Crayfish On Our Plates for A Bluer Tahoe? Yum!
If you've been to a buffet in South Lake Tahoe recently you may have noticed a new item on the menu - crayfish! To those of us in Northern California and Nevada crayfish is not a usual dish served up in restaurants but it is actually a regular delicacy in the South. Lucky for us the major hotel casinos in South Lake Tahoe are taking delicious Louisiana-style recipes and serving them up for hungry Tahoe fans.
So how does this have to do with keeping Lake Tahoe blue? It's actually all based on scientific studies that show that the crayfish in Lake Tahoe contribute to the clouding of the lake. Crayfish hang out in the shallows of Lake Tahoe and their excrement works as a sort of lake-world fertilizer and makes the algae on the shore grow at a highly increased rate. Scientists have predicted that controlling the crayfish population in Lake Tahoe will help slow down the algae growth and help the lake not only stay clear but help on the road to returning to the clarity it had before the pollution of the 20th century!
The surprise of seeing crayfish on restaurant tables that have never before seen such a food is not the only momentous change surrounding this news: the harvesting of crayfish marks the first commercial fishing legally sanctioned in Lake Tahoe since the 1930's when the extinction of the Lahontan cutthroat trout was realized. The process to legalize this change was spearheaded by Fred Jackson, the owner of Tahoe Lobster Co., a business he started for the express purpose of crayfish fishing in Lake Tahoe.
Jackson has coined his new business plan "clarity by cuisine," succinctly expressing the goal to help Lake Tahoe get more blue by consuming crayfish. The crayfish themselves were recognized as an invasive species in Lake Tahoe as early as 2009 but until now there were no funds available to start the species-control process. Jackson's private industry has provided an opportunity for the lake to get clearer without relying on limited public money and for his business to profit while making a positive impact on the environment.
The great news is that Lake Tahoe consumers are loving the newest menu items! Harrah's Lake Tahoe Casino was the first buffet to offer the crayfish from the Tahoe Lobster Co. but now over 40 restaurants and casino buffets have signed up to receive the crayfish which is selling for just under $5 a pound. People say the crayfish from Lake Tahoe is cleaner, sweeter and tastier than the crayfish in the South and even taste like lobster! And with as many as 280 million crayfish in Lake Tahoe we can expect to see even more restaurants serving up this delicious fish.
Jackson's crayfish harvesting is so far only happening in the Nevada half of Lake Tahoe but that doesn't mean the crayfish eating is staying there! The restaurants putting in orders for crayfish are in all of the areas surrounding Lake Tahoe so if you hope to try some of Lake Tahoe's newest food you will have a pretty good chance of finding a place no matter where you're staying.
Predictions show that if Jackson's business model goes well and the crayfish continue to please customers as it has so far other companies will start to spring up asking for crayfish permits. Not only that, but some Lake Tahoe tourism people have suggested that the future might hold a Crayfish Festival in Tahoe. Crayfish might just be the newest Tahoe mascot!
For more information on the crayfish phenomenon in Lake Tahoe and for sources for this blog post, please see these articles:
- Crayfish to Eat, and to Clean the Water
- Tahoe Lobster Co. starts putting crawfish on plates
- Tahoe crayfish harvesting under way but creating market for the food is challenging
- Tahoe Crayfish Go From Lake to Plate
- Our View: Fishing crawdaddies out of Lake Tahoe
- Commercial trapping of crayfish to begin on Lake Tahoe