. A small portion of the crawfish are used for fishing bait, and some find homes as kid’s pets.

We may not be Louisiana, but we also have crawdads down by Discovery Lake. At first glance their dwellings may appear to be turtle nests, but upon closer inspection the hole could extend several feet down to the water table. Only one crawdad lives in each tunnel. Ten burrowing tenants have claimed the area at nature trail post #4, near bridge #3.

Some burrowing crawdads only come out to mate and feed, and then only at night, but occasionally they can be seen after a heavy rain, moving through the vegetation. They feed on leaves, insects, worms, and any microbes that might be present. They, in turn, provide food for birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and, yes, humans.

Our native crawdads have reached Europe and China where they have achieved invasive species status, by attacking and ravaging the rice crops there.

Crawdad mud hole
Burrowing crawdads aren't seen very often, but the mud pellets are proof that they've been busy.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
crawdad mud hole
Crawdads must maintain moist gills to survive so these holes must go below the water table. Deep holes require more mud to be removed.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
crawdad mud hole
The holes will extend below the water table to a network of chambers. Shallow holes require less mud to be removed.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
filled crawdad hole
The tower of dirt, no matter how high, can be plugged to protect the crawdad during droughts.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
Female crawdad
This female crawdad absorbs oxygen through its gills. Therefore, she can be out of water but must stay in a wet environment to survive.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
crawdad camo
Besides being very elusive, crawdads blend in well with their surroundings.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.
Male crawdad after the rain

This male crawdad moves around after a heavy rain.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis.

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