October 17, 2018
Brief History of Crawfish Farming in Louisiana
By: Barry Toups
Louisiana is not the only place where crawfish are caught and eaten. While we may believe this is where they taste the best due to cooking with our local spices (such as crawfish boil) and methods of cooking (adding potatoes, corn, sausages, onions, etc.), crawfish were consumed for centuries by Native Americans. Reeds baited with deer meat were put into creeks and ponds by local tribes to catch crawfish. Also, crawfish have also been eaten for centuries throughout Europe.
Though small harvests of farmed crawfish occur in other states, Louisiana is by far the largest producer of crawfish in the United States. Commercial sale of crawfish in Louisiana began around the late 1800s, harvested from natural waters. The first record of a commercial crawfish harvest in the United States was from the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana. Following the Great Depression, crawfish sold for as little as 4 cents a pound. During this time, the introduction of wire crawfish traps resulted in more efficient methods of harvest.
In the 1930’s, the practice of re-flooding rice fields after harvest became commonplace as a method to produce crawfish for harvest during the autumn, winter and early spring. Once crawfish “farming” began, it allowed for more consistent supplies from year to year.
Crawfish in Louisiana is dominated by two species — red swamp crawfish and white river crawfish.