Signal Crayfish

Signal Crayfish

Through the last ten to 20 years the American Signal Crayfish or Signal Cray's as they have become known to anglers have taken over many of our British waterways. From lakes to rivers these foreign invaders are reeking havoc. Our own native variety of European Crayfish never really presented a problem to anglers as they where too small to take large baits such as boilies and rarely would they take other baits, although they are partial to a piece of cheese it has to be said! These new visitors to our shores however are more than capable of eating the hardest and largest of carp baits and so present more of a problem for anglers. An adult Signal Crayfish will easily consume 20 - 30 boilies in a single sitting and so where you have many crayfish the effects can be very frustrating as you receive constant bleeps from your bite alarms, day and night, making fishing for carp almost impossible. You will be constantly checking to see that you still have a bait attached. While fishing for other species like Chub or Barbel might be a little less frustrating because these fish usually inhabit flowing water where the bait is always on the move and anglers retrieve the bait much more often.

European Crayfish


Our own native crayfish are disappearing at an astonishing rate due to their being pushed out by their larger cousins. The "signals" carry the crayfish plague (an infectious disease caused by the water mould, Aphanomycesastaci) for which the European crayfish has no defence and once infected will die rapidly. The Signal Crayfish being a larger (up to 8 inches) and more aggressive foe have become a real problem to us carp anglers because once they enter your lake or river through feeder streams or other sources will then proliferate and soon your water will be infested with many hundreds or even thousands. The female carries many eggs through the winter time and will lay them in the spring. One female can lay hundreds of eggs and there lies the problem. The Environment Agency (EA) have estimated that out native white-clawed crayfish population has decreased by more than 50% in recent years.

What can be done to combat the Signal Crayfish?

Boilie shrink wrap - Gardner Hard Ball

Gardener Hardball

You can buy specialist mesh or shrinkwrap to wrap around hook baits such as boilies and pellets. Many anglers have had success using The Gardner ‘Hard Ball’ bait protector. Its is a tough high diameter supa-shrink tube for wrapping hook baits to protect them from bait stealing Crayfish, Mitten Crabs and Poisson Chat. It can also be used to protect pellets.

Hard Ball tubing instructions:

The small Hard Ball Bait Saver is best suited for boilies 12-20mm diameter, whilst the large Hard Ball Bait Saver is best suited for boilies 18-25mm diameter. Another option is to fish in the margins during the day so that you can monitor your baited spot. The signals tend to like the slightly deeper water over gravel bars and clays patches so fishing the margins can help. The last option is to bait up so heavily that the mass of accumulated crayfish will eventually draw carp. As the carp move in the Cray’s move out!

American Red Signal Crayfish as food

Its hard to believe that Signal Crayfish are imported to the UK from China by the likes of: Waitrose, Co-op and Morrisons in large quantities when as we know they are present in vast quantities in our own rivers and lakes.

How to cook signal crayfish (american red)

It's not always necessary to purge them in clean water for a few days, but its good practice to do so, to clean the intestines, If you don't soak them for a few days in clean water you may get the black line of crap running down the tail, the same thing you see with prawns.

Before trapping American Red Signal Crayfish

If you want to trap crayfish, it is vital that you are careful and follow the rules. Otherwise you may break the law. Native (European) white-clawed crayfish are a protected species. They are now only found in a few parts of England and Wales. You can’t trap them to eat or sell. You can trap non-native crayfish, but only if you have written consent from the Environment Agency. The 6 species of non-native crayfish are: Signal (north American); Turkish, narrow-clawed; Noble; Red swamp; Spiny-cheeked; and Virile crayfish.

Click to view: Environment Agency - A guide to trapping Signal Crayfish

The leaflet covers: