Common Name: Big River Crayfish

Classification:  Nongame Fish - Crustacean




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National Range: “Ontario and New York, to Illinois, and southward to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Its presence in New England east of the Hudson River is believed to have resulted from introductions…” (Hobbs Jr. 1989)

NC Physiographic Region(s): mountains

River Basin(s): French Broad, New, Watauga

Adult Habitat: “streams” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “pool and riffle areas of small to large strams, especially latter, under rocks” (Bouchard 1974)

Reproductive Season: extended?; spring, late summer/early fall

Species associates: C. (C.) bartonii, C. (C.) sp. A, C. (H.) chasmodactylus,  C. (H.) longirostris, C. (P.) reburrus, O. (P.) cristavarius

Conservation status: not protected

Identification references: Hobbs Jr. 1989, Hobbs Jr. 1991, Jezerinac et al. 1995

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: very large animal; dorsoventrally flattened;wide carapace
  • coloration: shades of brown and red with black, orange, and yellow highlights; cream underside; mottled or bearing saddle pattern
  • spines: cervical spines or tubercles may be present or absent;cephalic spine or tubercle present; branchiostegal  spine present; no marginal spines
  • rostrum: margins straight and converging but not thickened;triangularly tapered at rostrum (may be curved margins)
  • areola: medium, bearing approx. 5-6 punctations across narrowest part
  • chelae: smooth and very robust; possessing double row of tubercles on mesial margin of palm; well-developed dorsolatitudinal ridges on fingres; may be gap between fingers
  • other characteristics: small eye; acute suborbital angle
  • form I male gonopod: terminal elements similar in length; corneous central projection bearing subapical notch; mesial process inflated at base and tapering distally; cephalic margin sloping at an angle

Notes:  Bouchard believes this to be a species complex needing attention

Crayfish Regulations (PDF)

According to NC General Statue and NCWRC Regulation, it is unlawful to stock any fish (including shellfish and crustaceans) into public waters without a WRC permit.  It is also unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, or sell any live individuals of virile crayfish (Orconectes (Gremicambarus) virilis), rusty crayfish (Orconectes (Procericambarus) rusticus), Australian “red claw” crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) or other species of “giant” crayfish species.

Illustrations are reproduced with the permission of the Smithsonian Institution Press. We are grateful to them for allowing us to provide this useful information with the other materials provided herein. We also wish to recognize the tremendous contribution to crayfish biology by the author/artist, the late Horton H. Hobbs Jr.

The following illustration is reproduced from:
Hobbs Jr., H. H. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 480:1-236.

        Credit NCWRC for all photos.