Shrimp season opening still a mystery

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - DMR agents went out twice this week and collected shrimp samples from the Mississippi Sound.  But the shrimp they caught were still too small to open the 2009 shrimp season.  So, on Friday, several fishermen were at the docks, waiting for the DMR to set an opening date.

Laurie Byrd brought her cooler to Biloxi's commercial harbor and bought ten pounds of shrimp.

"I'm taking these to Myrtle Beach to meet up with my family," she said.  "They love the fresh shrimp from down here."

That shrimp is being sold from a harbor that still shows scars from Katrina.  Shrimpers like Steve Garlotte have turned the harbor's misfortune into an opportunity. They erected a mini seafood market behind the Hard Rock's garage.

"It looks like a mini seafood market. But it's just families trying to make a living and stay alive," he said.

Because Mississippi's shrimp season still hasn't opened, the shrimp Winford Hutcherson sold at his dock were from Louisiana.

"You're not getting rich.  But you're making a few dollars," he said.

Laurie Byrd liked what Hutcherson was selling.

"Happy camper here," she said as she placed her cooler in the back of her truck.

But that happiness didn't extend back to the dock.  Lien Nguyen was also at the dock.

"This year no customers," the shrimper said.

On top of that, shrimpers have heard rather gloomy reports about what to expect when their nets finally scoop up Mississippi shrimp.

"From what I hear, they're not finding any shrimp.  And the shrimp they're finding are real small," said Garlotte.

But as long as the customers they do have get the shrimp they're after, and Garlotte gets to do what he's done for decades, he'll consider the 2009 shrimp season a success.

"What else is there to do," he asked.

A DMR spokesperson said the Mississippi Sound water temperature was getting warmer.  And that was helping shrimp grow at a faster rate.  Tuesday's sample netted 83 count shrimp.  Until that total gets down to 68, Mississippi waters will remain closed.

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