LSU AGCENTER faculty members say this year's Louisiana crawfish crop looks to be the best in at least three years. LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Greg Lutz said much-needed rains during the past 12 months are having a positive effect on the 2002 crawfish crop in the state.

“So far the crop is looking really good,” Lutz said. Of 32 identified species of crawfish in Louisiana, the two of economic importance are the red swamp crawfish and the white river crawfish.

Density of pond population and weather are major factors affecting the size of crawfish. “The number in a pond affects size more than anything else,” Lutz said.

Lutz said recent cold weather shouldn't produce a noticeable effect because red swamp crawfish are highly adapted to the weather patterns of south Louisiana.

LSU AgCenter area aquaculture agent Mark Shirley said another promising sign for this year's season should be an increased number of crawfish coming out of the Atchafalya Basin and in ponds that are being put back into production.

“During the past few years we have seen a dropoff in the number of farmers due to the drought and saltwater intrusion in the lower coastal parishes that affected production,” Shirley said. “But now we are seeing some farmers putting their old ponds back into production.”

While predicting a better year, the LSU AgCenter experts said the 2002 crawfish season is not without problems for Louisiana farmers. Lutz explained the drought the past couple of years allowed for greater imports of foreign crawfish — to fill demand.