There is no joy with mudbugs. Mother Nature has struck out.
Mardi Gras coincides with early crawfish season in Louisiana, which produces 90 percent of the wild and farmed mudbugs eaten in the country. When the harvest is good, crawfish boils are an important part of many parade-day parties, as well as Lenten “no-meat” Friday feasts throughout Alabama.
This year, the harvest isn’t good. It’s awful. Abysmal.
Searing summer heat last year and a lack of rain devastated early-season stocks of crawfish, which spawn in October. Experts say the future through spring is bleak for a second crawfish spawn, which usually is January or February.
By many estimates, the 2024 crop will be a measly five percent of the average yield. “Unfortunately, it’s not looking like it is going to get much better,” Montgomery seafood retailer J+D Seafood says on its Facebook page.
Scarcity and increasing production costs have sent wholesale prices soaring, doubling and even tripling, for both retail markets and restaurants. Every segment of the crawfish industry is hurting.
Several restaurants and similar establishments even have changed announced plans for crawfish boils around Mardi Gras. Birmingham’s Crestwood Tavern recently said its planned Fat Tuesday party would now feature a low country shrimp boil, instead of crawfish.
If mudbugs must be on the menu leading to Mardi Gras and into spring, be prepared to pay—if you can find them at all. But at this point, any sales will provide some help for everyone from your local retailer to wholesalers, mudbug trappers, and farmers.
Here are good places around Alabama to check. Be sure to telephone them first.
2611 Pepperell Parkway, Opelika; 334-444-8136.
Run by Auburn University alums, it is the supplier of all things Cajun in east-central Alabama. Big Blue is selling boiled crawfish now (from last year’s crop), but does not anticipate having live crawfish for sale until March. They have a “text club” to keep up – text “JOIN” to 1-833-211-6016.
3105 Ross Clark Circle, Dothan; 334-405-6088.
They expect the first shipments in March, too late for Mardi Gras but hopefully for some of Lent. Order online.
195 Vulcan Road Homewood. 205-305-3131.
It plans a Fat Tuesday crawfish boil at Birmingham’s Avondale Brewing; as of February 6, no word on any changes. Its website says online ordering starts February 27 and for what it’s worth, recently announced that its favorite “prognosticator,” Clawson the Crawfish, predicts a better crop leading in to spring.
Heights Village Shopping Center in the Cahaba Heights community of Vestavia Hills. 205-967-3437.
No word on the 2024 crop.
Andy’s Seafood Market
3450 Jordan Ln NW, Huntsville. 256-746-1888.
It’s been getting in, and quickly selling out of, blue crabs lately. No mention of crawfish availability on its social media.