By Patrick D. Bonin
BRANCH, LA – It’s official: spring has sprung, and crawfish season is now ramping up into high gear!
Late March, April and early May typically bring nice weather with pleasant temperatures, ideal conditions for all the mudbugs that have been steadily growing in our ponds since emerging from below ground last fall.
With a solid supply of rice stubble still remaining in prime water conditions, daily harvests are now yielding some large, physically mature mudbugs.
“The environment plays a large role in determining how big a crawfish will be at maturity, and right now conditions are pretty much as good as they can get,” said Mark Frugé, co-owner of Frugé Aquafarms. “Springtime temperatures are ideal, and they still have a good food supply left out there. They are extremely active, and we have a lot of mature crawfish in the ponds. ”
While some physically mature crawfish peak on the small side, Frugé said variations in individual crawfish sizes can also be attributed to their age. That’s because last fall, all of the female crawfish with their young didn’t emerge into the ponds at exactly the same time.
“The crawfish are not all the same age, because the young aren’t disbursed at exactly the same time,” he said. “They might be all close to the same age, but they still have lots of smaller, younger crawfish out there that haven’t reached physical maturity yet.”
That allows for really nice crawfish later in the season. Although as spring transitions into summer and the water temperature steadily increases, Frugé said the heat negatively impacts the harvest.
“As it gets hotter, temperatures start to work against the crawfish and the yield steadily decreases, but that doesn’t typically happen until June,” he said. “Right now, the crawfish are “clawed out” with some really big claws: they look impressive. And the shells aren’t too hard yet, so it doesn’t get much better than this.”
According to the Louisiana Crawfish Production Manual from the LSU AgCenter, a variety of factors can influence the harvest from day to day. Water temperature, crawfish density, molting patterns, weather and even the phase of the moon can play a part in determining the daily catch, according to LSU.
“I can tell you that crawfish are very similar to fish,” Frugé said. “If the barometric pressure is correct and the wind is correct, the fish will bite. And then everything can change overnight, and the next day they won’t bite. The same is true for crawfish.”
So progress is steady now on the farm, with great days and with good days, rain or shine. All of the hard work and preparation that started last summer when this year’s ponds were seeded with crawfish are being realized with the 2013 harvest.
“It’s wide open right now,” Frugé said. “We’ll be fishing every day as long as the market deems it necessary.”