Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crawfish Harvesting

As promised the other day, I have some pictures I took of one of our friends running crawfish traps with a special boat made just for harvesting from these shallow ponds.

This special hydraulic paddle boat is used by Crawfish Harvesters. Notice the tires on the front and the giant paddle wheel on the back which allows it to ride over the levees between ponds or push the boat down the road in a bumpy awkward ride.

The path crawfish take from one year to the next has many facets and possible complications. From the time the ponds go dry in June and they dig their tunnels deep into the earth to have their young to the time they come out in September or when the water again covers the bottom surface, many things can happen. Last year, the THING was two hurricanes which flooded many of the crawfish holes while the crawfish were breathing air, not water, and carrying their young, essentially drowning much of the crop.

In a normal year, the babies would begin their growth cycle in the fall and in an especially warm climate or warm winter, a farmer may harvest some crawfish in December. From the time they are babies to full grown takes 90-120 days depending upon temperature. After the cold comes, it sends the crawfish into molt after molt. Early in the year most of the crawfish are small, weak, and soft, unless there are older crawfish in the ponds. These older adults only live about 18 months, becoming harder and harder as they age. Then they become sluggish and die, if they aren't eaten first.

The ponds range in size but as you can see, they are shallow enough that Y'er Dog, I love that, Y'er Dog can walk alongside the boat while CCM runs the traps, dumping each one's contents into the tray in front of him. The crawfish back toward the front of the tray depositing themselves into the crawfish sacks hanging from hooks at the mouth of the grader. Aren't they accomodating?

That's Y'er Dog trailing behind the paddle wheel.

Below CCM encourages the crawfish to move into the sacks. The brown turd like things in the bin below are crawfish bait which the fisherman uses to bait each of the traps each day when they are set on the bottom of the pond.

The last two years were late seasons because of the long cold winters here. It created a late crop and along with the small harvest from the flood impact caused prices to stay high and the crawfish to be small until late in the year.

It's not just in romantic fiction that size seems to matter. Our number one question from customers is - "Do they have any size to them?" Well, they are what they are. And when the price is higher your customers wonder why they get smaller crawfish and have to pay more for them.

Supply and Demand.

I keep telling CFM it's not like we put in an order from a Chinese manufacturing plant for 300,000 5 inch crawfish to be delivered three times a week in increments of 4000. It would be cool if we could stipulate, please don't send any dead ones, weak ones, or sunburned, no grass, bait, or fish scales. We wouldn't have to worry about the market, weather, shyster suppliers, unhappy customers.

Utopia does NOT exist except in stories.

CFM has his faithful customers. His motto, "They may cook 'em better somewhere, but I don't know where." Humble, isn't he? He's right. He doesn't need to be humble, he's that good. People come from across the state and state lines to get them.

Crawfish are up! Come and get 'em.

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