Low catfish numbers, high prices put strain on local restaurants February 8, 2013 at 6:26 PM CST - Updated June 30 at 3:00 PM HOOKER, AR (KAIT) - Friday is the busiest day of the week for local family restaurants.It's hustle and bustle as they serve up hundreds of catfish platters for folks who drive from miles around just to taste the country delicacy.Yet, local restaurant owners are facing an uphill battle with climbing catfish costs."It started out as low. When we first started, it was 42 dollars for a 15-pound bag. Now it's up to 73 or 74 dollars."Ray Dowler is paying double for the same amount of fish that's from the same company.He had no choice but to raise meal prices to offset his expenses."We were having a buffet, an all-you-can-eat. Had a salad bar here, all the fish and everything, all the trimmings. We finally noticed that our crowds were dying down."Before long, Dowler ran into some problems with the high-priced menu."It was running people off. Some of these people were only eating 2 or 3 pieces, and we had to charge $14 or $15 a head."Dowler had to find a way to bring back those faithful customers.He would've had to close the doors if changes weren't made soon."So, we had to do away with the buffet, but we've got it on the menu."Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.