BATON ROUGE, La. -- On 25 acres of crawfish ponds, Vernon Pfister is keeping an eye on mudbugs.
'It's very difficult to control what comes out of the ground,' he said. 'They're starting to get a little smaller now because we're getting more and more numbers in the pond. As the season progresses, your numbers go up.'
The crawfish supply is steadily increasing, thanks in part to warmer temperatures and needed rainfall. Little rain in the fall put the season behind schedule, according to Dr. Robert Romaire of the LSU AgCenter's Aquaculture Research Center.
'It certainly started out slow,' Dr. Romaire said. 'We had a very, very dry fall. Rainfall in October is very critical to early crawfish production.'
However, along with warmer temperatures, recent rains have helped improve the outlook. Not all farmers, though, benefited from the extra rainfall.
'For a few farmers, with their farms located next to bayous, I did speak to a few that had flooding problems,' Dr. Romaire said. 'But by and large, the rainfall is typically a blessing. It freshens up the ponds, it improves the water quality, gets the crawfish active and moving and really enhances the catch.'
The price of crawfish depends very much on supply and demand. Prices have remained steady, with demand expected to peak around Easter. As of now, crawfish prices are averaging between $2.50 and $3 a pound.
'Crawfish are going to be available. They'll be in plentiful supply for the consumers,' Dr. Romaire said. 'However, we recommend that consumers, if you're planning a crawfish boil, to book them. Call their favorite seafood vendor and book what they need in advance.'
According to the LSU AgCenter, more than 1,200 farmers in Louisiana grow crawfish across 189,000 acres. The number of acres makes it the largest freshwater aquaculture industry in the country.