A local crawfish farmer near Welsh gathers crawfish from the ponds during last season's harvest. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 09, 2014 11:04 AMThe recent cold spell is not expected to have a large effect on the area’s annual crawfish harvest.
Burt Tietje, owner of Tallgrass Farm about a mile north of Roanoke, said the freezing temperatures merely slowed activity for a little while.
“Freezes don’t generally hurt the crawfish at all, but generally slow down their growth,” Tietje said. “Everything in the pond depends on how much heat there is in the pond. The more there is, the more the food grows, the more active the crawfish are. When we get times like this, everything stops moving, everything stops feeding. It doesn’t hurt us; it just puts us back. We depend on being able to have a regular harvest of crawfish. If we lose a week like this, it is a week we don’t get to make up. It hurts us that way, but does not hurt the crawfish themselves.”
Tietje said activity at the farm was slow before the cold weather arrived.
“I often collect about this time, but this year I flooded the pond a little later,” he said. “Therefore, I was not looking to start crawfishing until about Jan. 15. I will have to go out there and see what my test traps tell me. At this point, it is too cold to go out and check them. It is a minor setback, we deal with cold weather every winter. The fact that this was colder than usual does not make any major difference. It is not going to damage the crawfish.”
Tietje said the season typically picks up in February.
“Our six-month season is like a bell curve,” he said. “You catch a few in January. February starts a climb, and March and April are our peak times. In May it drops off precipitously, and in June it peters out.”
Tietje said early signs point to a normal harvest.
“We normally catch 30,000-50,000 pounds of crawfish each year,” he said. “All indications are we are going to have a good pond and reach that. They have reproduced and are growing. We have several generations of crawfish in the pond, which is what you want to see. The first thing you are going to catch are last year’s stock crawfish, then you are going to have the first wave of recruits. All of the crawfish don’t come up at one time, they come up in waves. You have a continual new generation of crawfish coming along. At this point, you want to go in there, do your test traps and find a few great big crawfish and successive generations below that. I should be able to do those tests by the end of the week when the warm weather hits.”