The opening month of the year has been chock-full for the Teche Area. First there was the Tigers-versus-Tigers matchup that gave LSU its fourth national title, then the birth of the 2020 carnival season with the Bayou Mardi Gras parade and a smattering of Mardi Gras balls, the Grammy Awards came and went, and the excitement continues to increase over the it’s-about-happen Super Bowl.
Whew. All of those things have kept residents busy.
Has crawfish season gotten lost in the mix? Maybe.
David Savoy serves as chairperson for the Louisiana Crawfish Research and Promotion Board, a statewide consortium of farmers, suppliers, processors and food industry folks who are focused on spreading the word about Louisiana crawfish.
“We just haven’t seen the usual amount of interest that we usually find by this time of year,” he said. “I’ve got a theory.”
Savoy said he believes that LSU not only dominated the field, but also crawfish fans’ attention.
“Those are the people who would be having crawfish boils,” he said.
It’s still quite early in the season. Typically, the early catch comes from pond farming.
As the weather warms through the spring, wild caught crawfish emerge from the Atchafalaya Basin.
Savoy, a producer in the Church Point area, said larger crawfish are beginning to show up in his harvest. A round of cold weather “held the size back,” he explained. Producers to the west, near Jeff Davis Parish, “are doing decently well” but to the east — the Breaux Bridge/New Iberia region — crawfish are still on the smaller side.
Depending on weather (of course), there is potentially more Louisiana crawfish on the market than ever, Savoy said.
Landowners are increasingly moving away from growing rice, converting their fields into ponds because rice is no longer profitable. Over the last several years, the amount of acreage devoted to pond farming has roughly doubled, from about 100,000 to an estimated 200,000 acres across the state.
Where will all those crawfish go?
“Over the last 3 years or so, we’ve seen real growth in out-of-state markets,” Savoy said.
A long-running media campaign that includes television and radio ads, as well as billboards, seems to have taken root. The effort targets areas within about a half-day drive from Acadiana, including cities in Texas, such as Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Atlanta; and Jacksonville, Florida.
“Things have really taken off in Texas,” Savoy said.
“The only thing is,” he added, laughing, “we can’t seem to convince Texans that there isn’t a ‘crawfish season’ that you can mark on a calendar.’
The timing of the harvest, crawfish size, and volume all depend on the weather, he said.
As it turns out, crawfish can be fickle — just like sports fans.