April 18, 2002 - Crawfish Man

Running the crawfish traps in the Atchafalaya Basin is not an easy way to make a living. But for those who love it, there's no better life, and Phil Fryou's family has been pulling mudbugs from the water for most of a century.

Early morning fog still hugs the waters as Phil practices the skills, the arts, handed down by the two generations which came before him. He recalls, "My dad told me, 'Son, I'm not going to play baseball with you, I'm not going to go throw a Frisbee with you, but I will teach you how to make a living and feed your family.' He taught me how to fish. He said, 'You won't get rich, but at least your family will stay fed. You won't starve.'"

Phil found his favorite honey hole for mudbugs ten years ago, and he has been fighting the swamp for its coveted yield ever since. Every winter the undergrowth reclaims the swamp, and every spring Phil hacks his way through to where the good crawfish can be caught. It's not a life for the lazy he says, "If you want to make a lot of money, then you get out here and bust your butt!"

Which brings Phil two rewards. "I've got the biggest smile you ever want to see," he says, "when I've got a thousand or 15-hundred pounds of crawfish and know that I'm going to make about $800-$900 for that day!" His other reward is passing down his daddy's wisdom to his own four kids.