Everything You Want (and Need) to Know About Crawfish

These facts about crawfish and their history will probably surprise you. Check out our overview of everything you want (and need) to know about crawfish.

Seafood lovers, unite! We are quickly approaching the most wonderful time of the year–crawfish season!

Also known as crayfish, mudbugs or crawdaddies–crawfish are a beloved seafood delicacy. If you’re from the southern states, it’s known as a staple food item during the spring and summer months. Like now. 

Whether you were raised eating mudbugs or you’re a new fan, how much do you really know about crayfish?

If you want to impress your friends at the next cookout, share these crayfish facts.

What are Crayfish? As a mudbug enthusiast, you need to know the basics about what crayfish really are. Crayfish are invertebrates that live in ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.

They may look like insects but they belong to an animal group called Crustaceans. Commonly known as the “bugs of the sea”, crabs, lobsters, and barnacles.

 

The word “cray” in this case doesn’t mean “crazy”. It actually translates to hole or burrow. This name was given because some crayfish dig and live their entire lives in burrows.

They come in different colors. Most crayfish are red but they can also be found in shades of blue, white, green, and yellow. There is even a species of colorless crayfish that don’t have any eyes!

You won’t know the difference though because when cooked, all crayfish turn red.

Crayfish are often considered freshwater lobsters. Crayfish are more closely related to the Maine lobster than any other type of lobster. They are very similar in taste as well. Who says you can’t have champagne on a beer budget?

There are more than 500 species of crawdaddies. Hundreds of crayfish species can be found throughout the world. Most of them can be found in the United States.

Crayfish can be found on every continent, except for Antarctica and Africa. However, only two species are currently harvested and eaten.

The crawfish is the official Crustacean of Louisiana. Yes, that is a thing! Louisiana is the first state to have an official crustacean. There are 120-150 million pounds of crayfish produced annually in Louisiana.

Other states with official crustaceans are Maryland, Oregon, Alabama, Maine, and Texas!

They have plenty of legs. Crayfish have eight pairs of legs! They use the front four for walking and the back four for swimming.

Tiny crayfish exist. Have you ever heard of the Mexican dwarf crawfish? They are only about 2 inches long. Like the name suggests, they’re native to Mexico and the Southern states.

They have been around for a while. The earliest found crayfish fossil is 30 million years old. Burrows have found that date back 100 million years in Australia.

The first record of a U.S. commercial sale of crayfish dates back to 1880. At that time, a harvest of 23,400 pounds was recorded and valued at $2,140.

Crayfish from “down under” are the biggest. Australian crayfish can grow up to 15.5 inches and weighs more than 8 pounds! That’s as big as a lobster! Most crayfish in the U.S. grow to 3-4 inches.

They have great eyesight. Those tiny eyes are actually very useful. Their eyes can move independently of one another.

They walk forward but swim backward. Crayfish use their abdominal muscles to move around. They move slowly when walking. When they want to move faster, they use their back legs to propel themselves backward.

Crawfish season is short. If you’re reading this during crayfish season, seize the moment! April and May are the peak months when crayfish are at their best quality and quantity. On rare occasions, crayfish can be found during July and August.

They are a healthy indulgence. One-quarter pound of crayfish tails contains only 82 calories. Crawfish are also a good source of calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein, and the B Vitamins. So skip the gym and get a pound of crayfish!

Spring floods are essential to crayfish production. Spring floods help produce crayfish in Louisiana. However, too much rain can hurt. When water is too high, it interferes with the crayfish life cycle.

Crawfish dig burrows to protect themselves. During summer and fall, burrows are often 36 to 40 inches deep. Although they can survive above water, they can’t survive long in dry seasons.

While in these burrows, female crayfish lay eggs. Once it rains, they will move out of the burrow and into the open environment.

Female crawfish carry their eggs underneath their tails. Adult crayfish mate in open water, but the female will carry the sperm with her. During this time, they will carry their eggs under their tails. For protection, they will not fertilize the eggs until they enter a burrow.

Crawfish can drown. Even though crayfish habitat in water, they need lots of oxygen. When kept in still water conditions like a tank, they need a filter or the ability to climb out of the water easily. Otherwise, they will drown.

Crawfish can live for decades. Most crayfish live from 2 to 4 years, although some crayfish may live over 10 years. Certain species of crawfish can even live for 20-30 years.

They can breathe out of the water. Crayfish are extremely versatile creatures. While they need moisture to stay alive, they can survive for while out of the water. They do especially well in humid climates like Louisiana.

Male crawfish fight for their females. Male crayfish become very competitive during mating season. They will fight each other for the females! They may lose a leg or two in battle but it will slowly grow back.

Crayfish is big business. Currently, more than 800 fishermen are in the business of crayfish. The annual crawfish supply ranges from 75 million to 105 million pounds. Crayfish harvesting contributes to over $120 million of economic impact to Louisiana.

They mature quickly. Crayfish reach adulthood in 2-6 months. Baby crayfish leave their mother’s protection after about 2 weeks.

Come grab some Crawfish!
Does gaining all of this knowledge build up an appetite? Stop by South Bank Seafood Bar for some delicious, fresh crayfish.

Crawdaddy season won’t be around forever so hop on over while you can! When you stop by, tag us on Instagram so we can give you a shout!