When you’re out with friends enjoying some amazing Louisiana crawfish, have you ever wondered how all those mudbugs are actually harvested? Or how we keep ‘em “alive and kicking” all the way to splashdown in your pot? Did you ever think about how they’re graded by size, so you can buy a sack of “monsters” if that’s what you like?
In this blog, we’ll give you “behind the scenes” access as we harvest and sort more than 1,000,000 pounds of crawfish here at Frugé Aquafarms (cajuncrawfish.com), and introduce you to some of the specialized equipment that makes it all happen!
Ever see an aluminum boat outfitted with four 13-inch tires and one big ol’ paddlewheel?
Well, that’s how we roll (and float!) here at Frugé AquaFarms.
These custom-built, hydraulic-powered paddlewheels are the workhorses of harvesting season out on the crawfish farm. But the paddlewheel in the back doesn’t float and churn through the water: it actually runs in the mud on the pond bottom to propel the 14-foot boat forward.
And foot pedals, not a steering wheel, allow our fishermen to navigate hands-free, so they’re able to easily empty the traps full of crawfish into a sorting tray and keep the process moving. And speaking of moving: the boat rarely stops during the harvesting process within a pond! Traps are spaced so the fisherman has time to grab it, empty it and re-bait it just in time to place it down and pick up the next trap.
So why the wheels on each side of the boat? To make traveling from pond to pond easier!
“The four wheels allow the boats to be amphibious,” said Mark Frugé, co-owner of Frugé AquaFarms. “We’re able to drive on land for short distances, cross farm roads and get into and out of the ponds pretty easily.”
Mark explained that when harvesting for the day is complete in a pond, the fisherman can simply drive out and head for the next pond, so the whole harvesting process can begin again. The paddlewheel provides the power, and the tires provide clearance for the boat to ease over the land.
This way, fishermen don’t have to waste time getting their gear and bait into and out of several boats throughout the day: it streamlines the process and makes the tough task of harvesting all those mudbugs a bit more efficient.
While the fisherman is traveling from trap to trap inside a pond, in addition to placing fresh bait in the outgoing trap, he quickly throws out any sticks, grass or rice stubble and pushes the catch into any of four sacks hanging from the sorting tray.
From the boats, the sacked crawfish are brought to our dock, where they’re rinsed, cleaned, sorted and chilled to about 40 degrees in huge walk-in freezers. Next stop: a crawfish pot near you!
Coming Up: Get the scoop on our custom-made crawfish sorter! It can “separate the men from the boys,” and it gives our customers who purchase different grades of crawfish reliable, consistent sizing. We’ll show you how it works next time in “Tools of the Trade.”