HOUSTON (CW39) – Weather affects all aspects of our lives, from the clothes we wear, our morning commute, our mood, and even our food! I am here at Double Bayou Crawfish Company in Anuac, TX where we break down how the weather impacts… you’ve guessed it. CRAWFISH SEASON!
“…their metabolic activity is closely tied to the ambient temperature. They move to deeper waters to stay warm in preparation for colder winter temperatures”.
“…mating period is March-April.”
– Kirk McDonnell (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
This is why we have smaller crawfish at the beginning of the season like February, vs. March or April. Sub-freezing temperatures can slow the growth of crawfish, delaying harvest.
Average September– November Rainfall: 15.53 in.
This past season we were slightly below average at 13.06 in.
To quite literally show me the ropes of commercial harvesting I spent the day with Garrett Mercantel, a long time harvester on a family owned farm in Anahuac.
Precipitation and temperature both play a role in the growth cycle of crawfish. But which one has the bigger influence.
“You’ve got to have the water to have the crawfish to get them out of the burrows but the temperature is the biggest factor especially in the early season on the growth for the potential crop that you have with the crawfish“, says Garrett.
It takes about 3 to 5 months in good thermal conditions to reach maturity. I am making it a point to get back in touch with Garett Mercantel from Double bayou in a few weeks to see if the sub-freezing temperatures experienced from the winter storm had lasting impacts on his yield.
“And later in the summer months when the water is getting lower because of the sun evaporating the ponds, the dissolved oxygen can potentially hurt the crawfish as well. So we keep exchanging water every couple of weeks, keeping the depth good, and keeping the oxygen content high.”, Mercantel.
Key takeaways from weather’s effects on crawfish: to get a good yield it is preferred to have milder February temperatures and enough rainfall in the late summer so that the mud is soft enough for the crawfish to get out of their burrows.
Heavy rain received too early in the summer could trick the crawfish into leaving their burrows for the ponds too early where they could lack vital oxygen due to decaying plants in the Texas heat.
Business can be risky if you are waiting on mother nature to provide the right conditions At Double Bayou there is a system in place that allows for the variance of water received by the ponds to be controlled.
“Here we don’t depend on the rain. We have irrigation canals and the water is sent to us through the canals. We let it in through a series of gates and ponds are set up so that it floods them individually and then we can control the depth however we need.”, Merantel.
Now let’s get into how exactly we catch these critters: rice is planted in these fields, and farmers place these pyramid traps in rows.
They go in after that bait you see there, through these holes on the side. The activity level of the crawfish determines the amount of time traps are left out before they are checked.
“These here are crawfish sacks, they hold 30 to 35 pounds. They fit on this table. The crawfish… you just rake them in it until they are full, and then you stack them up on the front of the boat.”, Mercantel.
So Garrett, how many people do you think will eat off of a sack of crawfish?
“About 4 pounds per person, so if you are cookin up all of the sides… potatoes, corn, and everything you can feed 10 people non problem. Around here, you can probably feed 3 or 4!”, Mercantel chuckles.
Here is a little look at today’s catch. I think we did a good job.
You’ve got a pretty sweet set up out here. Your own crawfish farm, unlimited crawfish during the season, but what would you say some of the drawbacks are of your job?
“The weather. Everyday is different. The weather impacts us tremendously. You know, it was 80 degrees last week, 40s this week, and we are looking at the potential for snow next week. It is going to affect the market price big time. The price is probably going to go up next week, which is good for us, but the catch is going to go down. Other than that, the otters are a huge drawback! They will come in and annihilate us overnight. They will turn up our traps and eat the crawfish.”, Mercantel.
What would you say is your favorite part about your job?
“Eating the crawfish”, Mercantel says!
I would have to agree. That’s pretty great.
“The best thing about it is that it brings my family together. At first it was just me out here working, but little by little they just started to see what it was like and what it was turning into. They really all jumped on board from my brothers, my mother, my dad. Now, my cousin is living here. He just graduated high school and he is helping out. Just keeping the family together and eating crawfish a couple times a week throughout the year is the best part of the whole job.”, Mercantel.
Family… now that’s what it’s all about.
Garrett Mercantel states that stated that Double Bayou Crawfish Company started, “…kind of by luck. The original ponds were catfish farms constructed in 1988. An oil and gas company came and bought the land and built some pump stations out here. No one really tended to the land so it all grew up. The trees were taking over, and the levees were dilapidated. We came in, cleaned it up, rebuilt the levees, and started harvesting crawfish. There were some crawfish that moved in on their own, sometime in the 90s. They made a good home… and now we make a job out of it”.