Louisiana’s crawfish crop this season should be abundant, with fishermen harvesting from more ponds and rice field acreage than ever before.
The catch being pulled now from ponds — which provide the first crawfish of the season — is promising so far, helped greatly by wet and warm weather that’s run deep into December.
But industry experts warn that a prolonged cold snap, a lack of rain or not enough water in the Atchafalaya Basin could hinder supply for the remainder of the season, which runs from after Thanksgiving until June.
“They’re big for this time of year, but I haven’t seen huge crawfish. There’s just a lot more of them,” said Chad Hill, who farms 450 acres near Elton. He said he’s now getting $2 a pound for his crawfish.
From the Kappa Loyal LLC office on Prytania Street in New Orleans, Greg and Anne Kinnett will begin after the holidays selling crawfish they raise on 600 acres in Paradis.
“With our operations, we wait until demand gets a little higher,” Greg Kinnett said.
Kinnett credits the warm weather and abundant rainfall for what looks to be a blockbuster season.
Kappa Loyal, which sells to the wholesale market only, has expanded its client base from the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast into Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Florida, Kinnett said.
In Gretna, J&J Seafood is buying, boiling and selling as much as they can get, restaurant co-owner Michael Jackson said.
“Full, nice crawfish. Beautiful crawfish,” Jackson said. “We’ve been getting just enough to boil, and not enough to sell them live.”
Jackson said J&J buys two to five sacks a day during the work week and up to 10 sacks a day on the weekends. It’s selling boiled crawfish for $5.69 a pound.
In Satsuma, located between Hammond and Baton Rouge, Satsuma Seafood is seeing high demand too.
“It’s a good start to crawfish season. The demand is now,” said Greta Frelich, who with her husband owns the restaurant they opened about 10 years ago.
“I don’t know if it’s the weather — it’s hot and people are thinking about crawfish,” she said. “The pricing is up there, but people don’t seem to mind this year. I don’t know if maybe their pocketbooks are a little better, which I’m grateful for.”
Frelich said Satsuma is selling boiled crawfish for $5.89 a pound and live ones for $4.25 a pound.
“I’ve seen some beautiful, beautiful crawfish for this time of year,” she said. “I’m not getting any complaints.”
LSU AgCenter professor W. Ray McClain, who researches the industry, stopped short of predicting a banner year because the season is still young.
“All I can say is the conditions up to this point have been favorable,” McClain said.
He said that so far only the pond crawfish are being harvested and sold. Early next year, fishermen will bring to market the crawfish hauled in traps spread out in flooded rice fields, he said.
And the wild Atchafalaya Basin crawfish should be plentiful if there’s an adequate level of water that does not fluctuate.
“The water has to be up and stay up for a while,” McClain said.
Aquaculture farmers this year dedicated more acreage to crawfish than last season, when some 245,000 acres were farmed, McClain said.
He said the final tally will not be known until January or February, “but there’s going to be a substantial increase in acreage.”
Dean Simoneaux, an agent for Mike Blanchard Seafood, a crawfish wholesale firm in Pierre Part, said several factors could affect the price as the season heads into the summer, including a continued abundant supply driving down the price.
He said lower demand caused by energy-sector layoffs from Houston and Dallas to New Orleans also could drive down prices.
“People don’t believe it, but your money (to pay for crawfish) is coming out of the oil field,” Simoneaux said.