Pint sized shrimp worry Mississippi shrimpers on eve of 2009 season

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi shrimpers get back to work on Thursday morning.  The 2009 shrimp season opens at 6:00 am.  It's the latest start to the shrimp season in more than three decades.

"I can never remember since I've been shrimping the season been closed this long," said Bobby Wilson.

On the eve of the shrimp season, Wilson's boat was at its Ocean Springs dock.  And he wasn't sure it would be south of the Intracoastal Waterway when nets could trawl state waters.

"I've got a feeling they're done out.  They're caught.  They're history," said Wilson.

Over in Biloxi, the ice was going fast.  And so was David Luke.  He runs St. Michaels Ice and Fuel Dock on 5th Street.  And on the day before shrimp season's start, Luke was hurriedly pumping ice and fuel into boats that were heading out to Mississippi waters for Thursday's opening.

"Everybody's excited to get out there and get it going," he said.

Everybody included Dudley Mitchell.  "Mighty excited.  Mighty excited," he said.

But, Mitchell's anticipation was smothered just a bit by his Blue Horizon shipmate.  Marshall Collier sailed over from Alabama, hoping Mississippi waters would fill his vessel with shrimp.

"We come down here, I believe they waited too long here, and they're going to be little shrimp.  But we've gotta do what we've gotta do, man," he said.

The forecast for Thursday's opening is somewhat gloomy.  The DMR predicts fishermen will find small sized shrimp in their nets.  Consequently, Wilson is wondering if Thursday will be a waste of time and a waste of fuel.

"I tell you what, if it wasn't for us pedaling the shrimp off the boat, we couldn't even pay for the fuel," he said.

On the boat docked next to Wilson, Ernest Verdin expressed a familiar refrain.

"I hope they have something out there for us, all of us fishermen," Verdin said.

So did Collier, because shrimping is his livelihood.

"We're just trying to make a living," the Alabama shrimper said. "The fuel's up, shrimp's down.  But we've still gotta work, man.  We make an honest living.  We sleep good at night.  But it's hard."

Because making money is getting harder and harder, fewer shrimpers are participating in the start of shrimp season.

A year ago, 308 boats worked Mississippi waters on opening day.  Just five years before that, the DMR counted 1,067 boats in the Mississippi Sound.  Back in 1996, 1,268 fishing vessels took part in the opening of Mississippi's shrimp season.

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