Pinch Me: everything you wanted to know about crawfish

Throughout the South, these freshwater crustaceans are considered a springtime delicacy. Here’s where you can find some of the finest

A Louisiana crawfish boil

Photography by Joseph Vidrine

Of the 500-plus species of crayfish that exist worldwide, more than 300 varieties inhabit the rivers, lakes, and bayous of the southeastern United States, where they are colloquially called crawfish. Throughout the region, these freshwater crustaceans are considered a springtime delicacy. That’s particularly true in Louisiana, the state that, in 1880, gathered the nation’s first recorded commercial crawfish harvest. Today, the state’s fishermen and farmers produce more than 90 percent of the country’s crawfish supply—between 100 and 120 million pounds a year.

  • Crawfish are known regionally by an assortment of different names—crawdads, mudbugs, ditchbugs, and freshwater lobsters to name a few—but they all refer to the same animal.
  • From March through May, Tietje Crawfish Farm in Louisiana’s Jefferson Davis Parish leads guests on tours of its facilities, granting a firsthand look at how the mudbugs are harvested, cleaned, graded, and distributed.
  • The ponds at Crawfish Haven / Mrs. Rose’s Bed and Breakfast, a 1903 Acadian-style house near Lafayette, allow guests to catch their own crawfish dinner, or they can sign up for a Cajun cooking class led by the owner.
  • True to the city’s designation as the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is the Southeast’s largest celebration of the tasty crustaceans, drawing more than 30,000 visitors a year. The May 3–5 festival features zydeco bands, a crawfish-eating contest, an étouffée cook-off, and a small-scale race with live, numbered crawfish competitors.
  • Creative culinary offerings outside of Louisiana include the crawfish beignet drizzled with Tabasco syrup at Vic’s on the River in Savannah and the snails and tails at Caffé Rel in Franklin, North Carolina, which combines escargot with crawfish tails, drenched in butter sauce.

This article appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Southbound.