THE LOUISIANA crawfish season is off to a good start, according to LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Greg Lutz, who predicts an abundant crop this year.

“We've got lots of crawfish out in the ponds,” said Lutz. “Most of the ponds had really good reproduction and good survival of the breeding stock over the summer.”

A mild fall and well-timed rainfalls helped the crawfish emerge from the ground and enter ponds at the right time, Lutz said, adding that with so many crawfish in the ponds, farmers will need to harvest the big crawfish diligently to make room for the growing, younger crawfish.

“With good management we should see good availability of crawfish for the consumer for most of the rest of the season,” the LSU AgCenter expert said.

Crawfish movement and the ability to harvest them slow down when there's really cold weather — like what occurred around Christmas — but consumers should not worry, according to Lutz. Freezing temperatures usually don't harm the crawfish, he said.

“It's almost unheard of here in Louisiana for our ponds to get so cold that it will actually kill the crawfish,” Lutz explained.

Farm-raised crawfish usually account for around 60 percent to 80 percent of the Louisiana crawfish crop. The remainder of the crop comes from wild crawfish living in areas such as the Atchafalaya Basin. Water levels and temperatures in those areas are strong factors in determining how abundant the wild crop will be, but right now that looks promising, Lutz said.

“This year conditions look good for wild crawfish,” he said, adding, “There certainly are reports of crawfish being caught out there in some of the natural habitat.”

Lutz and his colleagues are conducting research on survival and reproduction of crawfish. Some of this research confirms old sayings.

“You'll hear a lot of old-timey Cajun folks say the crawfish won't come out of the ground until they hear thunder, and there has been some work done at the (LSU AgCenter's) Rice Research Station that corroborates that,” Lutz said. “The emergence back out of the ground with their babies or their eggs is really highly associated with big rainfall events.”