NEW ORLEANS - For Ron Domingue, Carnival wouldn’t be the same without crawfish.
“I grew up with a Cajun family and this is a tradition for me,” he said.
But this year, Domingue said buying mud bugs for his annual boil on Bacchus Sunday means his wallet will take a hit.
“I've never seen it this high,” said Domingue. “I was really disappointed to thinking that ‘Wow, I may not be able to do crawfish this year.’”
Experts said mud bugs have doubled in price since this time last year. At Big Fisherman on Magazine Street, boiled crawfish runs $6.99 a pound. Live mud bugs are $4.99.
It's the highest employees have ever seen, and they say it's impacting sales.
“They've been shying away or buying less, two or three pounds versus eight to 10 pounds that they might buy at times when they're a couple dollars cheaper or more,” said Big Fisherman employee Michael Roberson.
Mud bugs have reached unprecedented prices this year, according to experts, because it’s been an unusually harsh winter, both in Louisiana and and up north.
LSU AgCenter SeaGrant agent Rusty Gaude says crawfish cultured in local ponds have endured unsually cold conditions, with the entire pond freezing over in some cases.
Wild crawfish are also impacted by cold, snowy winters upriver.
“The water coming down the Mississippi River is coming from snow melt and it's extremely cold,” said LSU AgCenter SeaGrant agent Rusty Gaude. “The crawfish when they experience that extreme cold like that, they just basically stop, and there's no growth made.”
That means many crawfish are now too small to harvest. Low supply coupled with high demand means prices are high.
It all prompted Domingue, a graphic designer, to post a spoof of “There Will Be Blood” on his Facebook page. It says, “There Will Be Crawfish,” and shows a man facing a village on fire and in ruins.
“Crawfish is really hard to get this time of season, so I wanted to do a quick gag on Facebook,” said Domingue.
Domingue said he'll have to cut back on how much crawfish he boils this weekend and get creative.
“This time just getting friends to chip in a little bit and bring the fixings, we're still going to have a good time,” he said.
But as the weather warms, experts expect crawfish prices to drop 50 cents a pound this week. Big Boys Seafood in Thibodaux reports prices dropped to $4.25 for a pound of live crawfish Monday , down from $4.75 over the weekend. He said fishermen dropped prices from $3.50 per pound to $3.00 per pound on Monday, plus a $.60 delivery charge per pound. The owner said the price is the highest he's ever seen.
Farmers predict prices will continue dipping through Easter.