We can expect to see lower prices once we get later into the season, along with bigger crawfish.
Crawfish season is in full swing in the Bayou State, as Louisianans are flocking to restaurants to get their pounds. Owner of Cajun Livin' and Cookin' and manager of Hole in the Wall Seafood in Port Vincent, Rodney Dupuy, knows a thing or two about crawfish. He said weather has made for an interesting start to the season with freezing temperatures sweeping across the state more than once earlier this year.
"Every crawfish season is a different season, you can always count on that," said Dupuy.
Dupuy said water temperature affects the mudbug's growth. He said as the water temperature changes, crawfish go through molts, or the shedding of their shell. While this is good news because it means the crawfish are getting bigger, it can make it hard to keep a sack alive long enough to make it to the boil pot.
Dupuy said within 12 to 24 hours of being caught, they're losing between five and ten pounds of crawfish because they're dying. That means although the catch is up a little, the price hasn't gone down because retailers are having to make up the difference for losing pounds of mudbugs at a time.
"With the loss that everyone is taking, that's going to keep the price up because you've got to recoup some of that dead loss," said Dupuy.
Crawfish go through several molts a season, some lasting as long as two or three weeks. It's safe to say we see around one molt a month through the spring. Dupuy said that's why in April, May, and June, we see big healthy crawfish, because by then they're through growing. Smaller bodies of water are typically more affected by the fluctuating temperatures.
"This time of the year, all you have is basically pond crawfish because the water in the spillway hasn't warmed up," said Dupuy.
This year we're seeing higher prices over last season. Crawfish are currently running around $6 a pound for boiled and even up to $7 or $8 at some restaurants. The price is driven up by supply and demand, and since the catch is down, prices are going up. We can expect to see lower prices once we get later into the season, along with bigger crawfish.
"Come May, you can expect a really good price on crawfish, and the catch should be good," said Dupuy. "The crawfish should be big and healthy
This year has been a far cry from what we saw last year when the price was good and the catch was up. This Lent the fishermen haven't been able to meet the demands of the public, which doesn't seem to waiver no matter how high prices climb.
Dupuy said crawfish are always affected by the weather. He said we saw one of the coldest Januaries we've seen in some time, followed by one of the warmest Februaries. It's made it hard on the mudbugs for sure.
"That'll show right there that Mother Nature's played a trick on us," said Dupuy.
Restaurants want to see cheaper crawfish almost as much as the customers do. On the retail side, Dupuy said he'd much prefer to see lower prices on crawfish. Although they sell for less a pound, people tend to buy more when the price is down, which means more sales for the retailers.
"Even though it's cheaper a-pound, now instead of someone coming in to buy one sack of live to boil at their house, they're going to buy two sacks," said Dupuy. "So it really does help the wholesale or the retail when the price falls."
Dupuy said with the prices so high, a lot of customers can't afford crawfish right now. He said they're coming in to get just a couple pounds, instead of bringing the family in for big plates. Last year, he said almost everyone who came through his door was getting ten or fifteen pounds.
As the weather continues to warm up, the prices should start to drop as the catch goes up, especially when the crawfish finish molting and live in the sacks. By the time Easter arrives, Dupuy said everyone will be hiding their Easter eggs and enjoying low prices for big mudbugs.
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