So how did the lowly crawfish gain such prominence in our culture? Well, actually, Native Americans in the area were the first credited with harvesting and consuming crawfish even before the Cajuns arrived on the scene. They used to bait reeds with venison (deer meat), stick them in the water, and periodically pick up the reeds with crawfish attached to the bait. By using this method, the Native Americans would catch bushels of crawfish for their consumption. By the 1930s nets were substituted, and by the 1950s the now ubiquitous crawfish trap was widely used. The trap is still the current method of harvesting mudbugs.
Mrs. Charles Hebert is credited with being the first to put crawfish on a menu in the early 1920s. By the 1930s, crawfish were seen as a good source of protein, especially for poor Cajuns, though it actually took some convincing to get the locals to eat them. Crawfish étouffée made its debut in the 1950s, and now is the quintessential Cajun dish. Étouffée is prepared in as many ways as there are Cajun cooks living in our area one an original.
Today, more than 1,600 farmers produce crawfish, utilizing over 111,000 acres of man-made ponds. Louisiana is the largest producer of crawfish in the world. St. Martin Parish, Breaux Bridge’s home, produces the most crawfish in the state and has the most crawfish acreage in the eight-parish area known as Acadiana. Crawfish is now a multimillion-dollar industry. All of this is from a relatively insignificant crustacean.
Sources: Kenneth Delcambre, Breaux Bridge City Historian; Jim Bradshaw, History of Acadiana; Jimmy Avery and Dwight Landreneau, Louisiana Crawfish, LSU Agricultual Center