On what was supposed to be our last day at the American Legion, I mentioned that I wanted to buy some crawfish to take with me before we left crawfish territory. Mark and Marlene told us, no, you don’t want to do that, it’ll stink up your camper. You go see Cody and Leslie Newman. She called them on the phone and we went and ate crawfish and got a tour of his business and learned how it is done. Then, we got a date for the following morning to ride his boat and see how crawfish are trapped and harvested. I’m blogging the process in reverse.
We followed Cody to his ponds. His boat is a two-man operation. Cody checks the bait tub to make sure there is plenty for your jaunt.
This Honda motor is air-cooled, quiet and propels the lightweight boat through the shallow water without harming anything. Once the process starts, the boat doesn’t stop.
His worker picks up the trap on the move.
He dumps the crawfish onto the grader…
…pushes them into the bags that hang at the end of the table, which allows the small-sized fish fall through the bars and slide back into the pond.
Then he re-baits the trap, and stabs it back into the pond behind the next trap he picks up. It is continuous. Dump the trap, throw out any old chewed up dead fish bait and put in new bait. Right now, Cody is using a poagie bait, a cooked product that has an attractant. Fish are better but it takes three times the weight for the worker to bait the trap. Weight is an issue when you may have to lift three thousand pounds of fish in a days work with one arm.
The bags hold from 30 to 35 pounds of crawfish. On a good day, he might harvest 1100 to 1200 pounds a day. In the peak of the season, they harvest every day. Every other day as the season wanes. The ponds have to be drained, dried and clean water put in between seasons. He plants rice as food tor the crawfish. He doesn’t harvest rice as some do since he works in the petroleum industry.
He showed us his other boat. It grinds a grove into the mud and pulls the boat along. That is why they call them mudbugs.
The advantage to this boat is that it can be operated by one man. The big wheel gets set in its groove and just moves along at the right pace while the driver pulls the traps, baits and sorts in the same way. The disadvantage is the damage to the pond has to be graded and repaired after using this method. Cody also mentioned that ducks ruin a crawfish pond. They kill the rice plants, decay removes oxygen the fish need, their poop is acidic and harms the fish. They have to fire guns to scare them away when they arrive by the thousands.
The previous day, when we walked into his shop, Cody was taking a delivery of shad, the bait fish.
And Cody’s mom had just delivered crawfish from her farm to the store. He buys from several other farms as well.
The crawfish are cooked in plain water for six minutes in these big boilers. Then they are placed in hot seasoned water for 12 minutes. Cody explains that he and others in the area are the only ones who boil that way. The 12 minutes gets the seasoning into the meat. Other places around the country add seasoning on the outside of the crawfish which gets on your fingers from the shell to flavor the meat as you eat. His crawfish is mildly seasoned. If you want it hotter, he will put it on the outside.
This is what they look like when they come out ready to serve. At this point he will add seasoning for a customer.
He bags and weighs the fish and put it on a platter for me.
He taught me how to eat them. You push the tail in toward the body, and make a quarter turn.
Then you squeeze the tail and the meat pops up and you can bite it out in one piece easily. We’ve watched people in restaurants tediously peel away the shell from the tail. Cody showed us the proper way. It works so well and I was so grateful to be able to eat those delicious little buggers so easily. Now, I know.
He also gave me a taste of his specialty Cajun marinated mushrooms which were delicious as well.
We were joined by another couple from Alaska and they told us about sucking heads, which Cody also referred to. You suck the head for the tasty juices that come out. And it is yummy. You can dig the meat out of the claws if it is a big crawfish. It took me no time to polish off three pounds of crawfish. I wish I’d bought about six pounds to go. But, it is best eaten the way it is served all over Louisiana. Freshly boiled. Thanks a million Cody!