There’s a time and a season to enjoy locally caught seafood
For everything there is a season, including the food that comes from local waters.
The Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and bayous are bountiful ecosystems and produce some of the tastiest food you can find. But like so many things, the system moves in cycles, and there are times in the year when the food we love is bigger and more bountiful.
Truth be told, modern farming techniques, refrigeration methods and fast-moving supply lines mean seasonal food isn’t as seasonal as it once was. Whatever you’re looking for you can
probably find it fresh in the store, though it might not be local.
But if you want to enjoy fresh, locally caught seafood — and who wouldn’t — here’s what you need to know:
Season: February to May, July to November
Shrimp seasons in Texas are regulated to prevent overfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, but state rules on shrimping can make timing complicated.
Generally, commercial shrimping isn’t allowed in the Gulf from the middle of May until the middle of July. In waters closer to shore, there’s a second closure from the beginning of December until mid-February. The legal fishing season is a little shorter in southern parts of Texas.
Warmer waters spawn bigger shrimp, so the best time to find large Gulf of Mexico shrimp is during the fishing season that’s later in the year.
Season: September through April
The tried-and-true rule for eating oysters is pretty simple: If the month doesn’t have the letter R in its name, opt for a different dish.
There’s different theories about where the rule’s origin.
One theory is the R-less months — May, June, July and August — correspond with oyster spawning season. Recreational oystering in Texas is prohibited starting in May through October, to promote breeding.
There’s also reason to be cautious about eating oysters from Galveston Bay in warmer months. The vibriosis bacteria can incubate in oysters and thrives in summer months.
If you’re going to eat raw oysters, maybe wait until the winter, just in case.
Season: March to May (and sometimes earlier)
For locals, crawfish season probably can best be remembered as corresponding to some annual events.
Spring is the season when large, meaty crawfish is in the abundant supply. You’ll typically see crawfish boils begin in February, around the time Mardi Gras begins. The season usually is over by Memorial Day. The season for the best crawfish is so predictable that some businesses, like Pook’s Crawfish Hole in Santa Fe and Boyd’s Seafood in Texas City, close their doors or stop selling live crawfish during the summer.
There’s a little wiggle room in when the season begins. If a winter has been particularly warm and wet, good-sized crawfish can be available around February.
Season: Almost all year
Blue crab almost always is in season in Texas. They’re legal to catch year-round, except for a short period in February when the state shuts down crabbing to clean up abandoned crab pots in bay systems.
Crabs spawn from December until October, with breeding peaking during the spring and summer, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. People fishing for blue crab during the year should keep in mind it’s illegal to harvest a crab that has a sponge of eggs, or ones that are too small.
If there was a specific season to celebrate crab, it might be in the spring. That’s when the annual Texas Crab Festival is held on Bolivar Peninsula. The event features a crab gumbo cook-off and other crustacean-themed contests.