The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently found several red swamp crayfish near a popular fishing area at Lake Macatawa in Ottawa County.

Red swamp crayfish are native to the southeastern United States and are considered an invasive species in Michigan. It is illegal to possess them alive in Michigan.

The Michigan DNR says fishermen are purchasing the red swamp crayfish from foodmarkets and using them as live bait. Several dead crayfish were found near Lake Macatawa as part of a DNR crayfish monitoring study.

It is illegal to import any live species of crayfish into Michigan for commercial bait purposes. As of this year, red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) are a prohibited species.

DNR crews are setting crayfish traps and using nets this week at Lake Macatawa. The DNR is working with local groups to incorporate crayfish sampling into the lake’s ongoing monitoring program.

“This crayfish was found in southeastern Wisconsin ponds in 2009, proving its ability to live in northern states such as Michigan,” said Nick Popoff, supervisor of the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Program.

Red swamp crayfish are dark red in color with raised, bright red spots covering the body and claws. They also have a black, wedge-shaped stripe on the top of the abdomen. They may vary in length between 2 to 5 inches.

The red swamp crayfish is highly invasive, eats a range of food items and survives in many habitat types. They burrow into shorelines and can cause significant structural damage. They have the ability to survive drought conditions and are known to migrate nearly two miles in search of habitat. Females lay up to 600 eggs at a time and reproduce up two times in a year.