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2024 Louisiana Crawfish Season Predictions Elusive

Ray McClain
/
LSU AgCenter

According to estimates from the LSU AgCenter, the drought affected about 45,000 acres of crawfish ponds in Louisiana.

The punishing heat and extended drought from the summer of 2023 are still wreaking havoc with some industries in the Red River Radio listening area. According to estimates from the LSU AgCenter, the drought affected about 45,000 acres of crawfish ponds in Louisiana.
The potentially grim prospects for the fast approaching 2024 crawfish season have led crawfish farmers to cautiously assess the situation. Some of them have begun to see some progress. That includes Louisiana crawfish farmer Zack Hebert. “A lot of people are saying they've seen more crawfish emerge. Now they're emerging later than normal which is most probably going to relate to a later than normal season, a start of the season.” During Hebert’s assessment at his farm in Jennings, Louisiana, LSU AgCenter agent Todd Fontano joined him. Fontano pointed and added, “That's very promising right there, actually.”

Estimated annual production of farmed and wild-caught crawfish ad total acreage devoted to crawfish aquaculture in Louisiana
LSU AgCenter / Louisiana Agricul
/
LSU AgCenter
Estimated annual production of farmed and wild-caught crawfish ad total acreage devoted to crawfish aquaculture in Louisiana

Hebert and Fontano were both featured recently on the television program “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture.” And both men say last summer’s extreme heat and bone-dry conditions have the industry in uncharted waters with lots of questions. And as Hebert explains, there’s a lot at stake financially for crawfish farmers like himself. “It's already been extremely expensive this year and it gets really expensive really fast. Bait costs, labor costs, everything goes up every year.”

Crawfish pond in Kaplan, 21 miles southwest of Lafayette, Louisiana
Ray McClain
/
LSU AgCenter
Crawfish pond in Kaplan, 21 miles southwest of Lafayette, Louisiana

Saltwater intrusion or lack of water have both prevented the use of another 43,000 acres of ponds in Louisiana. So, as crawfish season typically gets underway in mid-January, this crop of mudbugs is expected to be smaller and more expensive. In monetary terms, the LSU Ag Center estimates the damage to Louisiana's crawfish industry may approach $140 million. Hebert concludes, “Those fields that are normally full of water just like this ready to crawfish in January are bone dry I mean there's no water and they [are] not going to pump, they're not going to take the deep water. They have nothing to do. So, I just, I don't see how we're not going to see a significant drop in in volume Industrywide.”
Even now, 99% of Louisiana remains in a drought. That’s according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. A year ago, it was less than 6% of Louisiana under drought conditions.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, and a graduate of the University of Washington, Jeff began his on-air broadcasting career 33 years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota as a general assignment reporter.