Freezing weather has caused a rocky start to crawfish season, as record low temperatures have led to record high prices for the popular Southern delicacy.
"The end of January and the first part of February have been bad for us," said Richard Harrington Jr., a manager at Three Dads Crawfish in Gulfport. "The demand is there, but the volume of crawfish is not."
Todd Rosetti, a manager at Quality Poultry and Seafood in Biloxi, said the unusually icy temperatures this winter have hurt the front end of the season.
"It's been spotty, hit or miss between Thanksgiving and now because of the weather," he said. "We've had exceptionally cold weather this year, and because of that, crawfish tend to bury up in the ponds."
Rosetti said at this time of year he should be seeing more and more crawfish come in, but so far that hasn't been the case.
"We're lucky to get 20 sacks a week, and we should be using 60 to 75 sacks a day," he said.
Because the crawfish are harder to come by, prices have been much higher than normal, Rosetti said.
"Price are at an all-time high," he said, adding that he paid as much as $4.60 per pound around the Super Bowl at the beginning of the month. "Before that, the highest I can remember paying was $3.90 a pound."
But Rosetti said as temperatures start to climb, the crawfish should be more readily available.
"My guys are telling me everything is going to be around two weeks to a month late," he said. "Until the water warms up and the ponds get some sunlight, we won't see the volume of crawfish hit the market. They've got to have warmer weather to start crawling and get active."
Harrington said crawfish season typically begins in November, but peaks in the springtime.
"We've been cooking crawfish since November, I was frying turkeys and boiling crawfish at the same time," he said. "But the prime months are March, April and May, that's when they're the cheapest."
But because of the uncertainty surrounding winter weather in the coming weeks, Rosetti said he's had a hard time predicting what prices will look like.
"We can't really give prices because we have no idea what the market is going to bring," he said. "We're just waiting for the prices to get stable, and it's just a matter of time before that happens."
Rosetti suggested planning ahead for anyone interested in getting crawfish in the next few weeks.
"It's best to call early and reserve them, within the next couple of weeks we'll definitely see a supply increase," he said. "I can rarely say that I haven't been able to supply people's needs if they've given us plenty of heads up."