Lake Tahoe Crayfish Boil

We’re honored to share this tasty crayfish recipe from Dr. Charles Goldman, one of the fathers of modern limnology!  Dr. Goldman has spent over 40 years conducting research on Lake Tahoe, home to today’s featured ingredient, the signal crayfish.

Mini-Profile: Signal Crayfish

Signal crayfish (Pacifasticus leniusculus) are native to western North America, living in freshwater lakes and streams from California to British Columbia.  Invasive populations occur in at least 25 countries in Europe as well as Japan.  Like Louisiana and rusty crayfish, introduced signal crayfish have voracious appetites and can greatly reduce invertebrate and plant populations and can outcompete and displace native crayfish.

Recipe: Lake Tahoe Crayfish Boil


10 liters water

1 liter dry white wine (recommended: Sauvignon blanc or Muscadet)

2 large onions, chopped

4 lemons (juice plus 2-3 whole squeezed fruit)

1 cup fresh parsley

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black peppercorns

0.5 oz dill weed

4 lbs whole crayfish


Bring water to a boil before adding all ingredients except crayfish.  Boil until onions are soft, then add crayfish and maintain at a boil for about 10 minutes or until crayfish are bright red.  Remove from heat and let crayfish cool in the water.  The longer crayfish soak,the more flavorful they will become.  Dr. Goldman even recommends letting the crayfish steep overnight for maximum flavor.  Whenever you are ready, simply peel* and enjoy!

*If you need a refresher, instructions for peeling crayfish can be found here.

Boiled signal crayfish. Photo credit: Marion Wittmann




9 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe Crayfish Boil

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  • September 25, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I am currently doing research on population dynamics and harvest strategies of this species in Scotland. There is certainly a concern here that by attributing culinary or monetary value to such a species, it will only ensure their long-term survival and possibly even encourage their spread. The reasoning is both 1) ecological and 2) social:

    1) Crayfish are generally reported as being cannibalistic, and so large adult crayfish are considered to have an important role in suppressing juvenile crayfish resource acquisition and also directly predating them. Trapping typically selects for large adult crayfish (and people most certainly would select larger crayfish- more meat per unit effort preparation), and by removing these dominant animals from the population, there is potential for the younger, newly freed individuals to grow more rapidly, and survive more effectively to adulthood.You then see a burst of large numbers of crayfish, all of which will be causing damage and possibly dispersing more rapidly to new locations in order to find resources.

    2) When people realise money is to be made, or a nice free meal is to be had, they may feel reluctant to harvest at the high, consistent levels required to bring about actual decline in population size, especially with diminishing returns as the catch numbers go down. More concerning is the idea of someone removing crayfish from one location and then releasing them closer to their house either by accident (they are notoriously ingenious escape artists) or on purpose, to decrease the time investment for their free meal/ money making venture.

    Have you considered these issues and do you think there will be a way to regulate such activities? I don’t wish to sound downbeat, and I am behind the sentiment of this website (perhaps I have missed a section discussing these issues), it just makes it a more complicated challenge to solve. It is probably true to say that without the involvement of people en-mass, a lot of these invasive species will not be brought under control and the situation will worsen.

    • September 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

      You bring up some excellent concerns that we have wrestled with since we launched the site, and these ideas are increasingly receiving the scholarly attention they deserve. We would hate to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater due to the possibility for backfire of invasivore strategies, and we encourage research into the ecological, economic, and other conditions that must be met for a successful implementation of harvest as a control strategy (if such conditions exist). We recently highlighted work by Pasko and Goldberg that is one of the best such treatments to date. Please keep us updated as you develop your research in Scotland!

  • October 6, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Given the potential significance of the aforementioned issues, would it be possible to add the proviso in certain species descriptions (I can only speak for the signal crayfish), stressing what we have been discussing? Even basic practical information. For example:

    Make sure you have applied for the relevant licenses: (with links to relevant authority websites), and comply with equipment regulations (for example otters can be caught and killed in crayfish traps that do not have the correct opening diameters or otter guards in place).

    Ensure containers used to transport any individuals are seal-able as the animals are extremely successful at escaping.

    Kill on site to remove the possibility of further spread.

    Clean equipment or clothing after fishing with virkon tablets (cheap and easy to apply) to ensure that eggs or juvenile animals clinging onto gear are killed before removal from the water body, not to mention the number of wildlife diseases that can be spread by cross-catchment activity such as fishing.

    I would be happy to share with you my findings and thoughts, perhaps through a less public communication method though. Thanks for the paper reference, I will read with interest, all relevant stuff.


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