It’s the first Friday of Lent for the million plus Catholics who call Louisiana home, and for many of them, that means ditching red meat and chowing down on seafood. Gulf Seafood Institute Chairman Harlon Pearce says we’re on track for a good season, but soft shell crab lovers in particular are in for a real treat this year after closures in recent years.

“We can catch the female crabs that are in the system now that are ready to shed, and there’s more in the system than we’ve seen in a very long time. So, are soon as it warms up i’m expecting a really good soft shell crab year this year.”

The outlook for regular crab isn’t so hot at the moment, with the recent cold spell delaying the crustacean’s maturation.

For observant Catholics, that means tonight’s dinner is probably going to consist of some kind of fried fish on a plate, and Pearce says the late winter months are certainly the best time to indulge.

“Winter is thin fish time, so all of your traditional thinfish, your drum, your sheepshead, your tuna, your snappers, all of those are in really good shape right now.”

For many Louisianans of all religious denominations, the star attraction is crawfish, that recent arctic blast has led to some up and down prices and supply. But Pearce says give it a few weeks and you’ll have all the mudbugs you can eat.

“The price of crawfish dropped quickly early on, but then the weather set in. We’ve got a lot of water in the system right now, which is good for crawfish, so i think that the moment we get any warm weather, you’ll have all you want.”