Atchafalaya Basin Airboat Swamp Tours: Our 20th Year in Review

2019 has been a year of growth and change for everyone at Atchafalaya Basin Landing. From the addition of Tucker’s son Nick to our team of airboat captains to a new brand and website, the maiden voyage of our newest airboat “The Henderson Hurricane,” our 20th anniversary has been a memorable and exciting year for all of us. We are incredibly grateful to our visitors for making us the #1 Swamp Tour in Henderson on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Google and Yelp. We are thankful to each and every person who visited us for a tour, our amazing fishing community, and our Turtle’s patrons who helped us to make so many wonderful new memories both on and off the water.

2019 Highlights

Some of the highlights of this year have been our back porch live music party celebrating La Fete du Musique, the installation of brand new signage on the levee road, a gator running off with (and returning) Tucker’s beloved LSU hat, hosting the Junior Bass Masters Tournament (our largest ever fishing tournament), hosting The King of Henderson tournament, over $5000 of giveaways for everything from concert tickets to airboat tours to weekend getaways, and a visit from @TheJurgys, a travel-loving family that has over 225,000 followers on YouTube. Because of the support of our Facebook community, we were able to max out our annual donation of $1000 to the Louisiana Cajun Navy.

Family Owned and Operated

We have always been a family business, deeply rooted in the Henderson community at large. The Friedman family has also grown this year by two new grandbabies, and we hope to pass our beloved airboat stories from the swamp down to their generation in a few years time. We consider ourselves blessed to not only love what we do each and every day, but to share the glorious beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin with visitors from all over the world.

2019 was a banner year for us, and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store. Our fleet of custom, covered airboats ran just about every single day that we had safe weather in 2019, and we are meeting ongoing goals of steady and sustainable improvement of our boats and facilities to provide the best experience for our guests possible. We thank everyone who stopped by for a tour, a cold beer, a t-shirt or just to say hello! Book a tour by calling 337.228.7880 today.

Our Favorite Cajun Recipes for the Fall

shrimp okra gumbo

Our Favorite Cajun Recipes for the Fall

If we get lucky, we start getting cooler weather in South Louisiana around this time of year. We often joke that there are only two seasons in the bayou: “Hot” and “Not.” With cooler temperatures come many more outdoor activities, football tailgates, nights at “da camp,” and a whole host of Cajun seasonal cuisine. We wanted to share some of our favorite fall recipes with all of you, we hope you enjoy them! We will start with a regional favorite to South Louisiana, a traditional shrimp & okra gumbo. 

Traditional Shrimp & Okra Gumbo

There are as many ways to make a gumbo as there are ways to make a hamburger, according to the internet. If you ever met one, chances are that you already know that Cajun cooks are typically more opinionated about food than the judges on Chopped. Some people like to put a little roux in their Shrimp & Okra gumbo, but our favorite recipe does not include a roux. Instead we prefer okra for all of its thickening power.
 
Serves 6-8
 
Ingredients: 
 
3 pounds of spoon sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 pounds of Okra, sliced and stemmed
4 quarts of shrimp stock (Shrimp Stock Recipe can be found here)
3 cups of Chopped Onion
1 cup each chopped celery and green bell pepper
1/2 pound small diced smoked sausage or andouille
1 heaping tbsp. of filé powder
3/4 cup of green onions (for garnish)
1/2 cup of parsley (for garnish)
1/4 cup of cooking oil (preferably vegetable, but not olive oil)
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
All Purpose Cajun Seasoning, Black Pepper, Salt, White Pepper
 
Special Instructions: Serve over your favorite rice, Cajuns typically use medium or long grain white rice, cooked in a rice cooker.
 
     1) In a large frying pan, heat up half of the cooking oil to a sauté temperature (medium high heat). Add okra and white vinegar (this reduces the slime that okra creates when it is blanched) and lower heat to medium, cooking for 30 minutes, or until okra is thoroughly wilted and cooked through. 
 
     2) In your large gumbo pot, sauté the remaining vegetables in the remaining cooking oil until transparent, about 20 minutes.
 
     3) Slowly whisk in seafood stock. Add your okra and the sausage/andouille to this mixture. Generously add Cajun seasoning, salt, black/white pepper and cayenne pepper to your liking. While the flavors will develop longer, you need to ensure that the base is seasoned to your liking at this point.
 
     4) When seasoning is blended in to taste, lower heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 45 minutes to allow flavors to get rich and layered. At the 45 minute mark, bring temp back up to a rolling boil. 
 
     5) In a large bowl, season the shrimp with 3 tablespoons of  Cajun All Purpose Seasoning. Drop seasoned shrimp into boiling gumbo, turn burner off. Close lid. Allow to sit, untouched for ten minutes. This will ensure perfectly cooked shrimp every time.
 
     6) Garnish with parsley and green onion. Serve over rice.

 

Crawfish Boil Leftover Potato Salad

 
One of the saddest times in Cajun country is the space between crawfish seasons. We figured out how to put a man on the moon, but we can’t seem to fool nature into giving us a year round crawfish season (yet). Whether you have simply never experienced the mind-blowing flavors of a true Cajun crawfish boil, or you are a bonafide Cajun who happens to be craving boiled crawfish several months out of season, this is the recipe for you. It’s all the powerful flavors and aromas of a crawfish boil, but you can make and eat it year round.
 
Serves 6-8
 
Ingredients: 
3 pounds of very small unpeeled potatoes (golf ball size)
1  four ounce bottle of Zatarain’s garlic and onion shrimp boil liquid
3 tablespoons of Zatarain’s regular crawfish boil liquid
4 tablespoons of All-Purpose Cajun Seasoning
One pound of Louisiana crawfish tails with fat
3 ears of corn on the cob, fresh (remove husks)
2 small onions
 
For “Crawfish Dip” dressing
Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Worcestershire
Cajun Seasoning
1 tablespoon of horseradish (optional)
One bunch green onions, in slivers
 
     1) In a soup pot, heat up 4 quarts of water (enough to cover corn, onions, and potatoes) and heavily salt, as you would for pasta water (1/4 cup). Add both Zatarains liquid boils and old bay seasoning.
 
     2) Add fresh corn on the cob (you can cut them in half to fit in the pot), potatoes, and onions. Boil on medium high for 18 minutes, or until corn is bright yellow and cooked. Add crawfish tails, and let simmer for 2 more minutes. Close lid. Let sit for 10 full minutes. Drain.
 
     3) In a large bowl, mix together the potatoes (halved after they cook, do not mash), corn (shucked after it cooks), and the onions (chopped in one inch pieces after cooked).
 
     4) In a mixing bowl, mix together one cup of mayonnaise, half a cup of ketchup, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire and optional tablespoon of horseradish. Add Cajun seasoning to your desired level of saltiness.
 
     5) While still hot, add the “crawfish dip” to the corn, potatoes and onions and toss until coated evenly.
 
     6) Garnish with green onion slivers. Serve with Seafood Gumbo!
 
 

Cajun Bread Pudding 

(From Our Good Friends at RealCajunRecipes.com)

Bread pudding was the answer to what to do with leftover bread, which probably came about soon after the invention of bread. Bread pudding is a ‘common’ dessert, definitely not the high end haute cuisine but you would never convince Cajuns or your guest that it isn’t. Visit realcajunrecipes.com for a variety of bread pudding sauce toppings – rum sauce, whiskey sauce, lemon sauce, brown sugar sauce, and bourbon sauce.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cup milk

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 cups 1 inch cubed day old white bread, Evangeline Maid if you can find it

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

Directions

In an 8 x 8 buttered pan; add the 1 inch cubed bread. In a bowl, combine the, milk, eggs, brown sugar, and cinnamon, vanilla and salt and mix well. Pour the mixture over the bread, and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Why Does Louisiana Have Alligator Hunting Season?

Did you know why Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries holds an alligator hunting season in the late summer and early fall each year?

According to Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, Louisiana’s program has been adopted worldwide by conservationists for its effectiveness in keeping alligators and crocodile ecosystems balanced. Gator hunting tags are divided into east and west zones, and each has its own 30 day season. The east zone opens the last Wednesday in August, and the west zone opens the first Wednesday of September.

“The goals of LDWF’s wild alligator harvest program are to manage and conserve Louisiana’s alligators as part of the state’s wetland ecosystem, provide benefits to the species, its habitat and the other species of fish and wildlife associated with alligators.” – louisiana.gov

Gator hunting was outlawed in 1962 due to over harvesting in the 1950s. The state began focusing on preservation efforts through research and ecological testing, resulting in a world class, biologically sound management and harvest program. Alligator populations quickly returned to normal between 1962 and 1972 while this program was implemented, resulting in a boom of hatchlings that quickly matured. It was determined that a new study was needed to manage the population, and Cameron Parish initiated a closely regulated commercial wild alligator harvest in September of 1972, leading to the early versions of the hunting season we now have in place.

Each year, approximately 35,000 hunting tags are given out to 2,000 hunters to maintain this ecological balance, providing significant economic and ecological benefits to our state. Alligators may be harvested from sunrise to sunset only, and may only be hunted with firearms (no shotguns), hook and line, or bow and arrow. Baited hooks must be cast no earlier than 24 hours before the season begins. All unused tags must be returned to the state within 15 days of the end of the season.

September and October is prime gator watching season, so book your tour today by calling 337.228.7880! To read more about gator season in Louisiana, visit: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/alligator-hunting-regulations-overview.

Celebrating 20 Years on the Atchafalaya Basin

20 years of blood, sweat and tears.

Reflecting on the 20 years you’ve been in business will make you come to many realizations, two of which hit you right off the bat – time really does fly, and you know a lot of dead people. Sitting at the round table in Turtle’s and digging up bones in a treasure chest of old, tobacco stained photos, we stop and laugh at the memories that are instantly brought to mind as though they happened yesterday. And we can’t help but wonder if those memories are as fond to the individuals in the pictures as they are to us.

A Great History

Much like any other business that’s been around a while, so many things have come from the small seed that started it all. Back in 1999 when Tucker Friedman purchased Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Marina, there was no Turtle’s Bar, no airboat swamp tour business, and certainly no website, Facebook page, or blog posts.

As Tucker just mentioned while looking at pictures of houseboats he’s built or docks he’s constructed, he certainly was able to accomplish a lot on his own in his younger days. He should give a shout out, though, to Band-Aid and Coors Light for getting him through those years. There was also so much more
accomplished with the help of others who fell into our life here. The Good Lord certainly knew who to send our way. Too many names to mention, but all those who had a hand in building Turtle’s Bar, the deck, the airboats or the houseboats will always be a part of this place and its success. And we will eternally be grateful.

Where Turtle’s Bar is now located, was once nothing more than a screened-in porch that housed the bait shop for the Marina. Little did those floors know of what characters and memories they would soon hold. The General Store, which now has an extensive gift shop, bait room, and plenty of floor area and restrooms for a busy summer weekend, was once merely a tiny store where you could simply purchase necessities for a day on the water.

A Business Is Born

The airboat swamp tour business came to be innocently enough. Tucker and his friend, Jack Lane, both had purchased airboats, for fun. They were small, 3-4 passenger airboats that they could easily blast off from the landing and into the swamp with a few friends after a long, hot day of work. More and more often, tourists were stopping in and asking for a ride on the airboats. The guys didn’t even charge them. It didn’t take long for them to realize they were on to something, and they couldn’t afford to keep doing it for free – and that marked the beginning of the airboat business.

Jack eventually moved on to follow other work, but Tucker soon purchased the first of our larger airboats, a 6 passenger. Many years have passed since
then, and we now have the largest airboat fleet around, with 5 total. And we aren’t letting up any time soon. We look so forward to the next 20 years and what they have in store for us. So many new people who will come our way and bring just as much joy to us as we hopefully will bring to them.

Many things have changed over the last 20 years. Some changes we laughed about, some we cried about. But we never gave up, and we never will. Our family has grown stronger than ever and now the torch is slowly being passed to the next generation. Tucker may soon finally be able to sit in his rocking chair on the porch and hand out fishing reports-like he keeps saying he wants to do.

We’ll believe it when we see it.

All Things Spring

Ahhhh, Springtime in the Basin. We’ve seen unusually high water for this early in the year, compounded by high winds, has made the business of airboat tours a fun one (ie: challenging) . I’m not sure when the last time you’ve tried to spin an airboat around to park in 20 mph winds, but it’s tough! We’re tougher, though, so it’s working out.


These conditions have also made for a slow start to fishing. In the last few days we’ve finally gotten very good reports on bream, chinquapin and a few sac-a-lait. Crickets and wax worms seem to be the bait of choice right now. Bream can be found anywhere you can find 2-3 feet of water, on the mounds or ridges. Did you know that you can actually smell a bed of bream? The air has a very distinct fishy smell near the beds. A sustained high water period will usually lead to a very good spawning season.

As far as wildlife is concerned, mating season has begun for the alligators. It’s not in full swing yet, but the males have definitely starting courting their girls. Alligator populations are exceptionally high since the alligator hunters haven’t been meeting their usual annual quotas due to the drop in prices. This is due to the decrease in demand for their hides.

We’ve noticed that the osprey eggs are starting to hatch. Ospreys are members of the falcon family, which means they can rotate their talons 180 degrees. When they dive down and catch a fish, they always turn the fish head first to make flying with it more aerodynamic. 

Without any major local rainfall, it looks like we should miss any catastrophic flooding. If there’s a slow fall on the horizon, that will make for excellent fishing and an extended crawfish season. Bon Appetit!