Crawfish in December? An early harvest bodes well for 2019 season

Santa’s sack isn’t the only bundle being met with joy and glee around New Orleans, not among boiled seafood fans.

Sacks of crawfish have been turning up at seafood markets and restaurants, providing an early taste of the full season to come.

“We started getting some here and there back in November,” said Sonya DiCarlo, who with her brothers runs Clesi’s Restaurant and Catering, in Mid-City. “But now it’s so steady, we’ve just added crawfish to the menu daily.”

In any given year, some small crawfish harvests can begin turning up as early as Halloween. Such examples, however, normally amount to just a trickle, produced by farmers banking on higher prices for the limited supply of their product on the cusp of the season.

Dr. Greg Lutz, a crawfish specialist with the LSU AgCenter, said the more consistent supply of crawfish now coming out of some Louisiana production areas bodes well for the season to come, though he quickly added a caveat.

“If we hit a real cold snap,” he said, “we could be back to square one and end up with just an average season at best.”

Factors influencing the volume of crawfish for a season include rainfall, temperatures and storms that can track all the way back to the last season, he said.

This time of year, though, consumers have to keep two things in mind, said Clint St. Philip, general manager of Captain Sid’s Seafood, a retail market in Bucktown. Prices are bound to be higher, he said, and the crawfish are simply not as large and meaty as they will be later on.

Still, he said, crawfish in December always turn people’s heads. He chalks it up to a short memory.

“Every time this happens, the same people say the same thing,” he said. “They can’t believe there’s crawfish. I think people just aren’t attuned to crawfish until the spring.”

Spring is when the price drops, and the overall quality of the crawfish coming into the city rises.

At markets this month, boiled crawfish have been running around $5.50 a pound, or $4.50 a pound for live crawfish. That’s easily twice the price seafood lovers can expect in the spring. At restaurants, the price is significantly higher.

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