by Terry Thompson-Anderson • Photography by Andy Sams
While there are many advantages associated with the Texas Hill Country, including outdoor activities, wineries, the stunning scenery, great music, etc., the availability of fresh seafood is not among them. But things changed when Scott Thibodeaux, a native Houstonian with a long Louisiana Cajun heritage, and his wife, April, opened Wahoo’s Seafood Co.
Having grown up eating fresh fish and shellfish in Houston, Thibodeaux noted the glaring dearth of fresh seafood markets when he and April would visit the Hill Country. The only types of seafood they could find were previously frozen specimens from largely unknown sources in area supermarkets. To address this issue, the couple formulated a plan and Thibodeaux put out a few feelers to establish relationships with important seafood contacts.
First up, he engaged a large wholesaler in Galveston who buys fresh shrimp, crab and seasonal fish directly from dozens of shrimpers, crabbers and commercial fishermen plying Gulf of Mexico waters. Next, Thibodeaux found a source for fresh Galveston Bay oysters in San Leon, Texas, and finally, he secured a source for fresh, Texas-farmed tilapia—one of the most widely consumed fish in the nation.
The couple rented a small retail space in Kerrville—a locale chosen because of its size and proximity to other smaller Hill Country towns—and opened the new fish market in September 2012 under the name “Wahoo’s Seafood Co.,” in honor of one of Scott’s favorite fish to catch. Of course, getting all of the procured Gulf bounty to Kerrville to stock Wahoo’s chilled glass cases was, and continues to be, a concerted effort. In the beginning, Thibodeaux would drive from Houston to the coast on Mondays, load up huge ice coolers of fresh-caught fish and shellfish on Tuesdays, then drive to Kerrville and prepare everything to open Wahoo’s on Wednesdays through Fridays, or until the seafood sold out. Six months into this schedule, though, he moved his family to Kerrville to reduce costs and time spent away from them.
To further build business and spread the word, Thibodeaux began sellling his fresh catch at the Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market in 2013—a move that led to a relationship with The Peach Basket, Fredericksburg’s longtime natural food market. The Peach Basket now sells his fish and seafood every Thursday. Thibodeaux hopes to institute similar liaisons with independent markets and restaurants in other in the Hill Country towns such as Hunt, Bandera and Boerne and is exploring Austin farmers markets during the Fredericksburg market’s off-season. Visitors to Wahoo’s Seafood can expect fresh-chilled Gulf shrimp, crabs (and picked crabmeat), oysters, scallops and sushi-grade yellowfin tuna year-round, plus fresh seasonal gulf fish, such as red snapper, grouper, flounder and more. The market keeps a supply of soft-shell crabs, which Thibodeaux freezes because of their short shelf life when fresh, and also features wild-caught Scottish salmon—one of its bestsellers.
Starting this year, Wahoo’s will also offer live crawfish. Thibodeaux has built a mobile crawfish cooking trailer that will be available for private crawfish boils. He’ll also visit local fairs and festivals—selling boiled crawfish with onions, sausage, potatoes and corn with a blast of spice and flavor. Crawfish will be available until around the first of July.
By offering the highest quality, literally fresh-from-the-boat bounty available, Thibodeaux has created a slice of seafood paradise in our beloved-but-landlocked Hill Country. He says he gets many requests for certain fish or shellfish—or for large quantities of an item—and accommodates these requests based on seasonal availability.
Wahoo’s Seafood Co., 305 Francisco Lemos St., Kerrville. 830-992-1948