Residents eager to don plastic bibs and feast on pounds of spicy mudbugs might have to wait longer than usual as distributors and restaurant operators warn of a tardy crawfish season, thanks to the weather.
Flooding during Hurricane Harvey and atypically harsh winter temperatures have caused crawfish to stay buried in their mud flats along freshwater bayous, distributors said.
While crawfish have not always been a popular local item of food, Texans now eat large amounts of the mudbugs and providing them has become a profitable business, Robb Walsh, a Galveston food critic and author of several books on regional cuisine, said.
The Texas market pulls in about $12 million to $15 million in direct revenue each year from crawfish, economist Ray Perryman said, citing statistics from 2016.
January to August is generally considered prime crawfish season in Texas, Walsh said. And a string of warm winters in recent years had gotten seasons started early.
But this year, those hankering for the vibrantly red mudbugs likely will have to wait until March or April, said Christopher Glenn, general manager of Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant in Galveston.
“We haven’t even started to serve crawfish,” he said. “Our owner, Nick Gaido, will order a sack and he will decide if the size of the crawfish is to standard and if we purchase.”
Some food festival organizers are already planning alternative menus in preparation for a potentially sluggish crawfish season.
The Galveston Cajun Festival, scheduled for this summer, will focus more on Cajun food in general if the crawfish don’t get up to par, spokesman Robert Hockley said.
“We will focus on shrimp or crabs,” he said. “It’s an assortment of different food.”
This slow start doesn’t necessarily mean an unsuccessful season overall, said Ed Drew, owner of Cajun Gourmet Crawfish, which distributes products to area restaurants.
“It’s going to normalize soon,” he said. “When it’s that cold, the crawfish don’t move. Once it hits 60 degrees, the game is on.”
Likewise, the season should turn around within a couple of months and restaurants could see business as usual, said Gregg Vicknair, owner of Pook’s Crawfish Hole in Santa Fe.
As the weather warms up, crawfish sizes also will start to increase and normal sizes should return in the foreseeable future, Drew said.
“The size should come up pretty nice in the next 10 days,” he said. “It’s going to be a good season.”