The type of crayfish one might encounter in Massachusetts.

My parents are really into Cajun and Zydeco music. They had a Louisiana-themed party this summer, and several guests asked whether crawfish, a bayou favorite, would be on the menu. At the time I thought it was an odd question – where can you find crawfish in Massachusetts?

As a result of a turtle laying eggs in our front yard (see last month’s column), my husband and I finally got to meet some of our neighbors across the street, who stopped by to watch the turtle do her thing. Before, we and the neighbors had only waved to each other from our vehicles, from our respective driveways. It was great to meet face to face after five years. We have a prolific raspberry patch in our back yard, and so we promised to bring the neighbors some berries come harvest time – and thus finally take the trip up their very long driveway.

The raspberries were bountiful, so one cool night we ventured up the long drive to make the delivery. The neighbors have sheep, horses, and dogs; somehow we got to talking about the wildlife we’d seen in our yards over the years. The usual deer, hawks, and foxes were discussed, but then they mentioned crayfish crawling out of their small pond. I was astonished – I’d never seen nor heard word of a crayfish north of the Mason-Dixon Line. But these people knew animals – and what could you possibly mistake a crayfish for? A lobster?

Not long after that, I ran into an acquaintance who lives on the freshwater portion of the South River in Marshfield. She too had seen crawfish, right in her yard, scuttling across the patio, not far from the river. So it was true. Both sightings had occurred after big rains. (Does anyone remember all the rain we had this summer?)

I did some research online. One of the first relevant hits in my search was a photo of crayfish swimming in Walden Pond (

It turns out that there are five different species of crayfish currently inhabiting Massachusetts, everywhere from the Berkshires to the tip of The Cape. Known colloquially as crawfish or crawdads, these small lobster-like crustaceans live predominantly in fresh water – generally in lakes or streams. They are more active at night, when they feed on worms, insect larvae, tadpoles, snails, and sometimes vegetation. During the day, they hide under logs or large rocks.
Domestic crayfish are usually about three inches long, and can range in color from yellow or green to red or dark brown. Like lobsters, their thick heads are fused to their midsections, their eyes sit at the end of movable stalks, and they have several pairs of legs, one set with powerful pincers at the ends. They can survive anywhere from one to twenty years. (Source for all of the above:

I haven’t yet come across a crayfish myself. I’m tempted to start staking out local ponds at nightfall. However, experience has shown me that it’s better not to go out looking for unusual occurrences, but rather let them happen in their own time. I’ll keep my eyes open.

My folks have a pond in their back yard, not far from the freshwater portion of the Green Harbor River. I guess the presence of crawfish on the menu at their Cajun party wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

by Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
August 2003

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.