Crawdad crook damages rise to $21,600

Axie Navas
File photo

Tahoe Lobster Co. traps have continued to disappear from Lake Tahoe, threatening the lake’s first commercial crawfish harvest operation.

Tahoe Lobster Co. Owner Fred Jackson said 160 traps have gone missing since last fall, a loss of more than $21,000 including the lost crawfish haul. Four sets of 10 traps disappeared late last month from their location off the northeast shore, he said.

“This year it hurt us pretty bad. We’ve sunk everything we had into this business,” Jackson said. “What these guys are doing is craziness. It leaves me speechless. If they hit me again, it’s not sustainable. I’m about ready to throw down the towel. I don’t know what to do,”

But Jackson said he won’t be driven away. On Tuesday, he pulled the crawfish traps from their current location between the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe and Sand Harbor and relocated south to the waters off Skunk Harbor.

Jackson says he is confident the thief belongs to the regional leisure sportfishing community, a hypothesis he said is supported by guides’ testament and angry tirades against the commercial crawfish business posted on fishing forums.

According to Jackson, the traps are definitely being stolen. He marks their location with a GPS and aligns the traps with landmarks on the shore.

“It’s someone who thinks he’s a superhero, the X-Man of the sport fishing community. They think they’re saving the trout fishery,” Jackson said.

Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters Operator Gene St. Denis agrees that the blame for the thefts probably lies with a recreational fisherman, but he said he doesn’t know the individual or group responsible.

“There have been rumblings in the background since he started this thing, but as far as figuring out who’s taking the traps, I don’t know. I think it’s really poor form to do something like that,” he said.

Some regional outfitters contend that fish such as the trout and mackinaw rely on the crawfish for food. In a previous article, St. Denis said 50 to 70 percent of the fish he reels in have crawfish in their stomachs.

But stomach content can sometimes be misleading, according to University of Nevada, Reno limnologist Sudeep Chandra.

The food located in a stomach offers only a snapshot of a diet and not necessarily the animal’s long-term energy source. The scientific data Chandra has seen indicates that while the trout and mackinaw do feed on crawfish, Mysid shrimp compose the bulk of their caloric intake.

Chandra estimates that there are about 7 million pounds of crawfish crawling in Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Lobster Co., which caught about 4,500 pounds of crawfish last season, according to Jackson, put less than a 1 percent dent in the Tahoe crawfish population.

Nevada Department of Wildlife Spokesman Chris Healy said the agency’s seasonal law enforcement met with Jackson last week to get the GPS coordinates of the traps. The NDOW boat patrols, which are increased during the summer boating season, will watch for suspicious activity.

“We’re not going to be able to sit on his traps for him, but we will keep an eye on them,” Healy said.

Healy also encouraged anyone with information to call the Game Thief hotline at 1-800-992-3030.

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