The 2007 Louisiana crawfish season is shaping to be a good one, as harvest gets under way in the state.

“Some ponds are already producing really well for this time of the year,” said LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Greg Lutz.

“I think the typical consumer approach to crawfish is, ‘Can I get it and can I afford it?’” Lutz said. “And I think the answer to both of those questions will be ‘yes’ this year.”

What happens in the summer affects the outcome of the spring's crawfish crop. Dry summers have devastated the crawfish industry in the past, but this summer stayed wet enough to encourage good survival and reproduction in the crawfish burrows.

“Overall it looks like we got through the summer and fall in pretty good shape,” Lutz said.

Recent rain has helped keep the ponds fresh, the water quality good and oxygen levels up. Other weather conditions also have helped the crop, according to the LSU AgCenter expert.

“It's been a fairly mild winter, and that just lets the crawfish keep growing all through the winter,” Lutz said.

When the water temperature stays above 50 degrees, the crawfish eat more and grow larger.

On the downside, however, Lutz said remnants from Hurricane Rita and the salt water the storm brought inland are still affecting a few crawfish ponds in southwestern Louisiana. The salty conditions made it difficult to plant vegetation in some rice fields that are double-cropped with crawfish. Without such vegetation, crawfish don't have a good food supply through the fall and winter.

“They live off the natural animals and bacteria and all the things that would normally break down the vegetation,” Lutz explained. “That is what feeds the crawfish.”

Crawfish acreage this year is slightly lower than recent years. But Lutz said he expects producers will harvest from about 100,000 acres of crawfish ponds.

Last year, Louisiana's pond-raised crawfish, which were harvested from about 117,000 acres, had a gross farm value of $40 million, according to an LSU AgCenter report.