I liked sharing my first memories of fishing on the farm pond in my first blog so much, that I decided you all need to read more. You’ll like my stories, if not today, then in the future. You’ll catch on…pun intended.
For years, our elementary school system had the 5th grade science class study crayfish. I remember the science teacher, Mr. Slavinski, sending home permission slips for a field trip to the local park. In the park was a brook where we were to catch crayfish. The Park was also for playing baseball, softball, football, tennis, and had a playground consisting of a swing set and slide that had a red and white candy stripe dome over the landing. A section of the brook ran parallel between Main Street and the park. It was named after a woman in town, who to this day I still haven’t researched who she was and why the brook was named after her. I guess that is my next history assignment for the week, researching Ellen Doyle.
The small brook was maybe 15’ wide at the most, consisting of rocks the size of Tonka trucks and smaller and not much deeper than a foot on average. This was where we were supposed to catch crayfish.
Back then our parents carpooled students on local field trips. My mom had a green, 1970 Ford Torino Station Wagon, and yes, it even had the wood sides. My classmate’s mom had a giant Chevy Suburban, I can’t remember how many kids climbed into that vehicle, it seemed like a lot. There were probably a few other parent and teacher cars there too, but who remembers all those details when you’re with your friends and classmates playing in the brook?
For the field trip we were asked to wear boots and bring a container with a cover. The boots were so we could walk in the brook and keep our feet dry, obviously. The container was for keeping the crayfish that we caught from the brook. My container was an old Cool Whip container. We reused and recycled items long before it was a thing. Our assignment was to overturn some rocks and to catch a crayfish by hand. I don’t know about you, but ten-year-old me didn’t mind playing in the brook, getting wet, dirty, or turning over rocks looking for crayfish. What I didn’t like was when the crayfish moved so fast when my little hands got close to them. They sat still in the water, trying to be camouflaged, then were on the defense with claws up ready for attack. I had a plan to reach in the water as fast as I could and grab the crayfish from behind. But when I finally got brave enough to do so, the little bugger was faster than I could have predicted. It swished its tail and was out of sight so fast. All I could do was jump and scream like a little girl… because I was a little girl! I was nervous and excited. I couldn’t be the last one to catch a mini lobster. I had to keep trying. Just a few more handfuls of water and BAM. I finally got one.
I remember it being small and wiggly and as quickly as I snatched it up, I dropped it into that empty Cool Whip container. That creature was finally mine! I put a little bit of water and a small rock in the bright white bowl to make it comfortable. With a few small holes in the cover, I was able to take it home and feed it fish food, or whatever the teacher told us to give it.
The Crayfish, which I don’t even think I named, went home with me on the school bus that day. I had it in that Cool Whip container for a few days. I remember the crayfish looking very sad in that small, white, round room. My sister and I decided we were going to the park to release it back into the brook. It wasn’t an easy task to carry that vessel in hand, while riding a bicycle downhill a mile.
My experience was slightly different from my sisters. Two years earlier her class went to the same brook to hunt and gather crayfish. She ended up stepping on a bee’s nest and getting stung multiple times. To this day I don’t think she even goes near that part of the park.
What are these water animals called anyway? Crayfish, crawfish, crawdad? I guess it’s all where you’re from. In the Northeast of the U.S., we call them crayfish. Were they native to the brook, or were they stocked just for our classroom experience? I believe they are native, as the CT DEEP has them mapped and listed on their website. What my 5th grade class was looking for were, I think, Spiny-Cheek crayfish, or Faxonius Limosus. I only know the name of it now after doing some research. I could be wrong about the name of them or if more were stocked for our class, but as a kid, you don’t usually pay attention to those details. I just knew we were going on a field trip about 1 mile from our school.
Nowadays the only Crayfish I like are the Z-Man Ned Craws on a Ned Rig for smallmouth bass. These crayfish don’t bite, make me jump, or make me scream like a little girl, unless I’m catching a big bass.
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