Redclaw (Cherax quadricarinatus) are a crayfish found most commonly in Australia’s warmer freshwater impoundments.
Redclaw are native to North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea, but have been translocated to all Australian states except Tasmania, and some overseas locations.
They are found in northern Western Australia around Kununurra.
Illegal stocking has spread them well outside their natural range.
They were found in NSW’s Emigrant Creek Dam in 2004 and Lake Ainsworth in 2011, and probably now exist widely in the NSW northern rivers region, with redclaw aquaculture facilities operating in Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley, Kempsey Shire, Port Macquarie-Hastings and Camden.
Redclaw tolerate a wide temperature range, low oxygen levels and crowded conditions.
As well as lakes and ponds, redclaw live happily in creeks, rock pools and fast-flowing rivers.
Queensland dams are among the most productive redclaw locations.
Redclaw are known for their large size (to 600g) and good flavour.
They also lack dam-destroying burrowing behaviour, unlike the southern yabbie (Cherax destructor).
Redclaw are omnivorous, eating meat and plants.
Their numbers fluctuate from season to season, sometimes varying from super-abundant to hard pickings.
For best results, ask about redclaw stocks at a given location before making a trip.
Usually worthwhile numbers of redclaw are easy to find.
They can readily be caught in baited traps. Bait them with chicken pellets (in a hessian pouch), chicken frames or pieces, fruit, grated carrot, dog biscuits, fish flesh, red meat or even cheese.
Trapping is far more successful at night.
If trapping in daylight you may catch more in overcast conditions in deeper water near submerged timber, but you will do better in daylight if the water is discoloured.
A boat gives access to more likely places to drop traps, but redclaw can be trapped from shore in some locations.
Grounds with submerged timber and weedbeds are always good places to try.
Strict regulations apply to the type of gear used, partly to prevent animals such as turtles drowning in crayfish traps.
Rules differ in each state.
Ebay sellers have a variety of freshwater crayfish and shrimp traps, be sure to buy one that complies with your local regulations.
Redclaw crayfish can be boiled or grilled immediately after being caught, but some folk like to let them purge in a bin of clean water first.
The water will gradually turn brown as purging occurs.
Redclaw can be cooked and eaten many ways.
Boiling in salted water, followed by chilling, is the traditional method, but grilling also works.
The tail can be peeled by cutting down the middle of the underside with a knife and splitting it in two.
The meat can be eaten on its own or in salads, or in sandwiches with crisp lettuce and mayo.
Cocktail sauce is traditionally used as a dipping sauce, but other sauces can make a good accompaniment.
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