LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Greg Lutz believes an alternative crawfish species native to Louisiana and found in the Atchafalaya basin and other waterways may someday have the pots boiling in the fall.
“This animal lays it eggs in the early spring and grows through the summer months,” Lutz said. “And it’s just about the right size for eating when football season rolls around.”
That’s right. Crawfish during football season. And Lutz said it gets better.
“With the traditional crawfish, a lot of the weight you are paying for is in the claws and in the head,” he said. “This animal has a large proportion of tail to its body, and its claws are fairly small, so you get a little more bang for your buck.”
This is the first time research has been conducted on this species, which often is referred to as “shrimp-crawfish” by fishermen in the basin.
“They like to hide in soft mud when they get nervous,” the specialist said of the crawfish. “They kind of bury themselves the way a shrimp would.”
Lutz recently developed a captive population to start his research. He has stocked this crawfish in 60 research pools at the LSU AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge.
The researcher is trying to determine what the best stocking density is so the crawfish grow adequately. He also is looking at potential food sources.
“We’re looking at different types of vegetation to determine what might produce the best habitat to grow these animals out there in a commercial crawfish pond,” he said.
Lutz is growing a native wetland plant called maiden cane along with rice in his ponds. He said he likes the idea of using native vegetation with the native crawfish.
These crawfish respond to traditional crawfish baits and would be trapped the same way. Lutz has been trapping his research population to track their growth and development.
Crawfish producers have long expressed an interest in off-season production. The industry faces marketing limitations because the product is seasonal, Lutz said. Having essentially a second crawfish season could help the industry and give producers additional income.
Lutz said he sampled a few of these alternative crawfish and said they peeled and tasted like typical crawfish.
Consumers shouldn’t dust off their boiling pots this fall, however. It could be a few more years before these crawfish go commercial.
“There are still some things to work out with this animal,” Lutz said. “But if they cooperate, we might see some commercial production in the next two to three years.”