Tahoe Crayfish Harvesting Under Way But Creating Market for the Food is Challenging
With the early morning sun cresting the forested ridge to the east, Fred Jackson and company pulled a bounty from the placid waters of Lake Tahoe.
Harvesting of the lake’s crayfish — the first commercial fishing to occur at the lake in decades — is now under way in earnest as Jackson, family and friends draw in strings of traps containing hundreds of skittering, pinching crawdads.
Fishing is occurring because Jackson, a 23-year employee for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, spent the past year pursuing a change in Nevada law and the necessary permits for a venture designed to earn him a living while helping to improve Tahoe’s threatened clarity at the same time.
The next step is persuading enough Reno-area restaurants and their customers that a meal common in the deep South but largely unfamiliar here is really something folks want to sink their teeth into.
Only days away from the end of his career with the state, Jackson is risking much on the future of Tahoe Lobster Co., Inc. He’s the first to say so.
“I’m terrified,” Jackson said.
His company’s “clarity by cuisine” approach is a novel one for the lake, combining private entrepreneurship, a little science and the notion that the public’s love for a unique water body can be tapped to combine for success.
The idea popped into Jackson’s head in the middle of the night as he worried about his future in a poor economy and ongoing cuts in state government. His wife told him to go back to sleep. Not a chance.
Now, it’s happening.
“We’re pleased so far. We’ve just got to get everyone else on board,” Jackson said he as he motored his boat at daybreak toward submerged trap lines in the water south of Sand Harbor.
“It’s a new day,” Jackson said.
Crayfish don’t belong in Lake Tahoe but couldn’t be happier there. Since being introduced in the lake in the 1800s, they have exploded in numbers, with an estimated 280 million of them now thriving in its waters.
Crayfish and their excrement are believed to be linked to algae growth in Tahoe’s near-shore waters, a place of growing concern to scientists...