Opening brings big shrimp in small numbers

The Captain Thanh was pulling its nets in the Mississippi Sound, with a pod of hungry dolphins close behind. Though the dolphins may feed on the fish by-catch, Thanh Truong wasn’t finding many shrimp so far.

“Oh no, no good,” said the Vietnamese fishermen, when asked about his early catch on opening day.

He said the few shrimp they’ve caught are mediums; about 40 to 60 count. Rain and water temperature prior to opening day are often early indicators about the catch.

“The numbers of shrimp fluctuate from year to year. And environmental conditions is the big factor. And this year, the big thing this year, I would describe this as a year that was warm and wet. Ideal conditions for shrimp growth and survival would be warm and dry,” said Dale Diaz, who heads the fisheries division at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Fishermen aboard the Undercover out of Pass Christian were also hard at work.

“Doing pretty good. Glad to be working,” said Bobby Pinkerton.

Unlike Captain Truong’s small catch, Pinkerton said the shrimp were “pretty plentiful” on opening morning. But this fishing is hard work: High fuel costs, price pressure from cheap imports and long, long hours.

“Probably stay out two or three days at a time,” said Pinkerton.

He said he’s been looking forward to the season. “Ever since oyster season shutdown,” he said.

Marine Patrol will also be working long hours during shrimp season, checking things like turtle excluder devices.

“We had eight boats last night. We had 23 officers on the water, and it went smooth. As you see, we have calm seas out there today. It was a great opening, just not a lot of shrimp,” said Rusty Pittman, who is interim marine patrol chief for the DMR.

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