Crawfish harvest in progress, season looks good
Recently a local TV station interviewed a restaurant owner in the Winnie area who said this was going to be the worst crawfish season ever.
“Big Daddy” Todd Landry said don’t believe it. “It’s going to be a great season for the consumer; it’s just a rough start.”
Landry owns Big Daddy’s Crawfish and has been in the business for eight years.
“I’m originally from Louisiana and moved to Texas probably 25 years ago. Every time we bought some crawfish, it was hard to get nice crawfish. You know, raised in Louisiana we always had good crawfish,” said Landry. “My friends raised crawfish, had farms, so we had easy access to good crawfish,” he said.
“So I told my wife I was going to put in a little pond.” Landry started with one crawfish pond in his back yard, “Just to feed Big Daddy.” Soon he added another pond to supply crawfish for local friends. “My friends would give me a little bit of money to cover the cost of bait, the water.” Landry said he started selling crawfish out of a little 8×8 cooler. He built a second pond and got a license because friends kept wanting crawfish on the weekends. “I was getting so many calls, I starting calling friends in Louisiana. They told me, ‘With a name like Big Daddy, why don’t you try to sell our crawfish?’”
Before he knew it, Big Daddy was in a part time business selling crawfish. Now, his job at DuPont is more the part time job and crawfish is a full time venture.
Big Daddy says the crawfish season is starting slow because of the weather. All the rain has been good, “It keeps the crawfish healthy,” the low temperatures keep the mudbugs from moving much, so harvests are low. Even so, he is currently selling about 1,000 bags a week.
Right now, says Landry, the crawfish are molting. They lose their shell when they are ready to grow. Landry said they are very vulnerable the 3-5 days while soft, so they don’t move very much. The sun is needed to help the new shells harden. When it’s bright, they harden in about three days, but when it stays overcast, it takes longer. He says they go into a feeding frenzy once the shells harden “because they’re hungry” and that is when the crop starts coming in.
“When the water warms up, and it’s starting to and we’re noticing the catch is starting to come up, there is going to be an abundance,” he said. “The price is going to come down, maybe even less than last year, because there’s that many crawfish out there.”
Landry estimates a vast improvement will be seen in about two weeks, just in time for Easter.
From all indications Landry is seeing from his own ponds; it suggests the season will be good. Landry expects to exceed last year’s crop and sell four to five million pounds of the Cajun delicacies this year.
Crawfish are harvested using a crawfish combine, which is an amphibious flat bottom boat that floats in the field, pushed by a wheel, allowing a worker to haul up a trap, empty it, bait it, and set it back in the water near the next one, without ever having to stop the boat.
It’s a year round business, because the off season is spent plowing fields and planting rice getting ready for the next year. Rice is what the crawfish feed on.
Later in the season, when the mudbugs are plentiful, Big Daddy will also offer purged and cleaned crawfish. He said it would be too expensive right now. The current cost of crawfish on Tuesday was $2.75 a pound. Purged crawfish would cost more because it takes 48 hours for a proper purge. Landry said his prices are determined by the Louisiana market. He only adds 25 cents to the cost of the crawfish which makes him very competitive.
He currently serves most of the restaurants, over 30 HEBs and other markets in the area.
Landry’s wife, DaWanna, plays a big part in the business. “She’s is the bookkeeper. I do all right bringing the money to the house, but as far as anything else, I’m not very good at it. She’s excellent,” he said.
She has taught at Hatton Elementary for 17 years.
“My son has been a big help to us,” said Landry. He looks after things when Landry is at the plant and when he is not in school. “Paeton’s going to be a cardiologist; working crawfish on the side,” he said with a laugh.
Landry is already receiving a lot of calls for Easter orders, probably due to the rumors of limited supply. He is telling customers to start calling on Monday, March 29 to place crawfish orders for Easter. It is rapidly replacing the Easter Ham. “It’s our biggest week of the year.”
Big Daddy’s currently employs 10 people, but during the peak season the business has about 15 employees. Next year he will expand from over 100 acres of crawfish ponds to 200.
To place an order call 670-8821