Louisiana rice farmers who plan to harvest crawfish from their fields next year should consider restocking crawfish once their rice crops have been flooded.

But restocking permanent ponds is seldom anything but a waste of time and money, according to LSU AgCenter crawfish researcher Ray McClain.

The only time restocking is justifiable in a permanent pond is with a newly constructed pond or in an existing one that has been affected by a catastrophe.

“Under normal circumstances, if there’s enough crawfish to harvest, there’s enough crawfish for a brood stock,” McClain said. Trapping crawfish is so inefficient it will not deplete enough crawfish to affect the next year’s production.

Restocking crawfish in rice fields that are in a crawfish-rice rotation should be done before June when water becomes hot.

Several points that should be remembered when stocking include:

  • Start with healthy crawfish.
  • Stock with an equal number of males and females.
  • Handle stockers with more care than crawfish to be eaten.

“You want to get them in the water as soon as possible, and you don’t want crawfish that are kept in a cooler.”

  • Size is not important because it generally is determined by environmental factors. Smaller to mid-size crawfish will provide a similar number of young, while size at harvest will be determined primarily by environmental conditions and not by size of brood stock.
  • Where the crawfish are harvested isn’t important, as long as they are healthy.
  • Consider getting stockers from different sources to diversify the population.
  • Spread stocking out over several days at the rate of one to two 34- to 40-pound sacks per day.

Generally, McClain said, stocking is a good idea when rice is six to eight weeks old, the permanent flood has been established and the rice is beyond the need for insecticides.