Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Other Lobster.

Latvia's countryside is dotted with lakes, rivers, and streams. Fresh water fish, like trout,whitefish, carp and sturgeon are common species. As it turns out, so too are crayfish. I love to eat both fish and crayfish so I will be feasting as much as I can on both though I am already salivating at the thought of getting my fill of crayfish while I'm in the Baltics.  Some people might consider them to be the *poor man's* lobster but I actually prefer the sweet, tender meat of crayfish to lobster.

There are three crayfish species present in Latvia: the European noble crayfish (Astacus astacus), the narrow-clawed crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus), and the North American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) species.

It is believed that only noble crayfish are native and migrated into the country after the last Ice Age; the other two species having been introduced sometime in the 20th century.




The noble crayfish are fighting for their survival not just from pollution and over fishing but also from invader species. More specifically, the North American signal crayfish which are carriers of the crayfish plague; a disease that can totally decimate a noble crayfish population.  Reintroduction of the noble crayfish is impossible so long as the plague is in the water.  For now, noble crayfish are still plentiful enough that Latvians fish for them every year.



Crayfish fishing season starts July 1 and goes through September 30.  We have enough time in Riga that we should be able to set aside part of a day to try our hand at catching crayfish.  I think it will be fun! Although the indigenous noble crayfish is the most populous of the three species in Latvia, it is also a protected species so there are strict rules regarding fishing for them.
  • A special crayfish catching license is needed. The National Board of Fisheries limits the number of licenses for each locality.  The license specifies the period of catching (within the legal catching season),specific catching site in the water body, crayfish species and other possible regulations.
  • Only traps and hand-catching are allowed as catching methods.  Maximum number of traps per license is 5. 
  • Maximum catch per license varies from 20- 50 crayfish depending on location.
  • The minimum length of a crayfish is 10 cm from the “tip of the nose” until the end of tail plates 
  • Catching crayfish is forbidden in the period from October 1 - June 30 but female crayfish with visible spawn must be spared for the entire year. Crayfish must not be used as bait for fishing.
Crayfish fishingi is only permitted in a very few places annually determined by the Ministry of Agriculture. I'm going to see if any of those places are near Riga and then figure out a way to get there to fish.

If luck is on greedy side, then we will each haul the maximum and there will be a feast in an apartment in Riga!!  If for some reason, a fishing trip is not in the cards, then I will have to get my fill at a restaurant.....not as desirable for me but greedy beggars can't be choosers :-(