As crawfish season begins, expect shorter supply and higher prices thanks to last month’s freeze

Tony’s Seafood in Baton Rouge has been a hotspot for crawfish lovers for years. But thanks to last month’s four-day freeze in south Louisiana, customers at Tony’s and other local seafood restaurants can expect to pay more at the start of the season.

The Crawfish App reported Tuesday that prices in the Baton Rouge area were averaging between $7 and $10 per pound. The Christmastime deep freeze set the season back by weeks, says Chad Prudhomme, owner and manager of Crawfish Enterprises in Eunice, which processes 30,000 to 50,000 pounds of crawfish per year.

“A cold winter like this isn’t good for us or the farmers; we lose about two to three weeks waiting for the water to warm up,” Prudhomme says.

A delay in harvesting causes higher prices at the beginning of the season, “but as it gets warmer, you end up getting a lot at one time,” Prudhomme says. “[It] takes the market a while to adjust.”

The industry has changed over the past several decades, he says, either due to climate shifts or overharvesting, with yields dropping from 1,000 pounds of crawfish per acre to roughly 600-700 pounds.

Prudhomme says the right combination of water quality and temperature is key to a good crawfish season.

Bill Pizzolato, who owns Tony’s seafood, says that, in addition to lower yields, the popularity of mudbugs in places such as Houston is also helping drive up prices locally.

“Katrina spread a lot of Louisiana people out, and, in the years since, we’ve seen demand explode in places outside of Louisiana,” Pizzolato says. “When you’ve got high demand and low supply, prices stay high.”

Despite the winter weather challenges, Pizzolato remains upbeat about this crawfish season.

“We’ve got a good season to look forward to, we just gotta be patient.”

This story originally appeared in a Jan. 17 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.