predicting crawfish color patterns? predicting crawfish color patterns?
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    predicting crawfish color patterns?
from javelin363 (  
10/25/2005 10:47:00 PM


  Is there any easy way to predict crawfish color patterns (other than trapping or lunar phase theories that I haven't found reliable)? I have found a wide range of craw colors this season from powder blue to gray, green, and even red. They seem to vary greatly even week to week on the same body of water. I am currently a junior in a biology program, and have been doing some research at my university library and have not been able to find out concrete reasons for color change other than camouflage, and blue or red certainly isn't camo!! I have even spoken with a couple of PhD biologists about this and they can't seem to fully explain it either. I feel that catch rates with jigs and tubes could be greatly improved if I could easily predict the craw colors. If anyone out there has any answers, I would greatly appreciate it!!

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   I always understood from Greg (  10/25/2005 11:54:00 PM
 it to be connected with their spawn and molting.

As it relates to fishing though, and you say yourself, if the colors of crawfish change week to week, is it a better question to ask what percentage of crawfish are changing?

You may find a few in a spring-fed creek that have just molted and have a nice blue sheen to them, but on down in warmer water most might still be an olive green.

It wasn't long ago that I was finding deep orange crawfish in some smallmouth on Lake Erie, yet the smallies were hitting green pumpkin tubes.

You certainly have some good questions. When you find a more definitive answer let me know.

   soft s from Jeff White (  10/26/2005 12:08:00 AM
 My theory was that the 'soft shell' crawfish (crawdads to me) were preferred, so I would try for that look regardless of the season. I think it would be a lighter color.

   crayfish from LarryM (  10/26/2005 8:23:00 AM
 The colors vary by, and are characteristic of, different species, which you can see by obtaining a good key to crayfish species from your bookstore. Some species that live in moist soil, not open water, have bright blues and reds. Molting colors are quite pale, but these individuals are reclusive while soft, and a small portion of the population at one time. The business of matching colors is in the realm of myth concocted by writers for anglers when neither of them know what they are talking about--baloney, in short. Such anglers have no idea if the crayfish they see from turning over rocks by the dock are even the same species being fed on by bass in deep water. There is more validity in crayfish vomited by bass being caught, but if they are being caught, what is the point? The common colors are greens, black, and browns with small amounts of other colors, such as orange, so the odds favor using those colors in lures. But the size and presentation have much more to do with getting bites than color does, except in catching anglers inside the store.

   Suggestion from j.aderhold (  10/26/2005 8:29:00 AM
 Catch some and put them in an aquarium and study them. My bet would be that they are different colors according to water color.

   evidence from javelin363 (  10/26/2005 8:48:00 AM
 Larry, the craws I am looking at are being spit up by bass caught in the same area. One week, I caught one on a crankbait that spit up an almost black craw with red highlights, so I built a jig to match and caught 15 in the next 2 hours. The next week, I couldnt buy a bite on the same jig, but looked in the livewell, and a buzzbait fish had spit up a light green craw. I switched to a matching jig and IMMEDIATELY caught several decent spots on the same rockpile I had JUST FISHED!!! I too believed that color matching was a crock, but the evidence suggests otherwise in this situation. I'm not 100% sure of the species, but I've had a livewell full of parts several weekends in a row, and they have almost all been very similar in color. I have repeated the afforementioned experiment 4-5 times lately, and each time I get a good idea of craw color, my catch rate on the jig goes up fast.

   My local observation, and a question from Lucky Al  10/26/2005 9:58:00 AM
 I understand that there are a couple hundred species of crawfish and they are not all the same color, depending where they live! But, way down in South Texas, where I live and fish on the murky River sometimes, I usually find crawfish parts, or even large, whole crawfish, in the livewell, which are upchucked by the bass. They are always dark red. They look like lobsters or crabs after they are cooked. Now the question is, were the crawdads the same color before eaten and partially digested, or was there a color change in the bass' stomach? I have seen a few big old crawdads on the water's edge that were the same color, though. And as far as matching the hatch, a red jig doesn't seem to have any advantage over other colors.

   Science vs practical fishing from Ralph Manns  10/26/2005 12:01:00 PM
 Matching the hatch works, no doubt about it. But, if you pay more attention to the bass' needs and basic biology, you'll likely conclude, as I have, that exact matches aren't worth the trouble.

Why? Bass seldom live in an environment where they can pick and choose, They don't bypass three hard-shelled critters looking for the one that's easiest to swallow. Years ago, food habit studies revealed that at any given time only about 50% of a bass population have anything in their stomachs. And bass can always eat more than once if they can. ( I have more on this if you want to discuss the variables.)

Most of the time active bass are looking for they first prey they can catch. If they can find something apparently edible, can aim at it and catch it, they will likely hit. They angling solution is to give them something that looks injured and/or vulnerable. As a result, most of the time the problem of the angler is to select colors and color patterns that looks natural enough to be food that the bass can see at maximum range. This requires that lures have both the look of natural camouflage AND some high visibility, contrasting spots (think chartreuse claw tips or red or blue flecks on dark green , brown , or black). In most cases camouflage means partially matching background and water colors. While contrast comes from light against dark, and contrasting colors like red against green. Do a search of past postings on colors, we’ve had this discussion several times over the years.

Underwater lighting also has important effects. The deeper you go, the darker background and lure colors become and the more contrast you may get from just a slightly lighter version of the same color.

Anglers easily make color selection too complex. Color selection remains complex enough, even if you are only trying to determine how to make a lure both visible and semi-invisible.

   javelin363 from LarryM (  10/26/2005 5:45:00 PM
 What can I say about your experience? Color usually doesn't make much if any difference, but I know there are times when it seems to be critical for unknown reasons. Changing a few strands in a jig to another color does work at times, to confirm what Ralph said. But we don't have science here, since I'd guess you didn't try another series of colors because you were catching fish on what you had confidence in using. You know matching the colors worked, but still don't know if other combinations worked as well or better. You might try carrying some live craws next time that will hopefully be a different color than what they are eating. My experience is they will eat that different color one on the way down, because it is a crayfish, not because it is a specific combination of colors. It seems that the illusion of a crawdad is better than a pretty good copy of one, too, looking at sales. It may be that putting a copy on a jig does nothing more than add contrast is color and reflection. Regardless, you appear to be a good angler, and I expect you to continue what you know works. Good luck!

   Everything you ever wanted to know about crawfish... and then some from Jon C (  10/26/2005 9:34:00 PM

**warning - 5MB download on the above PDF ***

Page 12-14 talks about the exoskeleton and coloration changes. Also why Texas, Louisiana and other deep-south states tend to have crawfish that are redder than those in the north.

PS - Thanks, javelin, for posting an real live fishing post! This one was a breath of fresh air after reading all of the tournament scene opinion posts. Not that I'm not addicted to all of the news just like everyone else... :-)

   Crawfish Coloration from Jimmy Yarbrough (  10/26/2005 10:31:00 PM
 I did my master's thesis on crawfish. Collected them for two years. Never saw any relationship between coloration and moon phase. They just matched the environment where they lived. Colors range from brown, tan, green, red, blue, black to sandy yellow to a combination of all these colors. Tan with orange on the pinchers is the predominant color I've found in rocky areas of North Alabama lakes and streams. Red is common in swampy areas.

I decided to do an experiment a couple of years ago to see how fast a crawfish could change color. I took 2 crawfish that were black with metallic green mixed in ( strongly resembled a junebug color) and put them in an aquarium with pea gravel. Over a few weeks they lightned up some, but no major change. Then they molted and nearly perfectly matched the pea gravel. They have to molt to grow.

There has been very little scientific reasearch into crawfish coloration. Crawfish have red and blue photoreceptors.In a University of Michigan study, Dr. Robert Thacker found that crawfish in water where blue-green light transmitted best were lighter in color. Crawfish in water where red light transmitted best were darker in color. Diet, water chemistry and pH also play a role. Dr. B.A. Hazlett of the U. of Michigan studied two crab species that existed in 2 color patterns or morphs. One was reddish-brown and the other green. Individuals were observed to molt from one morph to the other depending on food.

Looks like some company making soft plastics would back a study of crawfish coloration, but then again, there would probably be so much local variation it wouldn't be practical. I just put out traps and catch some to see what color they are in different locations.



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